How's this as a way of getting free books? Three weeks ago Sotheby Publications
received a telephone call from a man
purporting to represent Publishers Weekly, the American trade magazine. He was, he said, in process of writing an article on
high-quality art books and it would help him to have two very nice (and expensive) Sotheby titles. The firm's publicity people did not quite catch his name but trustingly left the books in their reception for collection by him.
The next day another art book publisher, Gordon Fraser, received a similar call from a man giving his name as Richard Sugg. He
was anxious, in the interests of higher criticism and Publishers Weekly, to see two
fine (and pricey) Fraser books. The firm agreed to leave them in reception for collection the following day. In the mean time, however, James Fraser decided to
check the credentials of "Richard Sugg" and phoned Publishers Weekly's regular London
man Malcolm Oram. He was hardly reassured: Oram had no knowledge of an article on art books and had never heard of Sugg. So when Sugg's "messenger" — a young bearded gentleman about six feet tall — arrived to collect his:booty, Fraser asked for a letter of authority; the messenger said he would convey the request to his master and a letter would surely arrive the next day. It did not; and never has.
Meanwhile Messrs Octopus Books were experiencing similar approaches from "Mr Sugg". They too agreed to leave him a parcel of books the next day — provided he would present himself in person — and they also invited Malcolm Oram to come along and meet his mysterious "colleague". Disappointingly Mr Sugg failed to turn up.
Last week Pelham Books were telephoned by a Mr Stephen Hope who said he was writing an article for Publishers Weekly on encyclopedias and reference books. Two first-class (and top-priced) Pelham works would doubtless qualify for a mention in it, if supplied. Pelham left the first one in reception and it duly disappeared; the second, which was out of stock, would be left two days later. In the interim Pelham were also moved to double-check with Malcolm Oram who, I understand, responded with a characteristically delicate resolve to "nail the rat". At the appointed hour Oram and Pelham's burly press officer John Dorman lay in wait to make a citizen's arrest. Alas, "Mr Hope" failed to make a second appearance.
I have no doubt that my good friends the remainder booksellers will keep an eye open for unfamiliar individuals trying to sell off expensive art and reference books.
Lastly in this, the 233rd and final "Bookend" column, an apology — not to the many deserving victims of Bookbuyer's malevolent pen, but to an entirely undeserving one: Mrs Shirley Conran. Her publishers, Sidgwick and Jackson, were not assisted in their promotion of Superwoman by the PR firm Conran Associates (25th October issue) but rather by Messrs Noel Gay. As Mrs Conran deftly points out, Conran Associates belongs to her ex-husband—"possibly the last person in the world who would lift a finger to assist me in any way".