Category Archives: Latest

A GOLDEN OLDIE

No Longer With Us – my collection of 50 interviews, garnered over many years, and is starting to receive some highly favourable reviews – and the up-coming celebration of Auberon Waugh, A Scribbler in Soho, which Quartet will publish in January – were both edited with much help from a memoir I wrote in 2007 – Fulfilment & Betrayal 1975-1995.

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The final volume of my memoirs, its epic length – nearly 800 pages – tells two main tales: my business career, in particular the story of Asprey, and my obsession in maintaining the cultural concerns of Namara Ltd, my family firm, and its publishing and artistic activities. Books, magazines, movies, theatre and perfume were all created in a razzle-dazzle style which still leaves me breathless whenever I dip into the book to check a date or memory.

Copies are still available and it strikes me with the constant flurry of business memoirs, Fulfilment & Betrayal has maintained its quality and will make an ideal gift for anyone interested in culture, business and the shenanigans of high finance. It’s also, if I may say so, an engrossing read. It’s also chockablock-full of anecdotes, some of  which may enrage these PC times. Buy a copy, find out for yourselves and be merry…

I MISS THE LAND OF NOD

For the last three years I have been suffering from insomnia which has caused me no end of grief. To stay awake most of the night is by  no means something one can get used to. However I now read that lack of sleep is unlikely to shorten your life than those who snooze soundly.

Insomnia affects about a third of Britons every year and has been linked to high blood pressure and diabetics. But a review of 17 studies taking in almost 37 million people has concluded being unable to sleep does not raise the risk of an untimely death.

Researchers at the Flinders University of South Australia found those with night-time insomnia alone have no extra chance of dying, based on studies following them for up to 28 years. Those with daytime symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety had a slightly higher chance of death, but it was not statistically significant.

Sleeping pills may add to your mortality risk but insomnia does not, the authors state. Dr Nicole Lovato, lead author at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at the university, said: ‘This knowledge and reassurance may help reduce insomniacs’ anxiety related to this matter and break the cycle of insomnia.’ In the studies reviewed, approximately 10% of participants suffered from insomnia. The overall risk of an early death was just 6%, however, which is not seen as statistically significant.

Other research has shown a link between lack of sleep and life-limiting conditions. Professor Russell Foster, of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University said: ‘We do know the kind of sleep loss seen in shift workers, even when confounding factors are taken into account, can increase the risk of conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.’

Whatever conclusion these studies come to, the discomfort of insomnia is still a major factor to cope with, even if on the whole, it does not necessarily shorten one’s life.

A LISTENING DOCTOR

In her roundup of ‘Books for a Medical Christmas’ for The Hippocratic Post, Rebecca Wallersteiner recommends Jeremy Bending’s A Listening Doctor which Quartet published this autumn:

‘In his new memoir “A Listening Doctor,” Dr Jeremy Bending recalls touching incidents from his work and personal life with warmth and black humour that has served him well throughout his long, distinguished career as a consultant physician specialising in diabetes, a disease that has reached epidemic levels in the UK and around the world. During his time as a research fellow at Guy’s Hospital, Bending helped develop insulin-pump treatment, a technological advance that would revolutionise medical care for diabetes, and improve the lives of countless patients. This book is full of useful advice for people affected by diabetes and includes many patients’ stories that will help others understand the condition better.’

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A perfect Christmas gift! As diabetes has become a major problem in Britain and is costing the NHS a fortune, this book is timely and is worth reading. Furthermore Bending is a low-key doctor whose contribution to the medical profession is immense and deserves your support.

TWO SPLENDID NOTICES

The Jewish Chronicle has a proud record of maintaining an interesting and pertinent book review section, unlike more mainstream newspapers who appear to be reducing the space available for books, preferring to notice more tabloid habits.

So it was especially rewarding to see two of Quartet’s recently published books elegantly reviewed. I reprint below what the review said:

DESPAIR AND ABUSE OVERCOME

Reviewed by Madeleine Kingsley

THE DARK childhoods of actress Candice Derman (author of Indescribable) and psychotherapist Jane Haynes (If I Chance to Talk a Little Wild) might have sprung from the Brothers Grimm. Their stories are, however, all too painfully true.

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Coincidentally, continents and time-frames apart, both women grew up as emotional, if not actual, orphans — adrift, unhappy and hungry for small acts of human kindness. Their two highly individual, must-read memoirs tell of triumph over early traumas that would have broken many.

