Alex Massie

Another Lost World

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I'm not sure they make publishers like this anymore. Alas. As is so often the case we may count on the Daily Telegraph's exquisite obituaries page to provide the details. Sic transit gloria mundi and all the rest of it.

Anthony Blond, who has died aged 79, was a gentleman publisher from an age when business was conducted in dusty garrets and promising authors were given small retainers to allow them to find their muse.

Charismatic, daring and outrageous, Blond collected talents as diverse as Harold Robbins and Jean Genet, Spike Milligan and Graham Greene. He was the first to spot the potential of Jennifer Paterson (of the Two Fat Ladies), and was an early director of Private Eye, of whose bank account he was a guarantor.

Of the 70 or so writers to whom Blond gave their first chance, he became most closely associated with Simon Raven, whose books he published throughout his literary career. Raven's daring first novel The Feathers of Death (1959), about a homosexual affair in the Army, was one of Blond's early successes. It was Blond, too, who recognised and helped to curb the self-destructive streak that threatened to finish Raven's career almost before it began. Finding Raven heavily in debt as a result of his drinking and gambling, Blond promised him a weekly wage (rumoured to be £15), plus paying his dentist, his tailor and vintner ("within reason"), plus dinner nightly, if he would leave London, live in digs by the seaside, and write. "This is the last hand-out you get," Blond told him. "Leave London, or leave my employ." Raven moved to Deal and within a year his exile was forcing book after book out of him.

Do read the whole thing. A well-lived life I think you will agree.

(The "within reason" above is, of course, delicious.)

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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