A Great Literary Souvenir of Bath
Writing under the pseudonym Douglas Westcott, Bloor made the career shift from business to books, debuting his recent novel, Go Swift and Far, the first in a projected trilogy of novels tracing the development of Bath, from the time of WWII to the present. “I chose to write under a pen name as my advisors knew I had substantial business interests and they didn’t think the book would do well at all,” he laughs.
“My friend, Alistair, had bet me £10 I wouldn’t sell more than 800 copies. I chose the name Westcott as it’s the village I grew up in, just outside Dorking. I’d been wanting to write for over 30 years and it’s really my mother’s story.” The son of a Polish immigrant who fled to England after WWI, Bloor was orphaned at 17 and has lived in Bath for over three decades. “My grandfather was hung by Russians right before my mother’s eyes when she was eight and she fled to England in 1922 and was supposed to get on a boat from Liverpool to America but she developed TB, so she never got on board. My father was killed in Burma. So, you could say I brought myself up. I was also always the chap in the dorm, sitting by the fireplace and telling stories.”
“I had bought a property in Bath some 40 years ago and thought it a wonderful place. It has everything – from Georgian architecture to Austen, all preserved in aspic, you could say.” GORDON BLOOR
Gordon Bloor’s Best of Bath:
- A walk from the Royal Crescent, through the Circus, and down to the bottom of the town in the sunlight. The City is a village of stunning architecture steeped in history and I inevitably meet one or more people I know and we start chatting.
- My wife, Liz, and I having dinner with friends at one of my favourite restaurants: Firehouse Rotisserie, The Porter or Raphael’s.
- A film watched in the stillness – no phones or eating – and intimacy of The Little Theatre or watching a play at the historic Theatre Royal. Participating in one of the numerous annual events such as the Literary Festival, the
Boules festival and Bath Christmas Market.
- A Saturday afternoon with my eldest son, starting with lunch at Joya’s and then on to watch Bath Rugby win on the Recreation Ground.
See the original article here: Douglas Westcott
Case Study: Gordon Bloor
Gordon Bloor writes under the pseudony Douglas Westcott and self-published his first novel, Go Swift and Far, with CPI.
“CPI came by recommendation from another self-publishing author and also had the great advantage of being local at Chippenham, I used them for the whole production purpose, including proof-reading and e-book conversion. I had a separate editorial team,” Bloor explains. “I needed someone I could trust and to show me how to produce the books, I needed a printer that was honest, helpful, reliable, experienced and capable of producing a first-class quality product at the most economic price.
“Sales of the book over the past 15 months (including the e-book edition) now exceed 5,000 and I am about to go to a fourth edition, ready for the Bath tourist market in 2015.”
Enthusiasm, passion and sheer drive
Mr Westcott has made Bath the backdrop to a cracking story of one man’s attempt to drag himself up the ladder from humble beginnings. Born in the wreckage of one of the few German bombs to have landed on the city, Yann
Morris starts life disadvantaged when his father fails to return from active service. His mother Ruth is lucky enough to make acquaintance with Isaac and Naomi Abrahams, he being the doctor involved in the rescue and birth. Fortune smiles on Yann and he wins a scholarship to the UK’s premier Jewish public school, although this means he has to leave his mother at the tender age of five.
Meantime, the great and the good of Bath plan for the post-war redevelopment of Bath. This bit of skulduggery – the flattening of much of Bath’s (lesser) Georgian heritage for redevelopment- falters as the privileged classes lose their grip on British society. Peacetime brings a new climate and Clement Atlee’s government is driving through the National Health Service and other nationalisations. As Yann reaches maturity he becomes a player in the intrigue although remaining untainted by any whiff of wrongdoing.
