Copy-editor’s Letter about Finished Manuscript of Green Road
From: John Pettifew Clark
To: Crowmarsh, Eustace [mail to:email@example.com]
Subject: Hugh Thomson
Thank you for sending me the MS of Hugh Thomson’s The Green Road into the Trees.
I will post you the copy-edited manuscript by surface mail. I have followed normal UK publishing practice
and Random House house style in my editing and instructions to the typesetter.
Meanwhile, in addition to the usual solecisms and stylistic quirks that I see all too often from writers who have
not had a classical education, I did want to raise a few concerns.
You should be aware that along the way, on what is ostensibly a walking book across England, Thomson manages
to alienate a great many of his potential readers.
To be specific, and listing them in order of occurrence, he insults or makes gratuitous reference to: vegetarians,
William Dalrymple (who is the favourite writer of most aunts in England), Paul McCartney, the Prince of Wales,
publicans with beards, model aeroplane groups, the custodians of Stonehenge, all three of the major political parties
(comparing the Liberal Democrats at one point to Pagans), rentier farming landlords, the Church of England,
the neo-pagan group ‘Dragon Order’, gastropubs, bird-watchers, aristocrats, the army on Salisbury Plain, archaeologists,
minicab drivers, hunters of wood pigeons, the Vikings (who, we should remember, have many descendants), postmodern
architects, Will Self (a popular writer and TV personality), Amazon and Katie Price (also known, I believe, as ‘Jordan’);
along with numerous others.
It is possible that there is some overlap between these groups (vegetarians, for instance, may be Paul McCartney fans,
given his association with Linda; many aunts who read William Dalrymple are likely to be members of the Church of
England), but it still seems a high-risk marketing strategy, and risks offending many.
Moreover, just to ensure that he makes a clean sweep of the majority of the population, he takes a sideswipe at
married Englishwomen – and their husbands as well.
Nor has he taken his own advice and travelled with an animal (a dog, or perhaps like Stevenson, a donkey),
which would have ensured commercial success; the British public always like to read about animals, and they
are less liable to involve contentious issues of class or history.
I would suggest that in future it might be safer to commission him to write a book about a less populated part of
the world, or at least one that has fewer special interest groups, or readers. I see from the author biography that
he has travelled to Afghanistan. Why not send him there? Or even better, the Empty Quarter of Arabia. It worked for Thesiger.
Best wishes – and thank you again for that excellent lunch at the Garrick.
John Pettifew Clark
PS I will enclose a hard copy of this with the manuscript. Remember to take it out!