Archive for July, 2016

The Windsor Observer local history correspondent kindly sent me a copy of his review and I am relieved to see it is accurate and encouraging. Though it didn’t mention the price, it directed readers to obtain the book from the racecourse, a very necessary consideration that some book reviewers in the past have overlooked!  I wish he could have said more, but I suspect pressure of space was a limiting factor.  I am grateful for all publicity, especially free and complimentary.  Nothing in the Racing Post yet….

I am very grateful to one of my supporters who arranged a book signing for me at a recent Epsom evening meeting, with a table for Windsor and some of my old books and several announcements about it on the public address. It was a great surprise to me.  There wasn’t a huge crowd and clearly not many of them were readers, but money changed hands and there will be more selling opportunities – maybe at Salisbury races in the next few weeks.

I neglected to sign a book I sent to one correspondent as she requested, and the upshot is I am going to see her in Eastbourne to remedy that. I can do that en route (in an admittedly roundabout way) to Brighton races one day in the week ahead.  They’re having their big three-day festival this week.  Brighton is a place where fine weather makes a tremendous difference to the racing experience so let’s hope the sun shines, or it’s warm, or preferably both.

In the next few weeks I’ve got five racing articles to ghost-write for a couple of local newspapers. They have weekly racing-oriented columns using material supplied by their local racecourse normally, but for the next fortnight I am providing holiday cover.  I’ve done it before.  Having to come up with and write articles for different audiences, and to a strict deadline, is a nice change.

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I am grateful to my old customers for continuing to support me by sending in their cheques for the Windsor book.

I understand the Windsor Observer published a review of the book in their local history section on Friday, but not being able to see it I can’t say any more.  They don’t put that column on their website.  Let’s hope it’s the catalyst for many more purchases.

One evening recently I went on a guided tour of Clerkenwell described as a Peaky Blinders walk. The TV series is named after teenage Birmingham gangs in the early 20th century, whereas I am interested in the race gangs operating round London that were prevalent then and particularly after World War I, when they caused mayhem on a number of racecourses and for railway travellers to and from the races.  The Shelby family central to the TV series is fictitious, although some real-life characters are portrayed in it too.  Fortunately our guide concentrated on the London race gangs rather than the Peakys.  Clerkenwell was one of their battlegrounds, the Italian Sabini gang being based there.  Our guide took us round the pubs, back alleys and courtyards where they’d met or fought.  Being summer (supposedly) our walk took place in daylight but one could imagine that some of the narrow streets and alleys, with tall grim buildings dominating them, would still today feel quite spooky when it was dark.  Apparently some of the Sabinis have been on the Peaky Blinders walk when it was run on earlier occasions.

Our guide had certainly done his homework, using a book I knew from my research – Gangs of London, by Brian McDonald, a descendant of one of the gang leaders, which has an extensive section on race gangs. This walk is repeated from time to time – check out  http://footprintsoflondon.com/

I see that in the Midlands various other Peaky Tours are run by the eminent historian Carl Chinn, who wrote one of the definitive histories of betting, Better Betting With A Decent Feller. These tours can include a typical Victorian dinner of faggots, mash and peas.  Hmmm.  http://www.peakytours.com/

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…. is proving more problematic than with my other books. A heavy shower before the start of racing at Windsor last Saturday week didn’t bode well for signing the book in the obvious place (the outdoor Information Kiosk near the turnstiles), but the skies cleared and I was interviewed by the compere after the first race.  Unfortunately most of the large crowd was much more interested in the beer than racing history, and the only person to come up to me to buy a book and get it signed was one of the annual members I’d met during my research!

In the past a course’s annual members were generally the primary source of book buyers, but I begin to think this isn’t the case with Windsor. I get the impression that a higher proportion of members are likely to be business people who may pop along a few evenings a year to network or entertain, but for whom racing itself is not a particular interest.  If that’s so, then selling is going to be more uphill work than usual.

I still hope there’ll be a book-signing with a racing celebrity, and that’s one of a number of suggestions I’ve made to the management to get the book in the public eye.

I am grateful to a follower and former colleague for offering to advertise the book in his local pub, which is in a racing area.

One bonus regarding that on-course interview was that the Racing Post reporter who was present buttonholed me, with the result that a few paragraphs about me and the book appeared in Monday’s newspaper. By coincidence my name was in the Post the day before, in a feature titled “Ten things you might not know about Brighton”, which drew to some extent on the information in my book about that course.  One thing I do not know is how to print the article, a link to which was sent to me by a friend who subscribes to the electronic version of the Post.  I can see the article but, not being a subscriber, I am prevented from printing it.  My IT skills will be tested to the limit to overcome this obstacle.

The last fortnight has been busy with writing to people on my mailing list and sending books as gifts to those who have helped me most – and there have been a few proper sales too, as word gradually gets about.

One of my chums has suggested another topic for a book, but we’ll have to see whether he can put in a good word for me with the subjects and if it appeals to them. Whatever the outcome, I am determined to have some quiet time studying a few obscure topics for my own amusement with no deadline.

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