Last night Quartet held a reception for the publication of A Rogues’ Gallery by Peter Lewis, at Daunt bookshop on Marylebone High Street.
Here is the text of my short address to an audience of well-wishers who came to pay tribute to the author.
I have known Peter Lewis since my early days in publishing over thirty-five years ago, when branded by the so-called publishing fraternity as ‘the man who came from nowhere’.
In fact, they were technically spot on since I had neither the qualifications for the task nor the knowledge of how to be a publisher and, primarily, make a success of it.
I found this new role rather daunting given the complexity of the profession that relied in part on a lucky break to propel one to the ranks of established figures in the publishing world whose magnetic field attracted the powerful legion of literary agents and their distinguished clients. I was simply an outsider who wanted to make good.
Peter was one of Quartet’s early authors we commissioned to write a coffee-table book on Syria, which alas is in the news today for the wrong reasons.
Then, of course, we steamed ahead in multiple directions in our new venture as publishers and the chequered history of Quartet became but a motley of highly-prized books – most of which had the distinction of being ahead of their time, if not commercially, the success we envisaged in the first instance.
However, we are here assembled not to talk about Quartet but to celebrate principally a book of memoirs where through Peter’s eyes we see and feel the impressions of real celebrities of their epoch, sensitively observed and thoroughly dissected to give the reader a glimpse of what lies behind the character façade, their inner make-up and indeed their true unadulterated selves.
His style of writing is lucid, elegant and has a natural but concise flow about it. Peter is professional to the core, and does not fear to tread where others hesitate and choose more comfortable ground.
He has written a book which is an easy read, a good holiday companion and a most valuable addition to one’s library.
I don’t need to tell you how important it is for an author to see his book in demand and to witness people buying several copies at a time to give to their friends who hopefully will do the same.
The word of mouth is more vital today than it has ever been, given the current bleak recession in the book trade.
So please, honour our distinguished author by demonstrating to him that you intend to support his book by showing him clear signs of your generosity.