Wilfred Books is very pleased to be able to offer a short profile of an author, Hilda Kean (right), who was very helpful with sources and background information that was most useful in the writing of Black Shirt and Smoking Beagles, in the second of an occasional series, in which established authors explain how they undertook the process of writing & publishing their work.
I haven’t quite thought previously about what I have written, since it covers an odd subject including a medieval Carmelite friar, early education in the initial C20th – including assertive suffrage activists in schools, women’s political history, ways of approaching public history, and histories of animals.
The last two topics came about when working at Ruskin College, Oxford, for over twenty years. I was encouraged by the late Raphael Samuel, with whom I worked, to develop the first MA in Public History in the country, including running many open conferences. Raphael also helped me write my first historical essay on anti-vivisection, published in his History Workshop Journal, and I then went on to the Animal Rights book [see below], and many articles including Greyfriars Bobby, squirrels, animal cemeteries, Trim the cat, animal war memorials and unusual animal statues.
The latest post in Hilda Kean‘s blog, which is always informative, is a résumé of a recent book on a subject very significant to Wilfred Books, Anti-vivisection and the Profession of Medicine in Britain, by Alan W.H.Bates, in the animal ethics series published by Palgrave. She says:
The impact of anti vivisection upon people’s lives is covered far more interestingly than conventional approaches to the topic. There is good discussion of the Research Defence Society’s hostile approach to the thousands of people campaigning against dog petitions to parliament in the 1920s. There is also interesting discussion of the ambiguous approach of the London and District Anti-Vivisection Society in the 1930s and 40s. … The work is well written, accessible and engaging. Please consider purchasing the book of around two hundred pages to get to a wide range of ideas on this important topic.
On a personal note, there are several references in this book to Wilfred Risdon’s work for the London and Provincial Anti-Vivisection Society, and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (now Animal Defenders International), taken from Black Shirt and Smoking Beagles, which was published in 2013.
This book, of 217 pages, is available in hardcover at a cost of £20, including free shipping for individuals worldwide, from the publisher at this link; alternatively, because it is an open access book, it can be downloaded for free here. Please go to this page for further information and a chapter breakdown of the book.
That is a very fair question; as always, I try to avoid lazy generalisations, but I think it must be a racing certainty (not said from personal betting experience, I hasten to add!) that at least a few of those people who ever come across the name of my publishing company must wonder on the origin of the name; so, dear reader (especially those aforementioned few): I will enlighten you.
Perhaps simply because of the uncommon nature of my family name (and without indulging in unnecessary self-analysis, although I knew it was a subject that had also intrigued my father), I became interested in family history about twenty-five years ago (note to self: it’s just a number) and, to cut the proverbial long story mercifully short: in the course of my research, and thanks to a dear, previously unknown, but now sadly departed relative in Weston super Mare, I was made aware of his uncle, although by that time he was, sadly, deceased.
Wilfred Risdon, as seen in the photograph above, was my grandfather Charles Henry’s youngest brother, born in 1896; hence, my grand uncle (no: not great uncle!). Len, his nephew, had known Wilfred (sometimes ‘Bill’, but NEVER Wilf!) quite well, and he was able to give a reasonably good synopsis of his life and career, the most ‘interesting’ (interpret that how you will, especially in view of forthcoming revelations) aspect of which was his involvement with a figure in twentieth century politics who has, subsequently, acquired almost the reputation of a pantomime villain (boo, hiss: oh yes he did!): Sir Oswald Mosley.
I was far enough removed from Mosley’s time of influence (again: debatable, I know) in politics, even though I had been aware of his death and a certain amount of the backstory, to be sufficiently intrigued by the little I knew to find out more. Luckily for me, even though he was undoubtedly not a ‘household name’ (a sobriquet that seems to have fallen out of use: nowadays, we all seem to be either ‘celebs’ or ‘plebs’), there was plenty of reference material to be found on Wilfred, and I was very lucky, from an expedient point of view, to make contact with people who had either known him personally (not enough though, unfortunately), or worked with him, or been very close to his legacy of work.
In his defence (not that I consider that he needs one, as the book details), parliamentary politics was not Wilfred’s only sphere of influence: he was also a fervent anti-vivisectionist, and I think it is fair to say that I have come to support his sentiments in this area since encountering him, albeit at some remove. When Wilfred broke with Mosley just before the start of world war two (which didn’t prevent him being interned without charge or trial under the notorious Defence Regulation 18B[1A] in May 1940), he started working for a London anti-vivisection organisation and, such was his professionalism and efficiency, by the end of 1956 he had engineered the amalgamation of the small organisation into the larger, but again London-based National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), and he took over as Secretary at the beginning of 1957; he held that position until his death in 1967; ironically, by then, the organisation had moved into the heart of the medical establishment, which ‘relied’ on animal testing: Harley Street. The NAVS, now known as Animal Defenders International (ADI) has morphed into a global NGO.
Although I combined the research on Wilfred with more general research, over a period of a few years, it became obvious that his was a story worth telling; the crucial decision I had to make was how to go about it. Initially, I prevaricated because, although I knew that a biography was by far the best vehicle, I doubted my ability to complete the task satisfactorily and, in all honesty, I was more than a little bit daunted by the immensity of the task. Thankfully, a few very decent people persuaded me to do it, and all credit to them. Overall, including the writing of the book, which took about two years, I spent twelve years preparing it: an awful lot of research was required if I was going to do the job properly, which was the only result I could have countenanced.
