When Firethorn press was sold to Sidgwick and Jackson I worked there for a short while and then also for Lennard Publishing In February 1998 before I was recruited as Editorial Director, Non-Fiction at Century, when Century was part of Century-Hutchinson. Later, after Century-Hutchinson was absorbed into Random House UK, I became Publishing Director of Century, and we enjoyed several very happy and record-breaking years.
Bestselling authors I have worked with as either editor or publisher or both include – in alphabetical order – Banksy, David Bellamy, Gyles Brandreth, Craig Brown, Tina Brown, Marti Caine, Joe Calzaghe, Eric Clapton, Anthony Clare, Steve Collins, Peter Cook, Victoria Coren, Kelly Corrigan, Joseph Corvo, Michael Crawford, Peter D’Adamo, Donovan, Mark Ellen, James Ellroy, Daniel Farson, Roger Field, Nick Freeman, John Grisham, Nigel Hamilton, Oliver James, Derek Jarman, Holly Johnson, Peter Kay, Martin Kemp, Reggie Kray, Roger Lewis, Rod Liddle, Martine McCutcheon, Spike Milligan, Bob Monkhouse, Roger McGough, Paul McGrath, Neil McKenna, Andy Murray, Rob Newman, Trevor Norton, Linda Papadopoulos, John Pearson, Katie Price, James Rennie, Jeffrey Robinson, Robert Robinson, Valentino Rossi, Richard Rudgley, Chris Ryan, Trevor Silvester, Frank Skinner, Bryan Sykes, Michel Thomas, Kevin Warwick, Auberon Waugh, Arnold Wesker, Colin Wilson, Barbara Windsor and Norman Wisdom.
In addition to this broad mix of authors and subjects from academia, the arts, the military, sport, health, law, royalty, politics, broadcasting, journalism and popular culture – with especial enthusiasm for humorists and comedians – I have also made something of a specialty of ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’, Religion and ‘alternative history’, working with authors including (again in alphabetical order): Michael Baigent, Robert Bauval, Lorna Byrne, Andrew Collins, the Dalai Lama, Martin Faulks, Tim Good, Graham Hancock, Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas, Ian McCalman, David Ovason, Graham Phillips, Paul Pilkington, John J Robinson, David Rohl, Andrew Rose, Rupert Sheldrake, Gordon Smith, Whitley Strieber, Marsha Keith Schuchard, Robert Temple and Pamela Young.
In 2008 my book The Secret History of the World was published by Quercus - in the UK, Commonwealth and in translation under the pseudonym Jonathan Black - then in the US by Overlook, where it was a NY Times bestseller and subsequently in translation is many territories, including France, where it was also a bestseller. It's an odd, ludic, slightly subversive book that I still find hard to encapsulate several years later, but one description of it is 'doing for history what Gulliver's Travels did for geography'.
I was glad to be asked to lecture on philosophy at Maastricht University. My subject was trying to imagine what a wholehearted belief in idealism might feel like today. This experience prompted me to write my new book, The Sacred History, published by Quercus in the UK and by Atria in the States.
I have written articles in The Independent on Sunday on how publishing is changing, how consciousness is changing, on celebrity culture and why celebrity is bad for those who are celebrities.
Last year I published a short book e book on the real-life mysteries surrounding Dante’s descent in to the Inferno – The Secret History of Dante. This is an expanded version of one of the chapters in The Sacred History. It was published to coincide with Dan Brown’s Inferno, and explores why people have always travelled underground in search of higher consciousness.
In September 2010 I was recruited by Hodder & Stoughton to launch my own list, which is called Coronet. Authors include some who have come with me from Century –including Chris Ryan, SAS hero and author of many bestselling thrillers and Lorna Byrne, the Irish mystic, who sees angels in the way the rest of us see rocks and stones and trees, Robert Lomas, sometimes said to be the model for Dan Brown's Robert Langdon, and co-author of the international bestseller The Hiram Key, Trevor Norton, Emeritus Professor of Marine Biology, and Graham Hancock, whose War God trilogy is a fictionalized account of supernatural forces at work behind the Spanish conquest of Mexico. We will also be publishing the follow-up to Fingerprints of the Gods next year. I have published, too, a sort of Auberon Waugh 'greatest hits', called Kiss Me, Chudleigh, having fond memories of publishing Bron's autobiography at Century. In the short period since its launch Coronet has published many bestsellers, including Stairways to Heaven, A Message of Hope from the Angels and Love From Heaven by Lorna Byrne, eight Chris Ryan novels, Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion (a Scientific and Medical Network Science Book of the Year), Larry Lamb’s autobiography Mummy’s Boy, Happy Days by Olly Murs and The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. I’m looking forward to publishing Marty Feldman’s newly discovered autobiography later this year and next year to Brian Wilson’s autobiography.
As a publisher I'm always trying to find that thing that has never been said before, a new use of language that fizzes and crackles on the page, to give a voice to people who haven't had a voice before. I'm fascinated by the new technology and the changes in consciousness that come with it. Because I work more often than not at the commercial end of the business, I always look for clarity. I also find ideas for books often come to me as jokes. I think 'Wouldn't it be funny if someone published a book called this' - and then 'Why not?' If a book is going to annoy a lot of people, it is in my experience probably a good idea .
I was brought up in Cambridge, England and educated at Ipswich School and Oriel College, Oxford, where I read Philosophy and Theology. After university I spent several years drifting, teaching English in Italy. In 1993 I moved to London and began working for Waterstones, the chain of book shops then being set up by Tim Waterstone. I co-founded the publishing division, running a list called Firethorn Press, which published inter alia several religious and philosophical titles, including the Living Testament, The Essential Writings of Christianity Since the Bible, which I co-edited with M Basil Pennington and Alan Jones, Christian Short Stories – an anthology to which I contributed an introduction on the numinous in fiction- The Logic of Deterrence by Anthony Kenny and Are These the Words of Jesus? by Ian Wilson.