It was a shock but I suppose other writers know the feeling of bitter disappointment. Constable had published a series of ten books I had written – detective novels set in the 1930s featuring the aristocratic detective Lord Edward Corinth.
They had done well enough and have recently been reissued in the UK and the US. Yes, they were a bit old-fashioned, maybe too like Dorothy L Sayers but still . . . The film rights had been sold to Columbia Pictures for a lot of dollars – not that they had done anything with them.
This new – series set mostly in London about 1900 – would I was sure appeal to those who had enjoyed my previous series. The House in Holywell Street – a real street off the Strand and home to pornography and much worse was where my hero Adam Harkaway back from the war in South Africa would meet the prostitute who would change his life. Her story would lead him to investigate a savage murder. Like Sherlock Holmes’s Doctor Watson my hero had been wounded in battle and invalided out of the army. Back in London what was he going to do?
I tried to evoke London at the beginning of the twentieth Century – not a city in which to be poor and certainly not a poor woman. What jobs were open to them? Only prostitution.
I submitted the book to my agent and publisher and was swiftly turned down. There were too many coincidences or not enough violence – who knew but something was wrong. I envied those fortunate authors who acknowledge in their books the amazing team at Wonderworks publishers and particularly their devoted editor who had read – re-read and polished their typescript to make it the gem it now was.
Not for me and – to cut a long story short – I thought I would publish myself on the internet. In my day – I was a publisher myself for thirty years – self -publishing was called ‘vanity publishing’ – contemptible and the death of any reputation the writer might have. But not now – not in the new digital age, or would it?