I ended up with a book of 700 pages, including 7 appendices, a bibliography and index (the latter being essential, in my view); you might think, with some justification it has to be said, that that is a very long book for such an arguably insignificant figure in twentieth century affairs, but my view is: you don’t have to read everything if you don’t want to, but you can’t read what isn’t there, and you can always come back later to material you ignored initially. Also, I would have felt that I had given the buyer a poor deal if I had skimped purely for the sake of getting the book finished too quickly, simply for the sake of ‘getting it to market’.
In a way, although the writing of the book had been something of a grind, I proceeded methodically and regularly, which I actually quite enjoy, as did I the writing aspect, as I always have; it was actually the easy part, because it was something over which I had complete control; whereas, the publishing part was an unknown quantity — an unknown country, as it were. I had no stomach (or confidence, come to that) for the orthodox, conventional publishing process: find an agent and/or editor, with ensuing criticism and recommendations for revision (looking at it the worst possible way, of course); then either with their help or alone, find a publisher, if that was even going to be a practicable possibility. No, I thought: I’ll go it alone!
Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Yes: of course. Would I use the services of a small publisher like I have set out to be, if such had been available to me at the time? Absolutely! I certainly don’t regret the time I have spent learning about the publishing process, but it is also very possibly true that I could have used that time, confident that I was leaving the publication of my magnum opus in the hands of someone who knew what he was doing, to develop other projects which might have brought me similar satisfaction, intrinsically, leaving aside the matter of the filthy lucre.
That being the case, I therefore invite any aspirant, or even demoralised existing authors (demoralised on account of receiving too many knock-backs) to consider letting me help them with the benefit of my experience, especially if the book they want to publish is not considered by the mainstream to be sufficiently ‘saleable’ (an entirely personal and also possibly judgmental assessment, based on the fickle fluctuations of ‘the market’); perhaps because the subject matter is potentially controversial, which is not unusual if politics is involved! I am prepared to look at potential publications at any stage of completion, so if you have a project that you would like me to have a look at, please go to my Wilfred Books publishing website, and look at the ‘About’ page, which has a link to a New Author Information page, and from there you can go to a questionnaire into which you can enter enough information to give me an idea of what sort of project you have in mind. The link is:
Welcome to the new Wilfred Books blog. After much prevarication, I finally accepted that, as a publisher who is trying to establish some sort of presence in “the global market-place”, it was about time that the company had a blog, as well as a website , essential of course, because that’s where I sell the books, and the social media pages (Facebook and Google+: I don’t do Twitter) so here I am, at last! It’s only fair to say that I also waited until I had more than one solitary book to sell, because that didn’t make me a publisher, but rather, an author trying to sell a book I’ve published (Black Shirt and Smoking Beagles)! I will return to this point later.
I thought, in my naïveté, that it would be the proverbial ‘five-minute job’ to make a new blog: wrong! Possibly it is simply the usual problem of unfamiliarity with a particular user interface for a specific application, but my frustration is partly the result of having created a blog on my personal website, which was the culmination of a very long & tortuous development process, mainly thanks to my relative inexperience as a coder; I now feel reasonably happy with it, even though I would also be the first to admit that it is by no means perfect (and, whilst I could very easily lists its shortcomings, I think I’d rather lyrically accentuate the positive!).
On the whole, I think I’m glad that I didn’t check out other blogs before I designed my own, because I think it would have influenced my conception of the appearance, whereas I approached the task as a design project, which meant that I could make it look exactly as I wanted it to, rather than having to conform to another application’s parameters. When it came to a blog for Wilfred Books however, I thought it would make more sense to use a templated blog, specifically to save time; one of the major drawbacks with my personal blog is that it isn’t responsive (adjusts to different screen sizes: it only works with screens no smaller than a landscape oriented tablet), whereas I knew it was imperative, given today’s peripatetic lifestyle, that the Wilfred Books site was responsive, which it is, even if the graphic design standard is basic!
In the end, I settled on this one; previously, I had what was probably a totally irrational aversion to WordPress, perhaps because of its ubiquity (I confess to being an unashamed nonconformist), but I am reliably informed that the platform is well known and generally liked for its efficacy. Hence, I can now compile & publish a new blog post in a recognisable and responsive form fairly quickly, which means, given that the delightfully-named ‘back-end’ processes (order processing, etc.) on the Wilfred Books site are working effectively, I can concentrate on developing the publishing aspect of the company.
That’s where you, dear reader, come in: do you have a book that you are desperate to publish, but don’t know how to go about it? My preference is non-fiction books, the favourite genres being auto/biography or interesting/unusual family history, but I will consider other genres if they have merit, of course (although I think romantic fiction might be at the bottom of the list!), so if you would like me to consider your magnum opus, leave your email address in a comment, and I will get back to you! Also, please feel free to comment on the style of the blog: I deliberately kept it quite plain, so let me know if you like it, or if you think it could do with ‘jazzing up’ a bit. Thanks!