Roger Micheldene’s publishing judgement

by Kelvin Smith

In 1964, at the time of the US publication of One Fat Englishman, D.A.N. Jones wrote in The New York Review of Books that the “hero, the gross and shameless Roger Micheldene, is very low in the literature bracket, a mere commercial publisher in fact.” For a variety of reasons Micheldene does not want to publish Irving Macher’s new novel, Blinkie Heaven, even though he recognizes that “if his firm did not take it a dozen others would leap at it, and that it would be a success”. In considering his options, he comes up with a possible sour grapes excuse.

It was tempting to turn it down notwithstanding and say in due course that there were some successes which a house of any integrity ought to be proud not to have published. That sort of stuff went down well as a rule in Roger’s firm. With a staff of readers as dead as theirs to even the most blatant selling quality, it had to.

Kingsley Amis, One Fat Englishman, 1963