‘For weeks the trees had been heavy-laden with tired green leaves,’ writes BB when autumn arrives in Brendon Chase, ‘but now! What glory! What a colour ran riot in the underwood, how sweet and keen became the morning air.’ This is the season when ‘a new zest for living stirs within the blood, [and] adventure beckons in every yellowing leaf’. And sure enough, here at Hoxton Square, we’re in a decidedly adventurous mood.
Some adventures span whole careers and have an endearingly absurd character at their heart. So it is with Jennie Erdal’s wickedly funny Ghosting: A Double Life, the latest of our Slightly Foxed Editions (see p. 14). Erdal spent twenty years ghost-writing for ‘Tiger’, a flamboyant independent publisher who was determined to write books as well as publish them – despite limited literary talent. She created a whole oeuvre in Tiger’s name, even turning his ludicrous plot ideas and sexual fantasies into novels which were seriously and admiringly reviewed. Ghosting is her brilliant memoir of that time, colourful in its treatment of Tiger’s wild enthusiasms and weird obsessions but also subtle and multi-layered, as Erdal explores the emotional dissonance that comes from living life behind a mask, pretending to feel one thing when experiencing another.
There are wild enthusiasms of a very different sort in BB’s Brendon Chase (see p. 31), the third book by this exceptionally gifted children’s writer to be reissued in our Slightly Foxed Cubs series. In it, we follow three brothers as they escape from their aunt’s house one night at the end of the Easter holidays, fleeing the prospect of school and living instead in a hollow oak tree in the middle of an eleven-thousand-acre forest. There are gripping adventures and plenty of high jinks as the boys narrowly evade capture – and there are moments of quiet reverie too, as we tread the forest paths with the boys in search of birds’ nests, butterflies and the Blind Pool. This is a book for readers young and not so young – for anyone, in fact, who knows the delights of days spent wandering in the woods, well out of reach of the grown-ups.
If one can’t escape to an oak tree in these uncertain times, one can at least find refuge in life’s humour and absurdity. And for that, we have Dr Philip Evans who, each Christmas for the past sixteen years, has sent his friends and family a small booklet of ‘wonders and absurdities’ gleaned from many different sources over the year. When he sent the booklets to us they made us laugh so much we decided to publish a selection. The result is A Country Doctor’s Commonplace Book, a very individual look at the eccentricities of English life from a well-read man with a keen sense of humour. Of all his sources, among our favourites are announcements from the newsletter of the Lark Valley Benefice (‘The sermon topic tonight will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice’). The ideal gift to cheer a friend or slip into a dear one’s Christmas stocking.
And finally, we have a rather exciting announcement of our own: we are nearly ready to launch the Slightly Foxed Podcast. Think of it as an audio version of Slightly Foxed, full of interesting bookishness, interviews and discussion – all set around our kitchen table, here in Hoxton Square. We hope it will be the sort of book programme we’d want to listen to ourselves, and we’ll be letting you know more about it nearer the time. Adventurous indeed!