A book bearing my name, with a title I gave it, is about to be published. It has been on the point of appearing for so long that I sometimes forget what’s in it. The cause of the delay was, of course, the pandemic: shuttered bookshops, literary editors out of office, review copies more randomly targeted than ever. It was better to wait.
I’m not about to give my dear book one of those egregious self-plugs that are common in diary pieces. But the back story of my link to the publisher is worth a mention. Between 1978 and 1982, I was editor of a quarterly journal in Edinburgh, the New Edinburgh Review. Although not a student magazine, the NER was housed in a university building – which was a few doors down from the room in which the original Edinburgh Review was founded in 1802 – and administered by Edinburgh University Student Publications Board, known to one and all as EUSPB. Having already issued a number of books, the students had ambitions to go mainstream. There was an actual board and I was an honorary member of it, obliged to sit around the table once a week with a dozen others, awaiting ‘Any other business? No?’, whereupon we could head to the pub. In due course, EUSPB became Polygon and as such is the publisher of my new book. The commissioning editor was my intern (we didn’t call it that then) on the magazine. Another assistant was the woman who was to become his wife. Forty years on, she has done an excellent job of copy-editing the book.
One of the earliest EUSPB titles was The Red Paper on Scotland, edited by Gordon Brown. Like me, he was a member of the board, though a more committed one. Still in his twenties, with politics already having replaced the marrow in his bones, he was the centre