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The Big Blogs

The Road to Fulham and the Soap Stars of Slatter-Anderson

After clearing my desk at Sphere Books on Friday afternoon, Monday morning found me sitting down at a corner desk of the Riverside Studios in Fulham. Perched on the north bank of the Thames with a view of Brompton reservoir and the most spectacular sunsets in West London, I was now a Senior Designer at Slatter-Anderson.

Another scandal, another book, same Prime Minister.

Although the impact of this particular story has faded over time, it was, on publication, a highly controversial and political title. Illuminating the “Westland affair” of 1985-86 the book exposed cabinet in-fighting and Thatcher’s autocratic style to public scrutiny. Following hot on the heels of the Miners’ strike and coming just before the “Poll Tax” controversy, this was, arguably, the first of the internal disagreements to reveal the widening fissures in the Conservative party over the UK’s position in Europe. Written by Magnus Linklater the Managing Editor, and David Leigh the Chief Investigative Reporter, at The Observer, the research behind the book came with the highest of investigative credentials. 

How to write a headline…

If you want your articles, press releases and blogs to get read then get a decent headline.  As many as five times the amount of people will read a headline than read the main body copy, so to capture interest in what you have to say it really pays to get it right. 


My design degree, from Exeter College of Art and Design, was focussed on typography and lettering design, and, during my studies, I was lucky enough to be taught by some extraordinary and influential lettering designers and calligraphers. 

Danielle Steel | 1985-6

For relatively small publishers, like Sphere Books, there are always a few authors about whose axis the company’s survival often revolves. Prolific, high-profile, bestselling…  Danielle Steel was just such an author for Sphere where she had full cover approval and maintained a very tight control on all design decisions. 

Deals and Devils… Donald Trump to Kirk Douglas

Working with Ann Suster and Tony Whittome, my name soon got passed round to other editors in the Hutchinson and Century fiction departments. Eventually, I started working with one of Century Books’ co-founders Rosie De Courcy, who also handled some of the big name non-fiction titles. Quietly spoken, immaculately well dressed and precise in her choice of words, Rosie was very influential in 1980s and 90s publishing. More importantly, she was a lovely person to work with and made you feel like you were part of the most important meeting of her day.

What if… we asked a few more questions?

On average four-year-olds ask over 300 questions every day. By the time they leave school, those same four-year-olds will be asking less than 10. It’s sad to reflect that it appears more emphasis is placed on reinforcing known theory than creative exploration in our education system, yet, in order to climb, build, fly, swim, cook, write, dance, snorkel or take a selfie, someone, somewhere paused and asked themselves a question.

“Can I draw your house?”

In the cheerless Autumn term of 1979 the Head of Art at my school, David Willacy, called me into his office to inform me, in his bluff Cumbrian tones, that Robert Runcie, the then Bishop of St Albans, wanted to talk to me about a drawing and I was to go to the Bishop’s Palace straightaway.

The Right to Know

Clive Ponting was the civil servant who, along with Tam Dalyell MP, was instrumental in revealing Whitehall secrets behind the notorious Belgrano Affair and I was given the job of designing the cover of his exposé. 
The General Belgrano was an Argentinian cruiser, sunk on 2nd May 1982, during the Falklands War. Clive’s book would reveal that, when struck by two torpedos from HMS Conqueror, a British hunter-killer Churchill class nuclear-powered submarine, the General Belgrano was, not only outside the combat zone, but also sailing away from it when hit. She sank with all hands, 323 lives were lost.

The Horror Obsessed Polymath and Me…

The first really high profile author series style I designed at Sphere Books was Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Already published in paperback, Clive didn’t like the original designs and convinced his editor that only he could do the cover paintings, as they were his stories and he was best placed to make all the characters come to life. Fair point.