The Book of Wag

By Paul Sidey

A remarkable posthumous South London novel from a legendary editor

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Extract from The Book of Wag: the old-boy interview

Dear Friends of Paul

Gillian and I had a great meeting with the Unbound team last week, and a tour of their (rather cool) office, to discuss the editing, design and production of The Book of Wag. We now have a real production schedule, according to which  publication of the exclusive edition for the pledgers will be January 2016. I for one can't wait!  

I thought some of you would enjoy the following extract from the novel, in which Paul slyly  shows his opinion of some of the British working world's most cherished traditions...or at least, the way things were then, at the end of the 1960s.




Going through the motions, I answered an ad for a job in Sales and Marketing at a big magazine group. In the test for the shortlisted candidates, I suggested, as part of a promotion in a family travel magazine, give-away crayons to highlight routes on maps. I was surprised that such a ludicrous idea secured me an interview in an office on Fleet Street, opposite the spot where London town is divided from the City by the cast iron statue of a dragon.

‘I believe you know my son,’ said the Managing Director after I had taken my seat in front of his wide mahogany desk.

‘Stuart? The last I heard he was doing a training scheme at Unilever,’ I said.

Norman McPherson gave me a proud parent smile. ‘He works here now, with me. He was a bit of a slouch at school, I know that. I don’t mind saying that I was seriously worried about him for a while.’

‘Do give him my best.’

‘I will. I will indeed.’ McPherson folded his hands together. ‘I’m not one for the old school network. Came up the hard way myself. But when you meet an old Dulwich boy, you have a pretty good idea about his character and staying power.’

I wondered how a man like this held on to his job.

‘If you were to take up a position here.’ Stuart Hamish McPherson’s father lanced me with his probing executive stare, ‘I would expect your total commitment. Sometimes we may stay as late as 6 o’clock, throwing ideas around.’

I nodded enthusiastically.

‘As you see, Jack – I hope I may call you Jack?’

‘Of course.’

McPherson extended his arms. ‘As you see, these offices are extremely well appointed. But when you commence your labours here, you must not necessarily expect a carpet beneath your desk. That is something to be earned. However, I hope you will keep your dignity.’

I telephoned McPherson’s secretary the next day to say I was joining the Fleet Air Arm.


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