What links their work is that Derman, who had already had successful therapy in her native South Africa, later found her way to Haynes’s London consulting rooms and so to a cameo role in Haynes’s erudite yet offbeat meditation on her personal and professional life.

Haynes recalls her client’s sapphire eyes and striking composure. Yet, between the ages of eight and 14, Candice had consistently been sexually abused by her stepfather, his grand, colonial house having become a perverted playground. Adding devastation to her deep damage, her perpetrator was eventually imprisoned for two paltry years.

Her Jewish parents had divorced; her father was distant and her mother blinkered by her wealthy remarriage bringing a seemingly enviable life of servants, exotic holidays and caviar.

Nobody questioned why the once very bright schoolchild slid into failure and a marked precociousness. Nobody suspected the charming man of the house.

Candice thus received a far lengthier sentence than her abuser — six years of feeling utterly battered in body and spirit, solely responsible for her hideous secret. If she spoke out, ‘Mom’s fantasy would become a lie and I would lose her down the rabbit hole. Dad’ — meaning her stepfather — ‘would go to jail, my sisters would be broken and it would all be my fault.’

There’s a literary genre known as ‘pity memoir’, but Derman’s first-person, child’s-eye narrative is different in both depth and dignity. Hers is an unsparing witness statement, a shocking, raw and graphic account of her feelings, of the abuser’s grooming, fumbling and eventual raping.

It’s so strong a story that I wanted to enter its pages to rescue this child from her nightmares, her self-blame, her occasional, disturbing frissons of pleasure and her overriding sense that she must be evil. I wanted to run her to a place of safety. But, in the end, Derman emerged whole, not just to survive but to thrive as a loving wife and mother. Jane Haynes reports their therapy ending as, 15 years married, Candice and her husband joyfully conceive a daughter on a romantic weekend in Provence.

‘Life has taught me,’ writes Haynes, ‘that tragedy skulks round every bend in the road.’ Her own childhood is told only to preface a much broader exploration of her self, her case-histories, her postnatal depression, her love of myth, poetry and the classics, Proust, Shakespeare (who knew that his plays contain not a single good mother?) and the need to fathom (with reference to Nabokov’s Lolita) how we can ever effectively address the need for prevention of sexual offences against the young.

As a Hampstead, Jewish child of the ’40s, Haynes could not rely on human nurture: her father died of syphilis when she was very small, her mother was bipolar. A school boarder at six, she struggled with ‘homesickness for a non-existent home.’ Yet she became a renowned therapist by way of mentoring from R. D Laing, enfant terrible of psychiatry, and Jungian psychoanalytic training, which she has abandoned for a more engaging, conversational style. She inspires her patients with the courage, as she puts it ‘to open up their warrior wounds to my sympathetic attention…

‘It’s through the transcendent magic of language,’ she contends, ‘that the wounds of body and soul are cured.’ Troubled times, it seems, make true therapists.

Having read the review and as the publisher of both books I’m indebted to the Jewish Chronicle for highlighting the plight of both authors who have overcome their childhood traumas and turned their lives into the success they both truly deserve.

MEDICAL SPIVERY

I’m not surprised to learn that nearly half of online GP firms – most of them offering webcam appointments – are unsafe, says the care watchdog. Doctors are handing out addictive pain-killers, antibiotics and medication for heart disease without carrying out proper checks. Some companies are even failing to ensure patients are over 18 before prescribing potentially dangerous drugs.

A report by the Care Quality Commission warns that 43% of online GP Firms operating in England are not providing safe care. The companies usually provide webcam – or ‘skype’ – appointments in which the doctor tries to make a diagnosis. Others operate as a virtual pharmacy and allow patients to fill in a form that is checked by doctors before medications are prescribed. Patients pay up to 25 pounds for a 10-minutes webcam appointment and can normally be seen within two hours. Many would otherwise have to wait up to 3 weeks for an appointment with a GP at their NHS surgery.

The watchdog carried out inspections of 40 online GP firms in England. One of the main causes of concern was that GPs were prescribing medications too freely because they were not carrying out proper medical examinations. Doctors at one firm had prescribed a patient with powerful opioid painkillers for two years without telling the patient’s regular GP. Many other companies were found to be handing out antibiotics too easily because doctors could not examine the patient’s chest, ears or throat. GPs were also prescribing drugs for heart disease and diabetes without monitoring patients to ensure they were effective and not causing harmful side effects.

