In 1988 we published Coming to Terms by Robert Montagu, a work of fiction in which the author tackled the subject of his relationship with his father.
Obviously he wasn’t ready then to come out in the open and describe what exactly happened and the torment that followed the unspeakable sexual abuse that was to darken his adult life for many decades to come.
I first met Robert in early 1988 at a time when Quartet was joining forces with Anthony Blond, the colourful publisher, to form a partnership that according to the London Standard – under the headline ‘Terrible Twins!’ – ‘had all the incendiary potential of a latter-day Gunpowder Plot’.
Blond’s own company, Muller, Blond & White, had gone down earlier in the year having reached the point where, as he said in his autobiography, Jew Made in England, ‘we couldn’t even pay the grappa bill from the friendly neighbourhood Italian restaurant’.
Although he had managed to clear all his debts, he no longer wanted the hassle of refinancing and starting up again from the beginning. He was considered to have brilliant flair as a publisher, but less acumen as a businessman. Now he was seeking a home with an established publishing house, from where he could operate and supply ideas for projects in return for which his name would appear in any books which might materialise.
That’s how Robert Montagu’s first book came to Quartet, through the new alliance with Blond.
I hadn’t seen Robert since 1988 until a few months ago when Maggie Hanbury, his urbane literary agent, brought him to my office. It was such a delightful encounter that resulted in Quartet publishing his gripping yet sad memoir, A Humour of Love.
It took Robert a lot of soul-searching to write about his father, who by every standard one opts to choose was a monster bereft of any human feeling or dignity. However, what is remarkable about the book is the absence of hatred towards his father – despite the abominable stress that the boy had to endure at such a tender age.
I can only applaud the courage Robert must have mustered to reveal all in order to absolve himself of any further guilt and as a warning to others that sexual abuse of this nature seems to lurk in the most unexpected places.
I appeal to everyone to read the book for it has the elements of a great confessional dilemma that’s hard to come to terms with.
Order your copy now. The weight of pain and redemption is a lesson to us all.