September has crept up on us; it won’t be long before we’re thinking about Christmas (our new festive foxed card, the fifth in the series, is now out) and here in the office there’s that familiar, excited beginning of-term feeling of things about to happen.
One of them is certainly the appearance this autumn of two new titles in the Cubs series. They are the first two books in a quartet of novels set in Roman Britain by one of the greatest children’s writers, Rosemary Sutcliff, whose memoir of her early life, Blue Remembered Hills, we published in 2008 as the first of our Slightly Foxed Editions.
Sutcliff was a most interesting person. Diagnosed when she was very young with a form of juvenile arthritis that left her severely disabled and prevented her going to school (she didn’t learn to read until she was 9), she nevertheless became a talented painter of miniatures before truly finding herself as a children’s author. She never married, but in her early twenties, shortly before she began to write, she suffered the agony of rejection by a man she was seriously in love with, and perhaps this accounts for some of the imaginative intensity she poured into her work, especially into the four outstanding novels that chronicle the Roman occupation of Britain. We are reissuing all four in hand-numbered limited editions of 2,000 copies each. The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch (see p.33) are available now, and Frontier Wolf and The Lantern Bearers will be published in September 2020 but can be pre-ordered now. We loved these books as children, and they were just as gripping the second time round.
The same applies to Boy, by another brilliant storyteller, Roald Dahl, the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions (see p.15). The language of this childhood memoir is simple, but goodness how it grabs you. It’s a story peopled by many of the real-life ogres who later in one guise or another crept into Dahl’s fiction – brutal headmasters, grim-faced matrons, bullying prefects and a vengeful sweet-shop owner – but counterbalancing this is his relationship with his adored mother and the idyllic summers the family spent among the fjords of her native Norway. An absolute treat and not to be missed.
Good news too for anyone who missed out on two of our bestselling SFEs, Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road and Corduroy, the first book in Adrian Bell’s Suffolk farming trilogy: both are now available as Plain Foxed editions. And there are still a few copies left of A Country Doctor’s Commonplace Book, the perfect Christmas present for anyone – and this probably includes most of us these days – badly in need of a laugh.
All this talk of new books leads us to the tricky subject of marketing. Most of the letters we receive from you are cheeringly positive, but a few of you, we know, feel that you sometimes receive too many postal and online communications from us.
As you can imagine, the life of a small independent business like ours is pleasurable but not easy. We have no big financial backers: our shareholders are members of staff and friends who put their money and trust in us at the beginning. We promised then that we would provide readers with a personal service, that anyone who phoned us would be answered by a human being, that we would try to maintain the highest editorial and production standards, and treat our suppliers and contributors well, and we hope we’ve kept that promise.
We know you appreciate this, but it does come at a cost and one that’s ever rising. So we do our best to tread the fine line between maximizing our business and keeping you up-to-date while not being too intrusive. We truly value your opinions and listen to what you say. So if you do have thoughts on the subject of marketing, of whatever kind, do please share them with us.