The Nigel Balchin Newsletter
Issue 17: September 2015
Biography of Balchin Released
I am delighted to announce that, finally, my biography of Balchin has been published and is now available to buy. There are several ways in which you can purchase the book, should you wish to do so. The best way is to go to the online bookshop of my publisher, SilverWood Books, using this link:
Alternatively, the book can be purchased from Amazon or other online retailers should you prefer that. In the UK, it should be possible to go into any bookshop and place an order for a copy. If anyone experiences any difficulty at all in obtaining the book then do please let me know and I will see what I can do to help. The biography is available in two formats: paperback (£11.99) and ebook (£4.99).
I am very grateful to the subscribers to this newsletter for all your support, help and encouragement over the years and thanks for your infinite patience while I struggled to complete the book and get it published (you can read more about that struggle on page 3 of this newsletter). Do feel free to send me any feedback you may have about the book in due course: it’s only by receiving constructive criticism and acting on it that one can improve as a writer.
Thanks again and I hope that everyone enjoys reading the book.
With very best wishes,
Don’t forget that, as highlighted in the previous edition of this newsletter, new versions of Darkness Falls from the Air and The Small Back Room are due for release on 10 September. I will try to review them in the next issue.
Information on next year’s Balchin release, A Way Through the Wood, has recently appeared on Amazon. The publication date has been set as 16 March 2016. The graphic design whizz-kids at W&N (a division of Orion Books) have come up with another cracking cover, as shown below. Not being a petrolhead myself I’m not able to identify the motor in the picture but I just hope that, for the sake of authenticity, it is a ‘big dark green Lagonda’, the car that Bill Bule drives in the book.
I remain interested in trying to reissue Balchin’s first three novels at some point in the future but virtually all of my time this year has been taken up with the work required to get my biography published and, with lots of promotional activity in the offing, the rest of my year is pretty much mapped out for me as well. Hopefully it will prove possible to reissue No Sky, Simple Life and Lightbody on Liberty during the course of 2016. I’ll keep you all posted.
The evocative jacket design for the Orion Books’ reissue of A Way Through the Wood.
A Little Bit More About Eric Ambler and Nevil Shute
Thanks to all those subscribers who kindly got in touch to say that they had enjoyed reading my article about Eric Ambler and Nevil Shute in the last issue of this newsletter. Some of you told me that you were now intending to read the works of those authors, which was gratifying to hear. And thanks to the eagle-eyed Peter Monteith for pointing out that Shute did in fact die in 1960, and not 1961 as I had claimed! Something I omitted to include in my article was information on how to get hold of books by Ambler and Shute, so I thought I would remedy that omission now.
With Shute it is a fairly simple matter: all of his books have been reissued by Vintage in recent years and so are still in print. Tracking down Ambler’s books is a slightly trickier task but not too tough. With the exception of his underwhelming debut, The Dark Frontier, all of Ambler’s first six novels were reissued as Penguin Modern Classics in 2009 and can therefore still be found on the shelves of good bookshops. Most of his other novels are reasonably easy to find in secondhand form.
What Took You So Long?
In an attempt to answer that question, I thought it might be instructive to include the timeline below, which illustrates the lengthy gestation period that my biography of Balchin has undergone!
1991 – I read my first Balchin novel, The Small Back Room.
1998 – I first conceive the idea of writing some sort of book about Balchin. At this point, I intend it to be more of an appreciation of his work as a novelist than a true biography.
2003 – Having reached the foot of the last page of Lightbody on Liberty, I can at last say that I have read all 20 of Balchin’s books.
2004 – I decide to write a full biography of Balchin and begin my research.
2006 – I first meet members of Balchin’s family. The prospect of my being able to write his biography now becomes a realistic one.
2010 – The bulk of the research is completed. I begin (a) planning the structure of the book and then (b) writing it.
2012 – The first draft of the biography is completed a few days before the start of the London Olympics.
2012–2015 – Numerous rounds of editing, rewriting and restructuring. Approaches to agents and commercial publishers ultimately prove unsuccessful.
September 2015 – His Own Executioner: The Life of Nigel Balchin is published by SilverWood Books.
2016 – Author admitted to hospital suffering from nervous exhaustion!
Every Picture Tells a Story
My photo this time shows Aldwych House in Aldwych, which is situated just off The Strand in central London. In 1928, the National Institute for Industrial Psychology moved into the eighth floor of this imposing building after relocating from its previous premises in Holborn. The first working day of Nigel Balchin’s life, 18 August 1930, commenced here when he began work for the NIIP having graduated from Peterhouse, Cambridge. Chapters 3 and 4 of my biography of Balchin reveal the full story of his time with the NIIP, the undoubted highlight of which was the role he played in the creation of Black Magic chocolates in 1932/1933.
I am pleased to announce that the winner of the competition to provide an alternative title for my biography of Nigel Balchin is, er, Nigel Balchin! No, not that one of course: the gentleman in question is Nigel Balchin of Ewhurst in Surrey, the same county from which Nigel Marlin Balchin’s ancestors hailed. Nigel’s winning entry was A Not So Simple Life, which I liked for two reasons: (1) it accurately describes the life of his namesake; and (2) it neatly namechecks a Balchin novel as, in a slightly more oblique way, does my own title for the book (His Own Executioner: The Life of Nigel Balchin). A signed copy of my biography has already been posted to Nigel. Thanks to all those of you who took the time and trouble to enter the competition.