The Grand Farewell Tour

One of the most interesting aspects of this tour is that people treat it as a Grand Farewell Tour. They come forward to remind me of long-forgotten incidents. I guess it’s much better than waiting for the post-funeral reception, when (mostly) affectionate stories about the Dear Departed circulate.

Three examples. The admired novelist Catherine Bush reminded me that as a young person she was once complaining  to me about how many books she already had, so that she was reluctant to buy any more. Apparently I scolded her, saying, “If people like you don’t buy books, who do you think is going to buy them?” The scolding worked, and has stayed with her.

Carolyn Wood, now the head of the Association of Canadian Publishers, volunteered the information that when she applied for a first job in publishing she sent out dozens of letters. Most went into a black hole. Four or five received a form reply. One received a personal letter, apparently from me, which she has never forgotten. This, I hope, will go some way to atone for the thousands of rejection letters, the millions of unreturned phone calls (a publishing world satirical show in the 1980s had Anne Ledden, posing as an M&S phone receptionist, apologising to irate callers with the words, “Mr. Gibson is not familiar with the use of his instrument”) and all the other rudenesses that besmirch my publishing career.

Finally, Linwood Barclay recalls a conversation where he, a genuinely modest man, was marvelling at the upturn in his fortunes which mean that his new books now hit Number One on the U.K. Bestseller lists. I, apparently, assured him “that he was now just accepting his due.” He liked that. Linwood has a wonderful/terrible story of how fate slaps new authors around. When his first book came out, he shyly went to the bookstore in the local mall. To his delight he found a pile of his books, with the tag “Recommended by Jamie.” Lyndon went in search of this perceptive staff member, who had taken the opportunity to give his book a personal recommendation. He found “Jamie” and, eagerly shaking his hand, told him how delighted he was to be singled out for his personal praise. Jamie seemed a little surprised. When Linwood, still babbling, took him to the pile of books, Jamie reacted irritably. “Oh they moved that,” he said, taking the “Recommended by Jamie” sign out from Linwood’s pile and inserting it into a neighbouring stack of books by another author. Linwood watched, open-mouthed. And remembered.

— Douglas Gibson


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