The Book of Wag

By Paul Sidey

A remarkable posthumous South London novel from a legendary editor

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Book of Wag has reached 85% of its funding! Here is another extract from Paul's piece Publishing Lunch (2004)

A year or so later I became an editor. So it was the Garrick with Giles Gordon, the old Escargot with Julian Symons, Langans with John Mortimer, Bertorelli's with Angela Carter, The White Elephant with Olivia Manning, and Bianchi's (which no longer exists) with Terry Venables and Gordon Williams, when they were collaborating on a series of books featuring a cockney private detective called Hazell. There was not a suspicion of sparkling water in those days. You started with a large gin and tonic, followed by two bottles of red, ending with coffee and a 'sticky'. Gossip was exchanged. Enduring friendships were formed. And hot tips immediately forgotten.

I moved to Hutchinson in 1980, when it was situated in a Regency house in Fitzroy Square. Just round the corner was a Greek Cypriot restaurant called Averoffs, which, for some reason, we all called Buggeroffs. I took Ruth Rendell there when I became her editor. The sun was shining. We sat outside, and got a few in. We've been friends ever since, and this year we celebrate another new book, 13 Steps Down, and her 40th anniversary with the company.[Note from Marianne:  In 2014, Ruth celebrated her 50th year with Hutchinson, though sadly, Paul was too ill by then to join in.]

Somehow food doesn't get much of a mention when it comes to the Publishing Lunch. In places like the old Bertorelli's in Charlotte Street and Eleanor's Bianchi's in Frith Street, the cooking wasn't to die for. But it helped soak up the wine. And the atmosphere was great.

Not all lunches are excessively agreeable. I remember a story about a very rich and successful chief executive who took five of his senior staff to New York's swanky Four Seasons. There was a mouth-watering hush while menus were scrutinised. The head waiter came over, and prepared to take the order. 'I'll have my usual,' said the host. 'Cottage cheese and green salad.' And that's what they all ordered. Like lemmings. With tap water.

 

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