Sunday, 13 November 2011

Inside Outsider

Planning to attend the Sohemians tomorrow night (Iain Sinclair is talking about Roland Camberton, whose books we publish), reading Tony Gould's Inside Outsider: the life and times of Colin MacInnes is useful for getting into the mood. Faber Finds re-issued the book in 2009 - pity, I would have liked that one - but I picked up a library sale version on Saturday for the bargain price of £1. MacInnes' life is well known. He was a man related to Kipling and Stanley Baldwin and the son of the novelist Angela Thirkell (making him, as Bernard Kops said, "one of the inner Thirkells") yet who lived his life on the edge. Gay, broke, attracted to the rough and tough black culture (and rough and tough black men), yet turning in copy for middle-class magazines and some essential novels. Reading the book was a bit of a wander through Five Leaves' own list of authors. Tony Gould was the books editor of New Society (edited by Paul Barker, who edited a selection of New Society essays for us; designed by Richard Hollis, who runs an autonomous imprint within Five Leaves). The book is dedicated to Ray Gosling, who also appears regularly in the text - Ray's Personal Copy slumbers on our backlist. Bernard and Erica Kops put in regular appearances, not least because they became "Mannie and Miriam Katz" in MacInnes' Absolute Beginners. We publish a couple of Kops' books. Terry Taylor, author of Baron's Court, All Change, is quoted - though he deserved more space as he was the inspiration for one of the characters in Absolute Beginners. The photographer Terry Taylor's then interests being "jazz, soft drugs and hustling" were shared with MacInnes so it is hardly surprising their paths crossed. Terry's book has just arrived in our office, and we'll return to him soon. Even Colin Ward puts in a cameo appearance. Mind you, I imagine any publisher with books out concerning Soho, London in the 1950s or early black culture in Britain could post a similar blog, as MacInnes knew everyone.

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