When a certain Martin Rynja founder and owner of Gibson Square publishing first wrote to me suggesting I write a book about my life in France I assumed he was a vanity publisher. I had spent most of my adult life trying to get a book published without any success, so was amazed to have a real publisher contact me.
I first met Martin at a cafe in Liverpool Street station. We discussed the book deal and signed a contract soon afterwards at a restaurant in Harrods. He is a perfect gentleman; clever, witty, imaginative and harder working than any other publisher I have worked with.
Little did I know at the time his reputation for taking on topics that others shun. I was horrified to read this week that his house was fire-bombed because he agreed to publish a fictional account of Mohammed’s first wife Aisha (which Random House decided not to, although they loved the novel). Martin is fine and in good spirits. He emailed me asking if I had a spare front door. The publishing of the book, however, is on hold.
I find this a very sad state of affairs. Although living where I do I am more sensitive to the issues surrounding Islam than many back home, I still find it tragic that free speech, opinion and fiction is supressed in this violent manner. And as the author herself says, she is extremely positive about the Prophet. In fact most of the hate mail she recieves is from people calling her a supporter of terrorism.
I hope this is not a sign of how things are to be in the future. British publishing has a great and proud tradition of independence and courage. Although if it were my home being bombed I suppose I would do what any normal person would and scrap my plans to bring the book out.
Martin’s list includes several other books larger publishers deemed too hot to handle such as Blowing up Russia: the secret plot to bring back KGB terror; House of Bush, House of Saud; OJ Simpson’s If I did it and, er, Two Lipsticks and a Lover, one of many books he has bravely published by Helena Frith Powell when all others refused to. She is eternally grateful.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008