When is a book launch not a book launch?
The short answer is when the books have gone to the bottom of the sea.
Just the other day, we zoomed across to King's Lynn ("zoomed" would actually be the wrong word for the journey after Downham Market -- as there was a derailed freight train ahead and it was very unclear whether the our train would actually proceed further.. so we baled out and took a cab).
The occasion was the local launch of Simon Thurley's new book The Building of England. We already knew that something was up, as we had received an e-mail cancelling the London launch, on the grounds that the books had -- believe it or not -- been lost as sea, in the storm of St Jude,as they made their way between China (where they were being printed) and the UK. Why they were being printed in China, God only knows... but God must have objected. The picture of some calm bit of the journey is above.
As it happened, the "Hamlet without the Prince" book launch turned out to be extremrely nice -- no pressure to buy, every opportunity to praise sight unseen, and a sticky label that Simon would sign if you were desperate for when you finally got a copy. And a wonderful story to tell.
The hilarious thing (well, maybe not hilarious if you're Simon) is that there turns out to be a family history of books lost at sea. As he said in his speech -- which was all the funnier for there being no book --something similar happened to his grandfather, Humphry House, the Dickens man, and father of our mate, the art historian John House who died too soon, too recently. Apparently the first manuscript version of House senior's famous book, The Dickens World was got by a u-boat in mid-Atlantic and never seen again.
Anyway we are all pleased to know that The Building of England is currently being reprinted in Spain (not so far to travel), and will be available soon for your Christmas stocking.