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Ion Trewin and the importance of good paper

Ion Trewin and the importance of good paper

The death this week of Ion Trewin, the Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, has – although he would have hated the thought – cast a pall. It has, though, also elicited a flood of obituaries and reminiscences from many who had dealings with him (he was also ‘trending on Twitter’ – a phrase that never, one suspects, passed his lips). Among the anecdotes was one relating to Ion's coup as a publisher in securing the diaries of the womanising, bon viveur politician Alan Clark for Weidenfeld & Nicolson. When Clark was first looking for a publisher he held a ‘beauty parade’, where all the interested parties were invited to pitch. Ion and the young Caroline Michel did the job with such success that Clark signed for W&N. What swayed the politician, aside from the advance, was that Ion had taken along dummy copies of the prospective book – not, however, printed on cheap paper but on the best stock. It was a touch that impressed Clark (when the book was out and selling well he had a hissy fit when it was suggested that reprints could use lower quality paper). Ion rather typically claimed that the reason they had bagged Clark was nothing to do with him but rather with the distracting presence of the leggy Michel. 

Such was Ion's stature that obituaries have appeared in most of the broadsheet newspapers (Guardian, Times, Scotsman, Independent, Telegraph) as well as on the BBC and in the trade press. There will also be a book of condolences for Ion at the London Book Fair at Olympia (14-16 April). Visitors who wish to add their words should go to the reception desk of the Orion/Hachette Stand (stand number: 6 C50). The book, appropriately enough, will be printed on quality paper as well.

 Ion would approve that the Man Booker world keeps turning and that the global domination of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies – winners under his watch – continues apace. Having triumphed on both stage and screen in Britain, the plays and television series are just about to hit America. The plays – renamed Wolf Hall I and Wolf Hall II – have already taken £5 million in advance bookings and the venue, The Winter Garden on Broadway, is a huge theatre seating a daunting 1,526, so things are looking good. What's more Dame Hilary has been tinkering with the dialogue too. The effect on the last of the Cromwell trilogy, a work in progress, The Mirror and the Light, is uncertain but, according to the author herself, her theatre experience is ‘firing it up in the most glorious way. I'm convinced the book will be better for my involvement with the shows.’ That's all very well but impatient fans might wish she were back at her writing desk in Budleigh Salterton rather than taking in the bright lights of the Big Apple.

Another multiple Man Booker laureate, Salman Rushdie, has made the mistake of underestimating technology and it turning round and biting him. When his opinions of various classic books appeared on the Goodreads website they took readers by surprise.  While Rushdie gave Henry James's The Golden Bowl, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust five stars he deemed Lucky Jim by fellow Man Booker winner Kingsley Amis a measly one star, and Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mocking Bird a grudging three (the same number he awarded Amis's son Martin for Money). When challenged Rushdie responded that he had just been ‘fooling around’: ‘I’m so clumsy in this new world of social media sometimes. I thought these rankings were a private thing designed to tell the site what sort of book to recommend to me, or not recommend. Turns out they are public. Stupid me.’