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Slightly Foxed Issue 80: From the Editors

This 80th anniversary issue marks twenty years in the life of Slightly Foxed, but it’s rather longer than that since four women and a baby sat down in what had once been the playroom of a house in Canonbury, North London, to discuss what they might do next. The two of us, Steph and Kathleen (now a bookseller in Bath but still very much part of the SF family) were all out of a job.

There was much discussion of the state of UK publishing and the book trade, though George the baby, who was only a few weeks old, was largely silent, joining in only to call for meals. This was a time when many publishers were paying astronomic advances for glossy celebrity books, and huge book supermarkets like Borders, the American chain, were filled with these manufactured tomes, ignoring, we felt, the many wonderful titles that were lingering unloved on publishers’ backlists. But when we decided to launch a magazine that would, we hoped, give these books a fresh airing, the reaction of friends and colleagues was not universally enthusiastic. ‘A magazine about old books? Well, good luck with that,’ was the general tone.

Fortunately the rest, as they say, is history, and we’d like to send a big thank you to everyone who has helped, against all the odds, to make Slightly Foxed the bushy tailed creature it is today. This includes our wonderful staff past and present, with a special mention for Jennie, back with us now from maternity leave, whose talents did so much to get us going, and to Jess and Aimi who now so brilliantly keep us and the office on track. Also to those vital but invisible people our investors, who supported Slightly Foxed with no apparent hope of return, and to our friends the craftsman printers at Smith Settle in Yorkshire, who have helped us from the beginning, and who, with their traditional skills, give an elegant finish to our books and to Slightly Foxed.

And last but not least of course, we send huge thanks to you our readers – for sticking with us in bad times as well as good, for writing to us, sharing your opinions and showing your appreciation. (And special thanks to all the hundreds of you who wrote to congratulate us on our MBEs. We still haven’t quite accustomed ourselves to the idea of being given an award for doing something so entirely pleasurable.) Inevitably, during the past twenty years, we’ve seen losses and gains, sorrows as well as joys, but the Fox and all involved with it have been like a warm second family. We count ourselves extremely lucky, and hope that Slightly Foxed will continue to spread pleasure for many years to come.

We could of course go on, but so must the business, so away with the hankies now and down to brass tacks. This season’s new Slightly Foxed Edition is Pig Ignorant, an endearingly honest memoir by the bestselling children’s writer Nicholas Fisk. On the surface the 1930s suburbia in which he grew up is a comforting place, but underneath it’s all embarrassment and uncertainty as young Nick experiences the Blitz, gets his first job with a theatrical agency, finds his faltering way into the Soho jazz clubs where he moonlights as a guitarist, and begins to write.

And finally, the good news that Helene Hanff’s evergreen classic 84, Charing Cross Road is now available in a Plain Foxed Edition. Set in the drab and traumatized post-war London of 1949, this is the story of the love affair that developed between a feisty, eccentric New York writer and the staff of Marks & Co, a second-hand and antiquarian bookshop in London’s Charing Cross Road. It’s a book to warm the cockles of the heart – one to curl up with in the long dark evenings as we wait for spring.

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