Geoff Bradley has written an article in the latest issue of CADS which I find interesting on a number of levels. He calls it ‘Editing the Editor, or “I Can’t Have Written That Can I?”’ and it deals with an essay he contributed to Barry Forshaw’s monumental British Crime Writing: an Encyclopaedia.
Geoff’s subject was Freeman Wills Crofts, a prolific and highly successful writer of the Golden Age whose Many a Slip I covered in a recent entry for Friday’s Forgotten Books. Geoff explains how, when he received his copy of the book, he checked his entry and found that various unsatisfactory changes had been made to what he had written. It seems that the changes weren’t made by Barry, but rather by a sub-editor at the publishers. Geoff was dismayed at the mauling his piece had received. Over the years, he has written a good deal of non-fiction for CADS and is a sound judge of writing quality, as well as being a first-rate editor (as is Barry) so I’m sure he was right to be concerned.
A number of things struck me about this article – quite apart from the natural sympathy that any author feels for a colleague who is dissatisfied by the way he or she is treated. I thought about the issues it raised in a more general sense and realised that, although I had contributed quite a number of essays to the same book, I had never checked whether my work had suffered a similar editorial fate. And I started to wonder whether this was down to laziness, lack of time - or simply a kind of authorial fatalism…
On a happier note, Geoff, like me, was impressed by the scope and readability of the encyclopaedia as a whole. It's one of the best reference works on the genre, in my opinion (and leaving aside my own contributions) to have appeared in recent years.