Sunday 23 October 2016


The last time I blogged about my book it was to explain how much I had learned about how the book trade operates and in particular how much - or how little - the author gets from the sale of his or her book. If you missed that blog it's worth going back and being shocked.

This blog to some extent repeats material that I have already communicated in my Mail Chimp Newsletter that you can sign up for using the tab on my website home page. Since there are eighteen subscribers for the Newsletter to date - hopefully more after this blog - I think it is reasonable to use such material again to reach the wider audience of a typical blog from me. That's around fifty to sixty page views (although my first Corbyn at Heartland's blog has now reached 100 and the second Jago Stone blog for reasons I don't understand is leading the field at around 250 views). Besides, there is  additional material too in this blog so my eighteen Newsletter subscribers will have fresh stuff to read too.

The shop window of Fahrenheit Books in Middlesbrough

Above, seven of the eighteen copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' that I dispatched to Fahrenheit Books in Manchester are seen in their community centre/bookshop window. How cool is that?!! Steve, my web designer, had passed me a list of seven radical booksellers and their  websites. I made phone contact with five out of the seven and an exciting journey of discovery began. Jim, the buyer at Housman's Radical Booksellers in London was very helpful and explained how the book  trade operates its system of distribution. He took two copies from Gardners, one of the main distributors, there and then. I began to realise that self-publishing does not stop when the book is finally printed. Everything depends on you, the author, having the will  to become the hustler, the salesman for your own creation.

This was a lesson the great English novelist J.L. Carr learned. His story is told in one of Byron Rogers' magisterial biographies - 'The Last Englishman' - and let me explain straightaway that for myself as the biographer of the artist, Jago Stone 1928-1988, Byron Rogers serves as my competence model. He is an extraordinary writer. And I concur with his judgement that Carr's 'A Month in the Country' is 'as close to a masterpiece as anything written in my lifetime' and 'The Harpole Report' is 'the funniest book I have ever read'. If you haven't read Carr and/or Rogers, they are a treat awaiting ...

Byron Rogers and J.L. Carr - great British writers

I come to this point in the blog a day after I first reached it. Let me explain. This blog was started on Saturday morning - yesterday - and completed and published by around 2.20 in the afternoon. It had picked up around fifteen views when I checked in the late afternoon. You may be one of those original viewers. But at some point later that day the last two-thirds of the blog vanished, leaving the first third in draft form. It shouldn't take me more than a hour and half to tap it out again so although I appreciate that the full blog must still exist somewhere and someone will know how to bring it to life my impatience to get it  back up and out there wins the day.

So back to Jim at Housman's. He was able to pass on details of two other websites to add to my list. One was the Socialist Bookshop - Bookmarks - who took  three copies from Gardners after my phone call and talked about the possibility of a book launch event. I am up for that - and will be back in touch this week. The other website was for the Alliance of Radical Booksellers. six calls to members of  that Alliance have resulted in one copy of TRC in Newham in the East End of  London and two copies in Nowhere Books in Liverpool and one with World Power Books in Edinburgh. Calton Books in Glasgow, from my original list of seven, also took one copy as did  the Militant bookshop, Socialist Books, in London.

And then came the Oxford adventure ...

It was easier to circumnavigate the Radcliffe Camera square in 1968 - one minute from the finish

I had had my place in the Oxford Half-Marathon on Sunday October 9 - three weeks ago - reserved for several months, but now I could see marketing possibilities as well as running joys for my long weekend away (the race was completed in a time of  02:36:21 - I can live with that). Matador/Troubador, my publishers, had sent out freebie copies of TRC on publication to ten organisations. Wonderfully, BBC Radio Oxford had asked for an interview. I  arranged it for the Monday after the half-marathon and at 10.45 a.m. on October 10 I arrived at the Summertown studio on the Banbury Road, as arranged. I was a stone's throw from the flat where I spent one year of my life (1969-70) with my first wife, Glynis, and another stone's throw from the house where I spent six years (1980-86) with my lovely wife of forty years standing, Lady Louise of Hora. The day before I had been part of a pack of runners, pacing past twice these same studios - running to and from Marston. Momentous. Things come together. A touch of the numinous.

I was on air from 11.07 to 11.30 - my first experience of the radio studio. The delightful Bethany told me afterwards when I said I had enjoyed the time: 'You're a natural ...' I will dine out on that for some time. But it gets better still. Before I walked up to Summertown from Rewley House where I was staying in Wellington Square in the centre of Oxford, I popped into Blackwell's, Waterstone's and W.H. Smith's to see if I could interest them in TRC. Blackwell's ordered one copy, Waterstone's several, and I later dispatched six copies to Smith's on a sale or return basis. Moreover, just before  the interview David in the the Summertown bookshop ordered one copy and half an hour after the studio session Dennis in the Albion Beatnik bookshop in Jericho also took one (as well as reminding me of the relevance of  Joyce Carey's 'The Horse's Mouth' to my biography of Jago Stone and introducing me to the brilliant alto sax of Joe Harriott).

Could it get any better? Well it certainly remained a delight since I later spent the afternoon in the company of Merlin Porter, Oxford artist, and a son of Jago Stone, the artist who claimed in 1975 to have sold more paintings than any other British artist. Jago is the subject of my next book (see the link here to my website). Merlin gifted me an experience that I had regrettably missed in my nine years resident in Oxford - the view of the dreaming spires (and clusters of cranes) from Boars Hill. Breathtaking; spine-tinglng ...

Merlin Porter's painting of Catz, my Oxford college, commissioned earlier this year

Merlin and I walked back into the centre of Oxford via the river and Folley Bridge, stopping off at the Head of the River inn for a quick non--alcoholic drink. I mention this today - an additional  piece for today's rewrite of the blog - because yesterday teatime I was in phone conversation for the first time with an eighty-year old former area manager in Oxford for Ind Coope, the brewers, who opened the Head of the River Inn in the second half of the last century at great expense. It had paid for itself within two years. This is not the time to explain the part my area manager contact plays in my online detective work to uncover the story of Jago Stone. That will  be for another blog. As will the remarkable account of Jago given me this weekend by an American lady in email correspondence after she discovered my website and blogs. If there is anyone else out there with memories ...

I came home to what seemed St Ives icing on the Oxford cake. My letter of explanation about TRC, complete with links to website and ordering tabs, had been sent out to all 1,000 members of the local Labour Party. But that too is another story for another blog.



Saturday 15 October 2016


My blog on 31 July was called 'RUNNING TO REDISCOVER THE PORTALS OF OXFORD' and serves as an overture to my Oxford Half-Marathon run last Sunday, October 9 2016. If you read or reread that July blog, it's clear how much I was looking forward to returning to Oxford and running past so many seminal places in my past life. What I didn't know then was that I would be in the BBC Radio Oxford studios the day after the half-marathon as Al's guest from 11.05 to 11.30 a.m. talking about the race and 'The Road to Corbyn'. More of that in another blog very soon. For the moment, I'll focus just on the Oxford Half-Marathon 2016.

Start or finish - I'm not sure!

When you pay your money for a place in the starting line-up, you are asked to record your expected finishing time. I've just checked the registration email and I wrote: 'Between two hours and 30 minutes and two hours 39 minutes.' My time for the Bungay Half Marathon in April 2015 had been 02:35:04. Based on that information, you find yourself allocated to a starting pen ranging from A to I, stretching back from the start where the elite runners gather in the Broad back to and then way up Parks Road almost as far as Keble College. I was in the I pen towards the front with hundreds behind me and thousands ahead in the other pens. There was one numinous moment after the claxon had