Friday, 4 February 2011

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young in World War 2 was very heaven. Living like Mr Mole in underground air raid shelters, bombed every night like little Ernest Hemingways. Best of all, a Huckleberry Finn life of no school, which meant I could devote more time to books.

By the time I was four I had learned to read and could see no other point in education. At 82, I am still reading and it is the nearest I have ever come to spirited activity. I read as a schoolboy, as a printer's devil, as a soldier, in an army prison, through half a century as a reporter and a broadcaster. I read my way through two marriages, richer and poorer, and through cancer. I have sold books, bought books, stolen books, been a book critic and written twenty-seven of my own. I grew a Jimmy Edwards moustache to thank him for introducing me to Mr Jorrocks and his noble sentiment: “Pick me up, tie me to my chair and fill up my glass.”

Like Jorrocks, I took up marathon wine drinking. It didn't matter that my stories ended up wrapping fish and chips. It gave me something to read as I ate my suppers. When my father banished books from the dining room, I read the labels on sauce bottles. Broadcasting was to give a third dimension to the printed word.

Ah, the printed word! When the bubonic plague knocked the bottom out of his business making mirrors for pilgrims, Gutenberg invented the book by turning a borrowed wine press into a printing flatbed. Learning that moveable type was invented by a Chinese blacksmith sent me scurrying to Su Tung-po, the bibulous poet of the 11th century.

My family clubbed together to buy me an E Book-reader for my eightieth birthday and I was able to carry a library in my pocket. It was the first major change in the history of book-making and I couldn't wait to be part of it.

Now I am part of the automatic text-to-speak computer world. My autobiography “Forgive Us Our Press Passes” is winging out of cyberspace, never to yellow or disappear. I'm among the first to latch onto high tech communication, even though I started the job hardly able to change my own typewriter ribbons. I am a journalist from the hot metal Golden Age. Speaking with a new breed of Evian-drinking, brown-bagging desk-huggers who feel nothing farther than a screen away is a waste of time.

Oh brave new world that has such wonders in it.

For the first time in its long history this column welcomes a guest adornment. Neil Marr, co-founder of Bewrite Books who has put my book in E-land writes:

Neil Marr 
Journalists have been writing for the chap on the bus to work and the lord who pours over the carefully ironed pages of The Times in his study ever since Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenburger (Gutenberg to thee and me) was just a messy thing in his pram and then a struggling young feller with a bright idea, knocking an old wine press into a primitive, hand-cranked printing engine, away from prying eyes in his cellar ... the written word’s first best-cellar?
I opened BeWrite Books ten years ago as a publishing venture. It’s been growing stronger ever since, with 2010 as a kind of watershed year for us. We always have at least 120 exclusive titles in our catalogue. Part of the reason it’s working is that we were among the first in the world to run ebooks alongside our paperback treebooks a decade ago. We’re well ahead of the digital game – and they say it might even turn a buck when it stops raining.
The first ebook title up, ‘Forgive Us Our Press Passes’ by Ian Skidmore, is released in all digital formats today and is available right now for instant download in all formats from all international major and minor ebook retailers and our own website at A big bonus is cover price – little more than the cost of a couple of pints in tap-room currency.
Why kick off with Skiddy’s hilarious memoire? It was the first Revel Barker Publishing title, and Skiddy was the first of Revel’s authors to agree to give ebooks a fair crack o’ the whip. In fact, Skiddy, who has always been an avid reader of anything with words on it, turned to using a Sony ebook-dedicated reading device for recreational reading years ago. He has just opened a second library with a Kindle. Impresses me, does that. Mind you, where Skiddy’s concerned, I’ve always been impressed.
 It took ebooks nearly six centuries to revolutionise Gutenberg’s wonderful basic model; all we have seen over subsequent centuries has been mere superficial refinement of the prototype. A book’s a book and, as Skiddy says, content is king. Story rules.
Now you can read Skiddy’s yarn – and soon many other RBP hack-lits – in beautifully prepared new digital editions, word-faithful to their print equivalent, on electronic platforms from PCs and laptops, through the entire range of new ebook-dedicated reading thingies and tablets, to iPods and ubiquitous Blackberries and smartphones. You can even read them on your TV screen if you know how. Somebody will, no doubt, be reading Skiddy whilst kicking his heels waiting for his train on the Tokyo subway tomorrow. 
A reminder: even if you don’t have a Kindle and sadly found no other fancy new digital gizmo under the Christmas tree, you can read all BeWrite Books ebooks – so all ‘coming soon’ hack-lit – in PDF on your old-fashioned PC, laptop or netbook. Kindle Mobi editions can be read on your home computers and laptops by free download of the Kindle-for-PC app ( and ePub can be read using free Calibre Library software ( Just be sure when you want to buy or ask for a review copy to choose the digital format that’s best for you. Any questions or calls for help, simply email Revel or me (