In early 2001 I got a call. I was running late for a meeting, and I debated whether to pick up the phone. I did and a voice at the other end said, “Do you want to design the best rock ’n’ roll book this century?”
I did. This is not the sort of offer a book designer gets everyday.
Work with Nick Hern Books grew rapidly. The play scripts coming through regularly, usually requiring a very quick turn around, had an added complication of needing to balance the time it took to print the scripts, against how the scripts may change during the rehearsal process. As many of the scripts also included cast details, they also served as show programmes.
In early summer I had a call from Nick, he said, “I’ve got something a bit different for you and you have some time on this one” I was intrigued, “I want you to come and meet the editor.”
Towards the end of 1991 I bumped into Nick Hern on the third floor of The Random House building in Vauxhall Bridge Road. Nick’s ‘list’ had just become one of Random House imprints, having been part of the Walker Books group since 1988.
Nick was (and happily still is) publishing plays and books on all things theatre. By setting up a specialist list of play scripts and play script programmes sold in theatres, Nick had quickly built on his reputation at Methuen and Walker, as the ‘go to’ man for every new and established playwright both in the UK and around the world.
Not long after my adventure in the Hollywood hills, I was commissioned to design the cover for Martin Booth’s A Very Private Gentleman. The book is about one Signor Farfalla, believed to be a painter by his rural village, in reality, Farfalla is the maker of custom-made assassin’s weaponery.
A couple of months after Kirk Douglas’s book had gone off to print Caroline Upcher sent me a fax from Irving Lazaar . Irving “Swifty” Lazaar was an American talent agent and deal maker. Dubbed “Swifty” by Humphrey Bogart for his speed at putting together deals, he was renowned in the 80s and 90s, such was his notoriety The Muppet Show claimed he was Fozzie Bear’s agent!
During the late 80s and early 90s Century’s fiction list was attracting plenty of attention following the global success of Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds and novella The Ladies of Missalonghi.