Rutherfurd on Rutherfurd

Translantic Publishing

Q. So you had to look for employment again.

A. I had lunch with Tim Waterstone and told him I'd had no luck writing and was out of money. And God bless the man he offered me another job. Effectively, I had a tiny publishing house with my own sales and marketing team. I used to go to the Frankfurt Book Fair and to New York to look for books to publish.

Q. You enjoyed it.

A. I could still be very happy as a small publisher today. The book business is wonderful, every aspect of it from publishing to retailing. I enjoy being in book warehouses, like book people, the feel of books, even the smell of them. It's where I belong.

Q. Around the age of thirty, you transferred to America.

A. WHSmith had set up an American publishing house which had some problems, and Tim Waterstone went out to turn it around. I remained in England under his successor, a lovely and talented man called Val Lewthwaite, who became my second mentor. In due course however, when Tim had a vacancy in America, he and Val agreed I should go to New York for a while. They wanted to build a small group of people with transatlantic experience.

Q. You liked New York.

A. Loved it. Professionally and culturally it was a huge learning experience.

Q. You can't have had much time for writing.

A. A draft of a historical play. Not much else.

Q. After two years, the business was going badly.

A. Tim Waterstone had inherited some huge problem contracts when he arrived. It wasn't the first time a British company had set up an American publishing business without understanding that complex market. He made a series of brilliant moves, but he couldn't get out from the overstocks that rose like a tsunami. So he carried the can. My mentor got fired.

Q. What happened to you?

A. Smiths kept me on working for a new American boss for a while. He was tough, but he taught me a lot. Meanwhile, they started to fold up the business. I was wondering what to do.

Did You Know?
Hard to believe, but this month of April is the 50th anniversary of the 'official' break-up of the Beatles. This author was a very timid young student at Cambridge then. But the far more worldly and talented guy who had the room across the corridor from me had a lovely girlfriend who worked for John Lennon; and one day they scooped me up and took me to Lennon's house at Ascot. The white house with the white piano. Lennon himself wasn't there, but all the same . . . Fifty years later, that day is still so vivid

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