Sunday 24 January 2016

Hodder & Stoughton, Headline & Quercus Publishing 2016 Party

In these challenging times for publishing, it is important for Publishers to get word out of their new releases, both established authors as well as giving their debut writers a little slipstream. The beginning of a new year means that newly commissioned work is being readied for market, and requires the Oxygen of Publicity. So first off the block, was the Hodder, Headline & Quercus publishing party, held last week to celebrate their 2016 Crime, Mystery and Thriller releases. 

Like many sectors, the relentless consolidation in publishing can at times feel somewhat surreal. Quercus Publishing for instance was recently taken over by Hodder and Stoughton, and this resulted in a weird game of musical chairs. An example being the bestselling writers David Mark, and Peter May, for David with his Hull based crime novels were originally published by Quercus Publishing moved over to Hodder and Stoughton, while Peter May, who was originally published by Hodder and Stoughton, is now published by Quercus Publishing. All three publishers form a significant part of the Hachette Publishing Group.

As a businessman, I understand that market forces are at play, and we all know market forces can be ruthless. So rather than allowing the market to force structural changes in the business model, it is far better to make them, prior to the market forcing them upon the organisation, for when the market acts, the results can be far more challenging, than making them yourself.

Publishing in my opinion is critical as a supporting pillar in a functioning society, for some term the publishing industry as ‘the merchants of culture’ as the importance of reading is vital in provoking our cognition and our ability to critically think, and to do so with lucidity and with clarity. Crime, Mystery and Thriller novels; apart from being a welcome distraction from the harsh nature of reality [as we appear to be living in the age of anxiety], also allow us to view the world from the darkest edges of the street, and they help us piece together the reality that surrounds us.

So with these esoteric thoughts buzzing in my head like the angry Bees [that play such a crucial role, as backstory] in Peter May’s COFFIN ROAD [which just broke into The Times Top Ten hardcovers] – I headed to London’s Embankment to see what these three publishers had in store for 2016.  I also enjoy meeting up with my friends and colleagues who share my passion with the Crime, Mystery and Thriller genre, many of whom I have known for more years than I would care to admit, [without my lawyer]. We all lead busy lives, so literary gatherings such as launch parties, are relished, for it allows paths to cross, meeting fellow bibliophiles as well as planning our reading and reviewing priorities for the main enemy we confront is the lack of time, and managing the distractions that make this reality at times akin to finding oneself with grease-paint, as we juggle under the tent of a circus.

So with the car parked I strolled along London’s Embankment, viewing the reflections of the lights of the London Eye and OXO Tower on the obsidian surface of The Thames. I spotted my friend Shot’s Social-Media exponent Ayo Onatade, in the Foyer of the offices of Hodder, Headline, Quercus, and then the ubiquitous [and key figure in the genre] Barry Forshaw arrived, so off we went to join the party.

The party was hosted on the top floor, with access to the amazing view from the balcony of the Embankment and Thames. In terms of publishing and their offices, the two best views in my opinion are from Penguin’s view from The Strand, and at that of Hachette, where we were meeting.

Apart from catching up with colleagues, I was on a mission to see what upcoming publications piqued my interest, and that would resonate. The party was in full swing, as I waved and nodded to colleagues, from the publishers, authors as well as reviewers and booksellers who were mingling, and enjoying the hospitality of Hodder, Headline and Quercus Publishing, with a bar complete with an array of canapes. It was good to meet up with Shots Columnist, writer, book reviewer the talented Mr Mike Ripley, and the best dressed man in town, Chris Simmons of Crime Squad.

Firstly, I met up with Jon Riley of Quercus Publishing allowing me the opportunity to thank him [and his team] for the excellent lunch Quercus hosted at London’s The Ivy where we got to break bead with Peter May. I also remarked that I enjoyed listening to Peter on BBC radio 4’s Front Row, and that their reviewer also picked up upon the theme that Peter May alluded to in Coffin Road, which resulted in his cryptic dedication; one which had an echo of John Le Carre, in his remarkable The Constant Gardner. I am also very intrigued with two upcoming releases from Quercus, namely Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama and BIRDWATCHER by William Shaw, and he hinted at a new work by Peter Spiegelman.

I then managed to have a good chat with Nick Sayers of Hodder and Stoughton, as I was excited to see the return of John Hart, with Redemption Road. John had been awarded the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger a few years ago, but hadn’t published in close to 5 years, so a new work by Hart is widely anticipated. I also mentioned to Nick that I had a great time seeing John again recently during Bouchercon Raleigh, held in John’s home state of North Carolina. Redemption Road will be out from Hodder and Stoughton in a few months, and for those impatient for a new work by Hart, can download the opening chapter here. Nick and I agreed that one of the recent delights has been seeing Stephen King hit an amazing resurgence with new work such as the crime trilogy which started with Mr Mercedes which gained a CWA Gold Dagger nomination last year, and the final volume of trilogy being readied for publication.

Hodder and Stougton’s Ruth Tross then took to the front, with her colleagues, Vicki Mellor of Headline and Jane Wood of Quercus to welcome everyone to the party and introduce their authors, as well as ensuring everyone had a drink, because the gathering had been titled ‘Warming the Blood’.

So after Jane’s toast to the legendary publisher Lord George Weidenfeld, who passed away recently, we cheered for the long shadow he cast over publishing; and then the party resumed.

So with much mingling and discussing literature’s dark streets that are crime, mystery and thrillers, we also laughed a great deal, for bibliophiles in my experience are a good natured group. It was lovely to meet up with some of the authors who attended and enjoyed Bouchercon Raleigh, such as novelist Sarah Ward, and CWA Gold Dagger winner Mick Herron, CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger winner Philip Kerr, who incidentally has his 11th Bernie Gunther novel The Other Side of Silence due out later this year.

So for our readers, please find an array of photographs of the evening, hosted alongside the Embankment of London’s river Thames.

More information about the upcoming work from these three publishers can be accessed from the following link Crimefiles, a link you should bookmark as it has many new features, as well as keeping you updated on upcoming work, and also keep watch on their blog, because as little can exist in a vacuum, and the art of observation brings reality into view, or so the Quantum Physicists tell us.

So next stop, we have upcoming parties from Penguin-Random House UK and Orion Publishing to look forward to; to plan our reading and our reviewing. If you need any help in selecting what to read; then head off to our book review pages, and our bookstore – as the Shots team wish all our readers every best wish for 2016; and no matter what is thrown at us, we will always have literature to help us cope

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