Thursday, April 08, 2004

Profitable publishing

Yesterday, for reasons which need not detain us here, I had cause to refresh my memory of the publisher Charles Skilton. So I did the usual Google search.

Seems that my memory was largely right. Skilton (now deceased, I believe) was the man behind the Luxor Press, among other imprints, including one in his own name.

Luxor was a firm which went in for the risque, publishing such titles as Lesbian Secrets and The School for Sin. If memory serves, the Luxor editions had rather garish yellow covers which caught the eye. Not that I ever read any, of course. Except for research purposes. And I certainly didn't enjoy them. Under his own name, Skilton published more mundane stuff, such as London's Industrial Archaeology and The Windmills of Kent.

Early in his career, in about 1946, Skilton revived the Billy Bunter stories, but couldn't get hold of enough paper to meet demand, and Cassell took over the project. Later he seems to have had more luck, and in due course he bought a rather splendid country house in Surrey. Earl Kemp, in a short memoir about the 1960s, recalls being shown round this mansion. There were, he tells us, secret doors and sliding panels, with peep-holes and listening places giving access to other bedrooms. Later in life, when Kemp founded a pornographic publishing firm in America, he named it Surrey House in honour of Mr Skilton. Now that was nice, wasn't it? Show a little hospitality and you end up getting a publishing firm named after you. Well, after your house, anyway.

Earl Kemp passes on another little tip from his contact with Skilton's editorial staff. A marijuana joint (as they were known in those quaint days) is undetectable if heavily laced with menthol. It does make you smell a bit funny, apparently, but the rozzers will never know.

Never let it be said that this blog does not contain useful information.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I personally knew Charles Skilton and my grandfather edited several of those garish yellow books for him (as well as writing a couple under a nom de plume!) with my grandmother posting out sections in brown paper to a monastery that shall remain anonymous!