Fiery Words from FireCrest

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Grand Theft Motto

ON OUR WEB PAGE Books We Love, we gave readers to understand that we might have the good fortune to republish T.F. Powy’s Unclay — an astonishing book, and with something like a cult following. The causes of art and commerce served with one spoon, we thought.

Somebody Stole Our Words
We discovered the other day that Unclay is back in print — has been since April — with a small press in Dorset that, so far, has mainly specialized in reprinting titles by members of the Powys family.

We might have been flattered, even, that on its website the said press has had the good taste to quote our pithy little eulogy to Unclay on Books We Love. They couldn’t be bothered to add a link to the FireCrest home page, though; which we thought rather a shame.Then we noticed their fine corporate catchphrase. And it’s none other than this:


What? Excuse us. Where did you read that first? We know where we did. Probably the same place they did: the FireCrest website. And that was up and running (and we had books in print) a good nine months before this lot published their first volume. And they quote from our website. Where you can hardly miss our catchphrase. Of which we are rather proud, besides. And then they have the brass gnomon to pinch our motto?

Is this just stupid? Some bizarre effluorescence of hubris, thinking no one would notice? Or was it an accident, a mere thoughtless flick of the Paste button? Or shameless theft? Does someone with a name not unlike Frank Kibble White now have a red face? We hope so.

John Death Still Stalks The Land
Of course we’re pained that we didn’t get the rights to republish Unclay. The history of how we tried bears rehearsing (if through gritted teeth). Late in 2006 we approached said agents to enquire about rights. We had a couple of interesting phone
conversations and exchanged apparently friendly e-mails. Then all went quiet. We learned by roundabout means — our own téléphone arabe — that Powys’s descendants were keen to see Unclay in print again. But, it seemed, the agent was less keen on print-on-demand operations like ours. Our highly active imagination thought it caught a whiff of snobbery rather than commercial acumen here. This kind of ersatz respectability has long been outmoded in the electronic marketplace.

Perhaps the Kibble Whites in bucolic Dorset did some kind of blanket deal with the agent — the spider at the centre of this web — and the Powys estate, and everyone was happy. Which is fair enough, although you’d think the agent would have had the wherewithal to see if FireCrest would make a better offer. And it’s not entirely fair to the Powys family, since this outfit doesn’t appear to have distribution in the USA, whereas we do; and their UK distribution operation smacks of the garden shed.

So the Powys estate hasn’t been served that well, all told. Agents are like lawyers: they try to do the best they can for their clients, and still no one loves them. The major irony is that we could have had Unclay in print a year ago, and perhaps even making a bit of money for the Powys family.

So it goes.


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