Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Synchronicity - or coincidence - strikes again... twice!

On Saturday, I checked the proofs of a lengthy interview I've done (via email) with an American horror writer and historian of the genre for a specialist publication. The writer had originally contacted me to confirm some details for his forthcoming book on the history of the late 1970s/early 1980s horror boom, in which I played a tiny role as a writer and as publicity manager for New English Library, the publisher which did more than any other to create that boom in Britain by publishing James Herbert and Stephen King and a slew of others - including yours truly, under the name Nick Sharman. (The book is due out in September, and I'll publicise it noisily then.) Our correspondence, and my chronic addiction to sharing anecdotes, led to a request from the writer for an interview, which, of course, I was delighted to agree to - after all, I don't get many requests for interviews (well, none, to be honest). No sooner had I checked the proofs and emailed my suggested emendations back...

...than an email popped into my inbox from an American publisher. He had a couple of my paperbacks on his shelves at home, couldn't find digital editions for sale online, and wondered if I'd be willing to have them published as eBooks.

I didn't get too excited, because I've been through this before. In 2010, I was contacted by a British publisher with the same suggestion. I was too busy to think about it at the time, and, as he wasn't asking me for money, and as I didn't think eBooks would catch on, I said yes, whatever, signed a contract, and waited to hear from the chap. Emails arrived occasionally, telling me that everything was ready and that the first tranche of books would be available on Amazon within a few weeks.

Never happened.

About a year later, I retired from the world of work, and, having time on my hands, I did what I should have done in the first place and checked up on the company with whom I'd signed a contract - and discovered that they/he didn't exactly enjoy a sparkling reputation amongst horror writers or readers. As all the rights had reverted to me after six months of inaction on the company's part, I shrugged and forgot about it. No money had changed hands, so all I'd done was waste a bit of effort at a time when I could ill afford to do so.

When I received the email from the American publisher on Saturday, I was decidedly sceptical. I could just have said, yeah, sure, go ahead. Besides, it was a nice email, and the chap sounded genuine enough. But, while I have plenty of time at my disposal these days, I have precious little energy, and I really can't afford to waste any of it. So I did what I should have done back in 2010, and checked him out online. Turns out the company he represents is a highly respected outfit, for whom the writers they publish (including some really impressive names from my era) have nothing but praise: perhaps that's because the company was set up a few years ago by a writer who initially just wanted to publish digital versions of his own and his friends' books. (I won't give the company's name, in case it all goes wrong. And I won't name the jokers I signed a contract with in 2010, because they don't appear to exist any longer.)

Anyway, what are the chances of a novelist whose last book was published 27 years ago and who last worked in publishing 38 years ago sending back the corrected proofs of an interview about his obscure publishing and writing careers - the only interview about either in nearly three decades - on the very same day that he receives what appears to be a totally kosher approach utterly out of the blue from a publisher asking if they can reissue his books? And, before you ask, the interviewer/genre historian and the publisher appear to have no connection to each other.


As for the second coincidence (or example of Jungian synchronicity, if you prefer), it happened this morning. I woke up - I kid you not - wondering what had become of the comedian/comic actor Tony Slattery, who was a ubiquitous presence on our television screens in the late '80s, but disappeared from public view after suffering a mental breakdown (from a form of bipolar disorder, apparently) after the usual run-in with substance abuse, in the '90s. I couldn't think why Slattery had popped into my head - while I felt sorry for him when his sufferings first became public knowledge many years ago, I never really took to him as a a performer. I went downstairs, ingested my various pills and potions, made myself a cup of tea, and sat down to skim through the Telegraph - and the first item I encountered was a large article about...TONY SLATTERY! He's appearing onstage at this year's Edinburgh Festival, apparently.

Gave me a bit of a turn, I can tell you. Whoever or whatever is in charge of these things, please note: that's enough coincidences for one week.

Good luck to Tony Slattery. I hope his appearance at the Festival (in a stage revival of the improvisational TV show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in which he used to appear) goes well. I've been fortunate enough never to have suffered from mental illness (the minor neuroses, stress, and bouts of melancholy or anxiety most of us suffer from now and then do not count): it must be absolute bloody hell.


  1. Perhaps a visit to the college of Psychic studies at 16 Queensberry Place is on the cards!
    I had my own little coincidence after posting a recent comment on your blog in reply to SDG.After almost twenty years,an invitation to a cocktail party arrived with my name clearly printed-it's taken a whole generation to forget in more ways than one.
    And yes it was wonderful.

  2. The invitation card said 'Dear Mr.southern man,you are invited... etc etc. I've no idea how they got my address.