Events move apace and the four hundred plus pages fl y by. The style is engaging and words aren’t wasted. Those you might consider key characters are rapidly dispatched when their purpose has been served; Yann’s sexual initiations are similarly speedy and varied. In an interview at the end of the book, the author reveals that much of the story is autobiographical and that 40 real people have ‘walk-on parts’. I smiled when reading that Mr B’s Reading Emporium and Toppings – two of Bath’s independent bookshops – get a mention decades before they were established. Smart move by an author who is obviously a keen self-promoter having sold many thousands of copies locally.
Douglas Westcott set out to write a pageturner and I for one believe he succeeded.
Personal read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ★★★★
Group read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ★★★★
In Your Own Write
How do you publish a book? We talk to two local authors who have ignored the traditional book publishing route and done it their own way by self-publishing their own novel.
When Gordon Bloor first went to writing classes, his tutor was Joanna Harris, award-winning author of Chocolat. On the first day of the course the students were intrigued by a papier mâché chicken that she had brought to the class. Joanna explained that it was made out of the 28 rejection letters she had received for Chocolat. The book was later made into a film and has sold over a million copies. Joanna keeps the chicken on her dining room table as a reminder.
The traditional book publishing industry, where an author is represented by a publisher who edits, designs, prints and promotes the book and pays the author royalties, has always been hard to break into. It is tougher than ever today as publishers, in need of assured returns, look for celebrity names and bestselling authors to justify their endorsement. But whereas a pile of rejections 15 years ago meant just that, the growth of self-publishing over the last 10 years has opened up unexpected opportunities for aspiring authors.
Two Bath-based authors, Gordon Bloor and Sandy Osborne, have both self-published their own novels, with significant success. A local story for local people Gordon Bloor, a.k.a. Douglas Westcott, is the self-published author of Go Swift and Far, a coming-of-age tale set in Bath after the World War II bombings had reduced parts of the city to rubble.
Gordon felt that it was surprising that the story of a city with such a fascinating history had not before been told in a novel. The book (the first in a trilogy) is set from 1942 to 1967 with the protagonist a young man who is orphaned at 17.
“Much of it is autobiographical, beefed up, because it would be very boring if it was just my story”, Gordon explains. The novel is also notable for featuring what he refers to as “a cast of 40, all friends of mine”, each of whom had the task of proofreading the first draft.
First published in hardback in November 2013, the reception was tremendous, due in no small part to Gordon’s ferocious enthusiasm, energy and hard work. “I have replaced the publisher”, he explains simply. So, after writing his story (which started with 500,000 words, was edited down to 85,000 and then back up to 115,000), he talked to friends and experts in the industry, made new contacts and got the book edited, printed, marketed, publicised and packaged. Then he persuaded over 60 retailers in Bath to display the book, hired his own chalet in the Bath Christmas Market and spent two weeks there selling the book in fancy dress.
His publishing plans were initially met with some cynicim – one of his advisors, marketing expert Alastair Giles, bet him £10 that he would sell around 850 copies of the book when the hardback was launched. He ended up selling 2,500 copies in the first three months. “We were the first bookseller ever to be in the Christmas Market”, Gordon says, “… and in one day we sold 125 books in 10 hours, one book every four and a half minutes”.
“You have got to have a good story”, he explains, “But it’s 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration, and there is just no easy way.”
The book is available at bookshops in and around Bath (see www.douglaswestcott.com). £1 of every copy sold is given to Julian House.
Spotlight: What’s Making the News in Bath
Following the recent success of hardback novel Go Swift and Far, it’s author, the Bath-based Gordon Bloor, launched his paperback version last month at the Theatre Royal’s 1805 Rooms.
Attendees included the Mayor of Bath, and the real-life citizens of Bath who featured in the book. Cecil Weir of Julian House was also invited to receive a donation of £2500 for the charity; after Gordon pledged late last year that £1 from each hardback sold would be donated.
Gordon also announced that he has started writing the sequel to the book and aims to finish it for Christmas 2016.
A Tragedy to Let Our Bookshops Die
Can you imagine Bath without any bookshops? Could the city which was home to Jane Austen and Charles Dickens be without a shop to display their masterpieces?
Read the Nancy Connelly’s article here: douglas3