A small press success story – and a very happy reader

I’m sure we all had favorite books while growing up.  I have very fond memories of Arthur Ransome‘s “Swallows and Amazons” series, Rosemary Sutcliff‘s voluminous output (particularly her Roman Britain books), Elizabeth Enright‘s delightful novels, and so on.

A particular favorite, to whom I returned time and time again, was Ronald Welch.  His series of children’s historical novels about successive generations of the Carey family, running the gamut from the Crusades to World War I, captivated me, and never grew stale.  Even as an adult, when I occasionally came across a copy, I’d re-read it with great pleasure.  His books had been out of print for decades, and were hard to find (particularly at affordable prices – some of them are in nosebleed territory), but now and again I’d find one I could afford, and add it to my bookshelves.

You can imagine my delight, therefore, when I learned that a small press in England, Slightly Foxed, has republished the entire Carey series of novels, plus a previously unpublished novella in the series, discovered among Welch’s papers after his death.


Ronald Welch - Carey novels


To say I was overjoyed would be a monumental understatement!  What’s more, these are “art-house” style books;  very high quality cloth-wrapped hardcover editions, complete with the original illustrations from the 1950’s and 1960’s, with great care taken to see that they line up across pages.  They’re a limited edition of 2,000 copies of each book, with each individual copy numbered in its series, by hand, on the copyright page.

The set isn’t cheap, but that wasn’t about to stop me!  Mine arrived last week, and I’ve been like a small boy with a new toy ever since.  The books’ very high production quality justifies their price, IMHO, and I have no regrets.  There are four volumes I hadn’t read before, due to the vagaries of British publications reaching South African bookstores and libraries, and they’re a particular pleasure.  I may be in my venerable declining dotage early autumnal years, but they’re transporting me straight back to my late childhood and early teenage self.  Welch’s writing was so good that they haven’t “aged” at all.  They’re as captivating as the day he penned them.

What’s particularly interested me is to see what a splendid job Slightly Foxed has done with them, and the rest of their catalog.  It seems this small press has decided to concentrate on producing limited, very high-quality editions of old favorites that have long been out of print.  They appear to be doing very well at it.  I’m delighted to learn that they’re going to publish the first four Roman Britain books of Rosemary Sutcliff.  I already own all of them in cheap paperback copies, but you can bet I’ll be plonking down my dollars for these high-grade editions.  Even nicer, they’ve republished Eric Newby‘s two classics, “Love and War in the Apennines” and “Something Wholesale”, which are gems of their kind.  I’ll be buying them, too.

I’m very happy to find a small press that’s quite unapologetic about focusing on a niche market, and doing so very professionally indeed.  I hope they make a resounding success of it.  I recommend you visit their Web site, and browse their catalog, to see the range and quality of their work.  If you wish, you can subscribe to their quarterly newsletter, which appears expensive, but entitles you to discounts on books you buy from them, and other benefits.  They’ve taken great trouble over their shipping, too.  They pack each book individually in bubble-wrap, then box them all as a set with more protective material;  and each package, within the UK or to the rest of the world, is tracked from the moment of dispatch, with customers given a link via e-mail that they can use to monitor its progress.  Very professional, and an example to many other small presses who haven’t risen nearly as well to the challenge of keeping the customer satisfied.

Now, if I can just persuade Simply Foxed to add the “Swallows and Amazons” series to their catalog . . . without the politically correct “corrections” with which later editions were mutilated censored saddled . . . I’ll be even happier!

15 thoughts on “A small press success story – and a very happy reader

  1. Forget leading me into temptation, Peter, you’ve practically rolling out the red carpet and propping the door open! 🙂

    1. Hey, you live close enough that you can come down for a weekend and read them. Also, to whet your appetite further, I have most of what Rosemary Sutcliff published – and now I have a few older editions of the Carey novels that I no longer need. We’ll bribe you with them to come and visit!

  2. I see that they have a well constructed website, and do a regular podcast, so certainly not luddites by any means. And they seem to take meticulous and loving care with the quality of their products. But with all the attention on the vehicle not a whisper or hint for making the message contained in an affordable electronic format.
    I realize it’s their business and they are free to run it any way they wish, but it would take precious little extra effort to offer e-book versions of these books so that they might be provided to a much wider audience.

    1. It may be a question of the rights. I’m sure they can get permission to reprint an art-house edition, because that’s a high-profit item that rewards the rights holders. An e-book, on the other hand, can’t be sold for that sort of price; and that may discourage rights holders from licensing a small press to offer an e-book edition. (It might also cannibalize sales of the high-profit hardcovers, of course, which is a factor any small press will have to take very seriously.)

    2. They are coming out with some books in somewhat less expensive editions (Plain Foxed and Paperback Foxed). I’d say even for the Slight Foxed editions, their prices are reasonable for a quality hardcover (but sadly I do not have room for them in my budget (money OR space) right now).

  3. In a world of helicopter parents, Swallows and Amazons are inherently politically incorrect. But I’m curious what changes were made.

    1. I suspect one reason fantasy is popular is that it gives an excuse to get rid of the parents from the story.

  4. Out of my budget for the foreseeable future…. but do the same for Rosemary Sutcliff and maybe I’ll tighten the belt and … oh, just the thought, so much drool in my keyboard… (okay, possibly that dotage thing you mentioned…)

  5. Margery Allingham’s estate has done some great inexpensive Kindle editions of her stuff, and a lot of them are in KU.

    Which reminds me. Her collection The Return of Mr. Campion includes a author’s foreword I have never seen before, “The Mystery Writer in the Box.” It is freaking good stuff about her writing style, why mysteries became and stayed popular, how a planner like Allingham became a pantser of her greatest character, the British version of the pulps, and so on. Very interesting. It really was encouraging to any scared writer or would-be writer, because she suffered a lot of crud and mistakes, but none of it proved a permanent defeat.

    1. I’ve been looking for more Cool & Lamb mysteries; used prices are too high, but a couple were available on Kindle for <$5, and several more for $7. A fair number of Perry Mason mysteries (also by Erle Stanley Gardner) were available on KU.

      I'll have to take a look for Allingham on Kindle.

      1. There appear to be 8 Margery Allingham books available to download in different formats from the archive.org web site. These 8 appear to be out of copyright, but I’m not a lawyer, so download carefully.

  6. Thank you for remembering Rosemary Sutcliff for me. I thoroughly enjoyed her books when I was young. I could not remember her name.

    On Thu, May 23, 2019 at 10:54 PM Mad Genius Club wrote:

    > Peter Grant posted: “I’m sure we all had favorite books while growing up. > I have very fond memories of Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” > series, Rosemary Sutcliff’s voluminous output (particularly her Roman > Britain books), Elizabeth Enright’s delightful novels, and so ” >

  7. Rosemary Sutcliff is a favorite. Her “childrens” books read just as well to adults.

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