The Nigel Balchin Newsletter


Issue 15: March 2015



Announcement Concerning My Biography of Balchin


I am delighted to announce that, at long last, I have a publication deal in place for my biography of Nigel Balchin. The book will be published by SilverWood Books of Bristol (UK) and should be out in September, a month carefully chosen to coincide with reissues of two of Balchin’s most important novels (see page 2 for details). The current title of my book is His Own Executioner: The Life of Nigel Balchin although that may yet be changed before publication (see page 3 for news of how you might be able to bring pressure to bear in this regard!). The content of the book has undergone some minor changes in recent months but has not been altered in any radical way and the Table of Contents remains much the same as it was when I first announced it in issue 9 of this newsletter (see if you wish to refresh your memory).


I anticipate that the book will be about 400–450 pages long and although the recommended retail price has yet to be settled on, I think it’s highly unlikely it will exceed £12. The physical version of the book will be published in the form of a high-quality paperback only but an e-book version will also be produced at the same time and will be compatible with all major e-book readers (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.). SilverWood Books are a self-publishing company but they pride themselves on working to a very high standard and aim to produce books that are the equal of those turned out by commercial publishers and, in fact, that is one of the main reasons why I have chosen them to work on my biography. Having inspected some of their books in their Bristol offices last month, I am confident that they will do an excellent job with His Own Executioner and produce a good-looking volume.


Those of you who may wish to purchase a copy of my book should, I hope, find it easy to do so. In the UK, you will be able to go into any bookshop and place an order for it. But with those living further afield in mind, it will also be available from conventional online retailers such as Amazon and from the SilverWood Books online bookshop ( If anyone experiences difficulty in obtaining the book then do please let me know and I will stick a copy in the post to you.


I will end this message with a pair of plaintive apologies. Firstly, I do apologize yet again for the inordinate length of time it has taken to get this book into the marketplace. It has been an intensely frustrating process and I am very grateful to you all for having been so patient and for maintaining your interest in my work. Secondly, I realize that this issue is a little bit ‘book-obsessed’ but I hope everyone will forgive me this aberration given that I am finally on the verge of having my biography published. I promise that I will have returned to something like normal by the time the next issue appears in June! (See page 4 for a sneak preview of the likely content of that next issue.)


With thanks and best wishes,

Derek (



Reissues of Several Balchin Titles Announced…


I have been reliably informed that Orion Books ( will be reissuing two Balchin novels this autumn, with a third set to follow in 2016. The first two titles are Darkness Falls from the Air and The Small Back Room, which Orion currently plan to publish in September. The third book in question is A Way Through the Wood, which Orion intend to bring out next spring.


I have no further details regarding these reissues at present but, if any do come my way, then I will disseminate them via this newsletter and the Nigel Balchin Website ( Orion’s reissue programme falls some way short of the comprehensive set of reissues I would like to see at some point in the future (i.e. including the likes of, among others, Mine Own Executioner, A Sort of Traitors and The Fall of the Sparrow) but it does at least represent a tentative step in the right direction.




The last two Balchin novels to be reissued, Darkness Falls from the Air and The Small Back Room, appeared in the Cassell Military Paperbacks series at the beginning of the last decade.




…And More to Follow Perhaps?


Acting on requests from several subscribers to this newsletter, I have been investigating the possibility of reissuing Balchin’s first three novels, i.e. No Sky (1934), Simple Life (1935) and Lightbody on Liberty (1936). It is certainly technically feasible to do so, and copies could be made available for purchase inexpensively if they were digitally printed on a ‘print-on-demand’ basis. The sticking point, as always, will be whether or not I will be able to come to an arrangement with the agents who handle Balchin’s estate on behalf of his surviving family. I have already run the idea past them but have yet to receive any response. I shall pursue this project vigorously in the coming weeks but at present I am cautiously optimistic that it may be possible to republish these books later on this year. If I’m successful, then this will be the first time that (non-secondhand) copies of these three books will have been on sale since they were first published about eighty years ago. So keep your fingers crossed and watch this space for more details.





No Sky and Lightbody on Liberty, two early Balchin novels that I would dearly like to see reissued in the near future.


Competition Time!


I mentioned in the last issue of this newsletter that I was planning to run a competition on the website, the prize being a copy of my forthcoming biography of Balchin. After some deliberation, I have decided to amend this concept slightly by restricting entry to subscribers to this newsletter. As you comprise quite a select bunch, please note that this greatly increases the probability of any individual subscriber winning the competition!


The competition itself is very simple, and I am grateful to subscriber Don Miller for devising the concept. All you have to do is this: in no more than 15 words, tell me what you think the best title for a biography of Nigel Balchin would be. I can’t promise to use it as I already have a title in mind (see page 1) but I will read all your alternatives with interest and the one I like best will be declared the winner of the contest. Please send your entries (one per person) to me, Derek Collett, at Closing date for entries is 31 May. One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of my biography of Balchin upon publication (which is currently anticipated to be in September). Good luck!


Every Picture Tells a Story




This is the view that the young Nigel Balchin would have had in 1918 when he first walked up the drive of the Dauntsey Agricultural School in Wiltshire to begin his secondary schooling. So began a glittering scholastic career that culminated in him being made Captain of School in 1927. He also won several school prizes, belonged to numerous clubs and societies and played many different sports with great distinction, captaining his school at cricket and soccer. Much more about Balchin’s time at Dauntsey’s can be found in my forthcoming biography.





Next Time


I am sorry that this issue does not contain my usual article about Balchin. This is because my time in recent weeks has been almost completely monopolized by negotiations surrounding the publication of my biography. However, I plan to remedy this deficiency by devoting much of the next issue to an examination of the similarities and differences between three acclaimed ‘technocratic’ authors: Nigel Balchin, Nevil Shute and Eric Ambler. Thanks to subscriber Mary Hutchings for putting this idea into my head.



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