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Back Matter

Queen Jane Approximately

A publishing mover and shaker puts good books in the hands of readers.

Our Man in Boston Accepting writing as one’s profession allows one to indulge all manner of aberrant and/or unorthodox behavior (sometimes to or with other writers). Along with the expected impecuniosities, the great unwashed associate peculiarity with affection for the written word. Now this is not a wild habit in the scheme of things, but I must confess to a passing interest in author acknowledgements and annotations. These days it is not uncommon for writers to give thanks to their publicists (I have a feeling it is common but I am not willing to do the research to substantiate that claim). In Quarrel With the King: The Story of an English Family on the High Road to Civil War (Harper), quintessential English author Adam Nicolson (Seize the Fire, God’s Secretaries) salutes longtime Harper publicity maven Jane Beirn, and I was reminded of how I came to be acquainted with Nicolson and his oeuvre.

I was walking on the Lawrence Ave. beach in Chicago a few summers ago (I was either in town to speak with Eduardo Galeano or to attend my high school reunion—these things get fuzzy after awhile), when my mobile phone interrupted my Lake Michigan idyll. It was Jane Beirn inquiring about my interest in speaking with Adam Nicolson. Not having any familiarity with Nicolson, I expressed my ambivalence. The next thing I remember is reading Nicolson’s Seamanship and chatting with him upon my return to Boston—both pleasurable experiences. When I say Adam is quintessentially English, I am referring to his choice of subjects, his lineage (son of Nigel Nicolson and the grandson of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West), and the fact that he lives with his family in a castle. I ask you, can you get more English then that?

I was talking with Jane Beirn recently on another matter and she mentioned Quarrel With the King. The book was published last fall to indifferent attention—which I can understand, as the book seems to have little to attract the attention of the currently embattled American public, or even that fractional part considered literate. Jane sent me a copy and, given Nicholson’s fine prose and the fact that he focused on a crucial century (1520-1650 or so of England’s history, including its bloody civil war), I discovered that there was much more to this subject than I had apprehended at first glance. And more than that, I concluded that it is a book any publisher would—and should—be proud to publish. Thanks, Jane.
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