The CQC was particularly concerned that doctors working for these firms do not have access to patients’ medical records which may limit their ability to make a diagnosis. In many cases the doctors failed to contact the patients’ own GPs afterwards and inform them of potentially worrying symptoms, or the medication provided.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice at the CQC, said: ‘While innovation should be encouraged, it must never come at the expense of quality. As with all health care service, patients’ safety must be at the heart of all decisions around what kind of care is offered and how it is delivered.’

The firms usually employ NHS GPs who work from home in between their normal surgery hours to earn extra cash. The CQC has been inspecting the firms since 2013 and carrying out follow-up checks. Despite the problems, the watchdog pointed out that many of the companies had improved standards since first inspected. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘It’s very concerning that even now 43% of online consultation providers have been deemed unsafe in some respects. The inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics for example poses risks to individuals but also is of great concern to the wider public, and the failure to share a patient’s data with their NHS GP could have a detrimental effect on their future care.’

This haphazard going-on is a real scandal and doctors should not be allowed to risk a patient’s life for the sake of earning additional sums of money. Life is much too sacred to expose it to such dangerous practices.

A BOOK OF PURE DELIGHT

Quartet has always been at the forefront of publishing the finest photographic monographs. One such timeless masterpiece of the genre was Venus, by Grace Vane Percy, which received the kind of acclaim that photographic books hardly ever collect when we publish them.

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The reason, if I were to make a wild guess, was due to her clear and defined skills in presenting the nude female form in a perspective where elegance enhances its impact and the surrounding environment gives her photographs an artistic edge that propels them into a class of their own.

Shot in black and white, in country homes noted for their fine art treasures, Venus becomes a dreamlike compendium of a coterie of beautiful young maidens whose innocence and sensuality shine through as if the angels have willed it.
The author, endowed with a lanky frame, infuses what one may call a prototype of her own art. She combines femininity with a visual dimension that inspires the very fabric of her work.

Venus is a book that will remain an outstanding objet d’art and will certainly outlast the vagaries of fashion. As Christmas is the festive season, why not celebrate with a gift of substance at a price you can afford?  £50 in today’s money is a bargain for what you are getting. Hurry and don’t leave matters hanging in the air. Time is not on your side now that the bells of Christmas are about to toll merrily. So be bold! Defy the misers who think otherwise with a gift that may even give a boost to your love life…

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THE PRINCE OF SOHO

The recent announcement from the Groucho Club that they have redesigned and renamed their Backroom Restaurant ‘Bernie’s’ is a splendid tribute to their legendary manager, Bernie Katz. His shockingly early death last year was a particularly painful moment for Quartet as we had only just published his book, Soho Society, a few months’ earlier. He had been a joyful author to work with if at times hard to pin down as he dashed hither and thither in his inimitable breathless style.

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With specially commissioned artworks by Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Peter Blake, Sarah Lucas, Sam Taylor-Wood and Jonathan Yeo which illustrate Bernie’s caustic, pithy tales of sex workers, drunken celebrities and broken souls, Soho Society is a brilliant reminder of just how unique and special Bernie was. The son of a real life gangster, Bernie was dubbed ‘The Prince of Soho’ by Stephen Fry who wrote a glowing Introduction to Bernie’s book.

Soho is still a legendary spot and Bernie conducts the reader through a collection of ‘true stories’ that involve call girls, rent boys, suckers, thieves, A-list personalities and media hustlers as they weave their way through tales of lust, envy, pride, perversion and despair.

Here are some of the quotes about the book:

‘There is no gravity, the world sucks! Who better suited to write about the ins and outs of Soho life than Bernie?’
Damien Hirst

‘I have collected Soho literature for thirty years. For the last ten or fifteen I had despaired of ever hearing a new voice who got it, who really understood what Soho is. And now Bernie Katz has produced this collection and I am happy.’
Stephen Fry

‘There is only one man who has the knowledge, experience and respect of Soho. Bernie Katz may be the last of the breed of true London hosts.’
J.J Field

In an interview with Bernie, Roya Nikkhah of the Daily Telegraph commented, ‘If his book is anything to go by’, I tell him, ‘there is still an eclectic mix of hedonistic bohemians in W1 who will keep Soho swinging for years to come. ‘

‘Trust me,’ he says, ‘it’s quite tame compared to what really goes on.’

Quartet still have copies of the book for sale and without wishing to imply anything more than admiration for the Groucho’s gesture, a copy of Soho Society is a perfect complement to a meal at Bernie’s.

This book proves that Quartet since its inception has always been ahead of its time.