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“Books and Bookmen” covers from January and February 1980, when Sally Emerson was editor. “I am very pleased with Jan 80 b and b cover design. Congrats!” wrote Philip Dosse

On Tuesday August 24, 1980 I arrived a few minutes late at the office in Victoria where I edited Books and Bookmen. As I entered I glimpsed our proprietor Philip Dosse hurrying away down a corridor, his cherubic face quite white. I settled down to the task of working out the costs of the last issue of the literary magazine. My assistant came in: “Don’t you know? It’s closed. All of Hansom Book publishing. All seven arts magazines. All folded.”

I looked up in astonishment. Philip came in.

“Oh — didn’t you know?” he said as he collapsed in the chair. “It’s all over. It’s all in such a mess. None of you will be paid. There’s no money.” His head hung down. “I wish I were dead.”

I put my arm around him and kissed him.

“Oh thank you dear.”

For the previous few months, whenever a firm went bust or a death occurred, Philip used to come and sit in the room with Gillian Greenwood, the assistant editor, and me. He had given me my first job back in 1971 at £12 a week, including writing gossip and interviewing some of the great writers, before I went up to university, and in doing so had shaped my life. Back in 1971 Hansom Books had been a wild and brilliant place, something of a gay ghetto though I had been too innocent to realise that when men referred to their lovers as “she” that’s not what they were.

During these visits in the months leading up to the debacle of late August and early September 1980 the mercurial Philip would never say anything of consequence, merely making comments like, “The weather’s not getting any cooler.” Sometimes he’d just put his head round the corner of our door, and make a pronouncement about the dust from the building opposite us in Old Pye Street which was being knocked down, such as “The dust cloud’s getting nearer.”
And now the dust cloud had well and truly arrived.

But there had been other portents. In the previous months he had grown more shabby. His flies had been too often undone, his suit jacket torn. Yet he must have been trying to hold himself together because he had slimmed down ruthlessly on grapefruit and eggs and not much else.
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Antonio Gallo
October 26th, 2018
4:10 PM
I do remember this splendid magazine. I loved it as a subscriber till the end.

October 25th, 2018
7:10 AM
Very heartening life story.

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