I went to a book launch last week.
Not exactly a momentous event in the life of an editor, you might think; don’t book launches play a significant role in the life of anyone connected with the book trade?
Well, yes. At least they used to. There was a time in the not too distant past when I not only attended book launches, but played quite a large part in organizing them. But these days going to a book launch is actually quite an occasion for me.
This particular book launch was great fun. It heralded the UK publication of Come the Fear, the fifth in my good friend Chris Nickson’s Richard Nottingham series, which will reach the US sometime early next year. There were songs and storytelling as well as readings from the book, and the event took place in a church in Leeds which Nottingham could well have been acquainted with, since it’s been there since 172something.
But much as I enjoyed the evening, it left me feeling a little sad. Nostalgic if you like. Because pulling out of publishing has meant the end of a few other things too.
I’ve been reminded all week of one thing that’s missing, as one Dead Guy after another has mentioned Bouchercon; apparently five out of seven of us will be there. Have a great time, guys. Such a pity I have to be one of the other two; the B’con I attended in Baltimore back in 2008 was one of the memories I cherish of my seven years in the crime and mystery business. Four of us were there that year, and having lunch together felt like a meeting of old friends. Two have since moved on, but Jeff C will be there again to maintain the continuous thread this blog has spun since (I think) 2006.
Last week’s was the first book launch I’ve attended since March 2010; that, coincidentally, was Chris Nickson’s too, for Richard Nottingham’s first-ever outing. I’ve hardly been to a single crime convention or book festival since early 2010 either. Just one festival and one book fair, the first briefly as a speaker and to run a murder mystery evening, the second for a day, to sell leftover backlist before our agreement with the new owners cut in to call a halt. (We still have a few books left, but now we have to give them away; we’re not allowed to market under the name of the imprint. Actually I’m not even sure I’m allowed to mention it here, so I won’t.)
I suppose there’s nothing really preventing me going to Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime if I could find the money for the air fare, to join in the fun and catch up with old acquaintances. But somehow it feels different now. I’m not part of all that any more. These days I edit a few books, read a great many more, still have a passion for the crime and mystery genre – but it’s no longer my world in the way it used to be.
They say your life shrinks as you get older. I didn’t really think it was true. I still go to the theatre half a dozen times a month, and not just the little local one. Over the past year I’ve travelled to several parts of the UK I’ve never visited before, and returned to a few familiar ones; and I’ve seen new parts of the USA and France. But for seven years being in publishing was what I did; it defined me and gave my life structure, and it pushed the boundaries and extended my comfort zone more than a little. I can’t help missing that.
Not that I’m sorry I got out of the business; the book trade has changed out of all recognition in the past two years, and the only way I want to be involved in what it’s becoming is as a reader. (And an editor, of course, for as long as I go on being allowed to do the job properly.) Someone said in a TV soap the other night, sometimes the world is moving too fast and I’m struggling to keep up. I know how she felt.
But just once in a while I look back at the life I lived for seven years as the owner and operator of a small indie publishing company and feel a little homesick for it.