The year: 1971
This is what was happening:
Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange was released causing much controversy
Decimal currency was introduced causing a lot of initial confusion.
David Hockney’s painting Mr. & Mrs. Clark and Percy was unveiled
John Lennon released the Imagine album
And this was me in 1971...
Just a short walk from Queen’s Street Mayfair is Shepherd’s Market – just off Curzon Street – a mini labyrinth of passageways populated with pubs, wine bars and fashionable eateries. It is super smart in this 21st century but, back in 1971 when I was working at Heinemann, it was a different place. Far more humble with a couple of inexpensive restaurants, general stores, sandwich shops and a regular street market. It was also known for its jolly pubs and out-of-hours drinking clubs and was the heart of Mayfair’s up-market prostitutes.
And while today everything has been transformed, at night you will still detect red, glowing lights nestling in upstairs flat windows and doorways sporting crudely lettered cards displaying ‘Model top floor’, enticing potential punters. Rain-coated businessmen, heads steadfastly facing the ground, discreetly exit these illicit dens: certain things never change. Back in the ‘80s, Jeffrey Archer – the then high-ranking Conservative Party chairman – was compromised with a prostitute in Shepherd’s Market.
The Shepherd’s Market I remember
Meanwhile, back on the top floor of William Heinemann, I am gazing out of the
window (day-dreaming as usual), only to be startled by publicity director Bill
Holden hollering “Ella! I need a Coke and ice, my head is splitting.”A few
moments later, his door slams and there is silence. Bill would consume a lot of
alcohol during the day and this would often continue at night; consequently,
mornings were not the best time to be around him.
I would get on with commissioning and artworking jackets until his door reopened, which signalled the all-clear. I’d pop my head around the door and he would generally usher me in, and the drinks would always come out. We’d go through the publicity requirements for forthcoming books. Very often, an author would come in to talk about promotion.
Peter Ustinov (above) was a regular and was fantastically entertaining and a wonderful raconteur with stories embellished with an array of characters, all re-enacted by Ustinov. I absolutely adored these privileged moments and never tired of them.
Above two long-standing landmarks
of Curzon Street are G.F. Trumper (the gentlemen’s hairdresser) and the
booksellers G. Heywood Hill. It was also here from the post-war period that MI5
was situated in Leconfield House in Curzon Street, where Soviet spy Kim Philby
Bill had a delightful secretary called Alana Hornby: a true English rose who was always well turned out in a simple white shirt and black cashmere, button-through sweater, topped off with a pearl necklace and ear studs. But on closer inspection, you could see that the elbows of the sweater had been neatly darned and she admitted to me that she preferred to buy a single expensive item until it self-destructed, rather than multiples of cheap goods.
Life for me settled into a very comfortable pattern. I would read manuscripts in bed and think of ideas on the train going to work. There was no 9-to-5 mentality: it just became part of my life and I loved it.
This is a wonderful caricature of John Gorham by his long-term friend and occasional collaborator, the great Arthur Robbins - who would eventually join my growing stable of illustrators.
By this time, I had
identified John Gorham as a designer that I really wanted to commission and,
bearing in mind that the fees for a book jacket design were extremely mean
indeed, I didn’t think he would work for me. I went to see him at his studio in
Regent’s Street that he shared with another designer, Dick Weaver, in a loose
The studio was bedecked with John’s wonderful work, including commissions from the photosetting company of the time, Face, which designer John McConnell had a lot to do with. John Gorham was also known for his exuberant hand lettering…
This was always beautifully crafted, which had brought him to the attention of advertising agencies. He produced a similar lettering style for a Watney’s beer campaign entitled ‘Roll out the Red Barrel’. Well, I did manage to persuade John to design for me and it was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship: one from which I learned a lot from one of the masters of typography, illustration and all things handcrafted, not forgetting his wonderfully conceptual mind.
Above, one of John Gorham's jackets for me in 1971, completely hand drawn by him.
Another designer who had caught my attention was Ken Carroll, who had been working for Marshall Cavendish on a partwork magazine called History Makers and had also produced a very nice book on cinema for The Sunday Times. He would also have a significant place in my life.
My Albums for 1971
And David Crosby's solo album If Only I Could Remember My Name
And my films for 1971...
The Last Picture Show directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Get Carter directed by Peter Yates
Walkabout directed by Nicolas Roeg
And this is my job for that year:
Heinemann’s catalogue cover for 1971 with my lino cut illustration aping William Nicholson who was responsible for the original Heinemann logo.