After the events of the past few months, we must admit that, though extremely cheerful and optimistic, we’re also feeling a bit ruminative here in the office. Somehow the timeless and civilizing things we hope Slightly Foxed stands for seem more important than ever at a moment of change like this. We hope, anyway, that with the arrival of this autumn issue you can relax, draw the curtains – actual or metaphorical – and, as one of our American readers recently described it, ‘breathe a sigh of relief and slip into a world of thoughtfulness and good humor’.
Certainly there’s nothing like reading about the past – perhaps especially the recent past – to give a steadying sense of perspective, and for this the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions comes highly recommended. Anthony Rhodes’s Sword of Bone (see p.14) is both an entertainment and an indictment of the waste and futility of war. Commissioned into the Royal Engineers on the eve of the Second World War, Rhodes found himself hanging about in France during the period of the Phoney War, requisitioning materials to extend the supposedly impregnable Maginot Line along the Belgian border as far as the coast. The situation had all the elements of a French farce, but when the Germans finally broke through and dive-bombed the retreating British Expeditionary Force on the beaches at Dunkirk, the laughter was over. It’s a most unusual war book by an observant and cool-headed man who responded to even the most desperate situations with an ironic sense of humour.
For younger readers – and many nostalgic older ones too – Ronald Welch’s Carey novels, the first twelve books in our Slightly Foxed Cubs series, written between 1954 and 1972, take a long view of British history, following one family from the Crusades to the First World War and joining up the chronological dots in an extraordinarily lively way. Fast-paced and colourful, this is children’s fiction of the best kind, rich in meticulously researched period detail and with real historical characters woven into the stories.
The final two books in the series are now available – Ensign Carey, which follows the fortunes of a hard-up Carey cousin from the gambling dens of mid-nineteenth-century London to the horrors of the Indian Mutiny, and Tank Commander, which takes the family story up to Britain’s mobilization in the summer of 1914 and the eventual transformation of an apparently hopeless situation by the introduction of the tank. You’ll find more details in the enclosed catalogue.
For any of you with gaps in the series, now is a good time to fill them while we still have stock – since these are limited editions we won’t be reprinting. And looking ahead – as we know many of you do – the Carey series would make a very special present for a grandchild or godchild this Christmas. A reminder too that we now offer a special SF subscription rate of £28 to anyone under the age of 28, which comes with free digital access to all our past issues. It’s a great way for young people to explore the world of books, for which there is no substitute, so do put the word out to anyone you think might be interested.
Last year we offered Slightly Foxed readers the opportunity to acquire a personalized yet affordable bookplate featuring a wood engraving by Howard Phipps. Those bookplates are still available but this year we are delighted to add four more designs by another of our favourite wood engravers, Sue Scullard. And finally, our new foxy Christmas card is now available, as is next year’s Slightly Foxed calendar, featuring some of our favourite seasonal covers. Here’s to some good things to write on it in 2017.
Gail Pirkis & Hazel Wood