My editor at Duckworth, Alice Thomas Ellis brought several of my books into the world.
She was the midwife for many writers, including acclaimed Beryl Bainbridge who gathered in her house in Gloucester Terrace, Camden Town at that fruitful and in hindsight carefree hopeful time in the 70s and 80s when Duckworth was the nucleus, the crossroads for celebrated personalities and talented newcomers.
I loved Anna and was privileged to have her editorial support. She was a respected writer with a weekly column “HomeLife” in The Spectator.
I remember once she found fault with an article of mine for The London Magazine because it would be “taken the wrong way. You have to be clever. Impress them.”
“The critics darling.”
This was one occasion I did not agree with her but she still upgraded a phrase and added a word I have long forgotten but undeniably it added “clever” to the sentence.
“The critics will like that,”
For me the critics then were an array of possible enemies in the fog of future, most of whom I would never know.
They loved Anna and sitting in the famous Duckworth convivial kitchen could discuss, dissect, compare, condemn.
It was clever stuff. Even then, I knew absolutely I had to write from the heart and at that stage, I had never written for another person.
When I began the writing process, I would hand-write 5 pages and the next day write them again, this time with sharper focus and fresh ideas.
This writing and re-writing process would then continue with a new 5 pages every day until it came to The End.
And the critics were still in the future. I did not write for them but would certainly need them and I saw their point when I started writing for the BBC.