Bell, Book & Candle. February 2016.

Dear Rowley,

The more I live, the more I simply don’t want to learn. On what level does it it benefit an author’s wellbeing to know that the best sellers right now are – drumroll please – adult colouring books. Let’s pause to let this giant leap in publishing sink in. Colouring books. For stress-Relief. For adults.

Department of no surprises, the second booming demographic is children’s books but god forbid they are gender specific. No ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’. No, no, no. You want a best-seller? Write about a boy in a dress or a top-knot and watch the stampede on Waterstones Notting Hill.

Don’t even get me started with the avalanche of self-help tomes that began with End the Struggle and Dance with Life: a title that makes you want to end the author’s struggle by creeping up behind her with a pillow. Of course one could always attempt a bit of E. L. James illiterate slap, thwack and tickle that seems to fly off the shelves like a potty-mouthed Catherine Cookson. Not the best advertisement for feminism is it?

Perhaps the most soul-destroying phenomenon in publishing is the celebrity biography and I use the word in its loosest sense. I believe there are cast members of TOWIE who have produced more volumes than A Dance to the Music of Time and they have yet to master the English language let alone pass the age of consent.

Of course there are the worthies to contend with such as the franchise otherwise known as My Name is Malala, He was the Fellow Who called me Malala and Barak Obama called Me Lala at Davos this Year. Surely some bright spark at Random House has already signed-up Camilla Batmanjelly’s misery memoir about victimisation at the hands of t’Establishment with a platitudinous foreword by Alan Yentob.

Of course the most desperate of authors could nip to the Cordon Bleu school in Bloomsbury Square, bag a blue pinny and pen a cook book whereby you can spiral courgettes that taste like inner tubes when stir fried and recommend a hundred recipes featuring quinoa all of which taste like the bottom of a labrador’s basket. Unfortunately my culinary skills stretch more towards Fanny Craddock: pulverise a quail , ice it with meringue, put it on a low light till Friday and bin it in favour of a bottle of Creme de Menthe.

Short of producing a Prince Regent and Beau Brummell colouring book that can miraculously be adapted for television with Eddie Redmayne as Brummell, Miriam Margolyes as the Regent and Stephen Fry as Caroline of Brunswick, how in the name of April Ashley can an author keep up with the vogue for the transgender in popular culture?

One could, of course, turn to political satire if it wasn’t entirely redundant in this day and age. Would there be any point in the Jonathan Swift de nos jours masquerading political folly with a Gulliver’s Travels or Pope penning The Rape of the Lock should either have Mr Cameron’s EU negotiations as cannon fodder?

The Eton Mess has spent the best part of the year topping-up his air miles visiting our fellow EU Presidents and Prime Ministers on by one to zero effect. It would have been more expedient to send William Hague on a valedictory Viking River Cruise. As far as I can tell, all Mr Cameron has returned with is a tulip from Amsterdam, a cuckoo clock from Switzerland, a pair of castanets  from Spain and a lipstick print on a bratwurst from Frau Merkel.

The only concessions Mr Cameron appears to have won – ‘rejoice! rejoice! – is a pair of golden handcuffs to keep us entirely enslaved to the EU and another few decades of British border hokey-kokey whereby migrants legal and illegal eventually win the right to British citizenship after a merry dance with our laughable border controls.

Meanwhile, Britain’s public sector can behave like the Marcos regime and spend the rest of our taxes that aren’t already raining down over Brussels on their pensions. Either that or crate-up and send our hard-earned cash overseas to aid people who will be heading our way before the first airdrop lands.

But back to Mr Cameron. Don’t you find the In-Out referendum has been a complete bugger’s muddle? Actually, strike that, it has been an exercise in complete chicanery. Those in government seems to have placed staying in power far and above principles while selling Britain down the Swanee for decades to come. One expected better of Michael Gove and Mrs May even though I always suspected Boris Johnson was the Pagliaci of the Conservative party.

The irony of course is that genuine concessions from the EU towards Britain would probably win the day for the In campaign. Even Machiavelli would admit it is better to piss inside the tent than out. What I find amazing is that the two economies in the EU zone who are currently winning the economic egg and spoon race are Britain and Germany. So our Prime Minister rattling round Europe like a pinball as supplicant to leaders whose countries are teetering on bankruptcy seems a little undignified.

Anyway, back to the burning issue of the day: whither publishing? I think we all have to acknowledge that spurious or not, facts can be dredged up on t’Internet by a monkey. How they are presented and placed into a narrative or an argument is the only way to distinguish a writer today. Style of course is vital as is humour. I find solid knowledge tempered with a little cap-and-bells wit is the way to navigate the admittedly murky, shallow waters of the publishing business today. I can only admire not imitate my idols Isherwood, Auden, Capote and E. F. Benson.