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Email to the author from Richard George William Pitt Booth MBE (1938-2019), ‘Richard Coeur de Livre, King of Hay’ and the inspiration and driving force behind the World Booktown movement, 3 August 2014: ‘I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE YOU HAVE DONE MORE FOR WALES THAN WALES TOURIST BOARD.’

In 2007, I walked away from a university lecturing position in corporate strategy, to concentrate upon writing non-fiction, seven years after founding Glyndŵr Publishing/Wales Books. Having been an international marketing manager and management consultant, mainly in manufacturing, in 2000 I had decided to publish myself, using Welsh printers and attracting other writers who were having the same difficulty finding a publisher. It had taken me over 3 years to have my first book published in 2000, The A to Z of Wales and the Welsh, and it eventually appeared bowdlerized, with The replaced by An in the title and a childish cover. It was a massive success however, in terms of the publicity that I (not the publisher) achieved for it. From 2000 to 2007, despite writing academic articles, giving overseas conference papers and having an onerous teaching load, I had written and published 15 books and edited and published another 7. So – into the blank space of unemployment - at the age of 58.

   Fortunately, a few English publishers approached me – mainly because of the publicity my books had attracted in the national press - and I cut back on my break-even Glyndŵr output, mainly writing for Quercus and Amberley. To date I have written 45 non-fiction books, plus 4 children’s pop-up books back in 1985 for an American publisher. In the early days of Glyndŵr Publishing, I was fortunate to be awarded the Books Council of Wales ‘Book of the Month’ in English five times, the only writer to have achieved this. Although my commissioned works for Quercus have taken me away from Welsh themes, Welsh people and achievements feature strongly in all of those books.

   In Grammar School, among my 14 GCE O levels were History, American History and Ancient History – history becoming a subject I should have studied at university instead of a pointless degree in economics, and a few years of work later, I took a master’s in marketing/MBA equivalent at a business school. My career was mainly in England and overseas, in marketing and consulting, usually in manufacturing, before Britain lost much of that capacity and became an assembly nation. I was elected a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM), a Fellow of the Institute of Consulting (FIC) and am a Certified Management Consultant (CMC). Also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), I was greatly honoured to become a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS). There can be no other person with the same mix of fellowships – ‘Jack of all Trades’ I hear you read. I only wish there were emoluments attached to them instead of annual fees.

   Writing fiction is difficult, and almost impossible to have published, except online. Non-fiction is far easier because of the fantastic depths of online information – Lord, I wish I had that for my earlier books, rather than sitting hunched in research libraries. However, non-fiction writing has to have a reason and a purpose. Perhaps I should copyright that sentence. The origin of my wanting to write was the death of my mam’s father. David Henry Jervis (born Watkins, orphaned and adopted), who started and conducted the choir in Trefeglwys, Meirionnydd, and wrote articles for the national press, collecting hundreds of books and musical scores. His wife died in childbirth leaving him with three little daughters. Shortly after, with a pillion passenger, he smashed into an unlit parked lorry in dense fog on his way to work. Both died, and my mam was orphaned. The sisters went to live with their widowed nan, and my grandfather’s books and papers were put on a bonfire, with relatives taking over the family home.

   The children had no idea what was going on – but knowing that story from a young age, I always felt I had to leave something behind when I passed on, to make up for a granddad I never knew. It may seem strange, but that knowledge was always in me – the burning of books so nothing was left behind – and it resonates today. Incidentally David Jervis/Watkins was a tank driver in WWI – one of only a few hundred such men. A farm labourer before he became a top-sawyer and butcher, he could drive a tractor. That probably made him suitable for tanks. I wrote academic articles and gave overseas conference papers during my few years lecturing corporate strategy, but those miniscule contributions to knowledge are swamped by countless millions of such papers.

   Thus, we have both an origin (the bonfire) and a reason (not wishing to leave nothing behind me), for beginning to write. It is almost definite that a mélange of arrogance and vanity played a major part in my next step. I knew I could write well – after each of the two English A level examinations, our teacher came to my class of rather despondent pupils and asked how it went. I responded first, ‘I have an A, sir’. Big-head, you think, but some things you know. I loved the subject most all through school, and used to argue with the teacher about the meaning of poems. Luckily, he was just about the only teacher you could reason with. I am also blessed with a memory where I ‘see’ words as they are spelt and always remember them – it is probably eidetic memory – I can scan a menu or book page and pick out spelling mistakes, missing accents, bad punctuation, in a few seconds. Those that edit my books have an easy time.

   At last, we come to the purpose of my writing. Returning to Wales to live with two young children of Welsh parentage but born in England, I wanted them to know why I was so fundamentally Welsh. I wanted them to be proud to be Welsh, as I am, although an eighth English. (My dad’s grandfather walked from Kent to labour on Barry Docks). I found hardly anything in the bookshops – no internet, then – so there was a niche for books relating history from a Welsh rather than English perspective. So I started Wales Books/Glyndŵr Publishing in 2000, and helped kick-start that genre after a hiatus since World War I. Few people understand that Welsh history is in effect the history of the British people – and it is one of the oldest, and most threatened, nations in Europe. Hence ‘the first Welsh encyclopaedia’ in 2000 and dozens of books since. My objective has always been to help Welsh (i.e. British) people see what Wales has achieved, in order to keep a sense of pride for a reason, to instil what one writer called my ‘passive nationalism’ in readers and other writers. Before I die, I will attempt to have all my Wales-related books downloaded, so the memory of my Trefeglwys tadcu (grandfather) will stay forever.

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