By the mid-1990’s traditional genre publishing, including horror, had virtually disappeared. It was a trend which was not doing fans any favours.
At that time I was doing very well with Zebra/Kensington, USA, but out of the blue they informed me that they were discontinuing their horror list and concentrating on self-help books and romances. In view of my encouraging sales I was not pleased to put it mildly.
So I decided to try self-publishing. This was in the days before e-books and Print-on-Demand so I had to go down the traditional road and found a very reasonably priced printer in Ireland. There was much work involved in preparing a manuscript for the printers and I am indebted to Hal Astell for his help in this.
“The Busker” was published in 1998. It had already been short-listed for the Lichfield Prize and, following other short-listings in previous years, would have been published by Sphere who sponsored these awards. But, of course, Sphere were no longer interested in horror!
I had set this unusual horror novel in the City of Lichfield. A somewhat unusual dark fantasy theme, it was launched there at the James Redshaw bookshop with a very encouraging attendance on the evening.
The cover picture was provided by my good friend, Andrew Compton, a professional press photographer. As we decided upon a picture of the Busker, the central character, I decided to pose for this, clad in ragged garb, a hat pulled down over my face in order to hide my identity.
Then, one of the fans at the launch, raised a hand and asked “who’s the Busker then?”
I had my explanation ready, that there had been this tramp in the district for some time and I had paid him a quid to lie down in the grass and have his photo taken.
“Then why is he wearing your pullover?” the fan fired back at me!
Okay, I then had to admit to being the Busker on that photo shoot.