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Peter Tolhurst

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You set up Black Dog Books in 1996 - ostensibly to publish ‘East Anglia – A Literary Pilgrimage’? I’m surprised that such a delightful book hadn’t already been snapped up?

To be honest I didn’t approach anyone else – it would have taken too long, I would have lost control over images and layout and  it would have been financially far less rewarding.

 
Was BDB named after Black Shuck?

Yes I was living in Bungay at the time.

 
In your experience, is there a ‘real’ market for books connected with regional literature?

The three volumes of short stories have done well on a sliding scale. If the material is good enough and the books look attractive enough then ‘Yes’.

 
I understand that you worked for many years as a Historic Buildings Officer. Did this help to stimulate your interest in literary landmarks?

Yes to an extent but, having lived in Norfolk a long time it was more a question of accumulated knowledge about the region’s literature and landscapes that have inspired it.

 
How would you rate the current crop of Norfolk writers?

With a few glorious exceptions – Rose Tremain and Ronald Blythe for instance – probably lightweight – but I don’t read them much.

 
We are lucky enough to have two talented ‘nature writers’ living in the county: Richard Mabey and Mark Cocker. Do you think that ‘nature writing’ is an undervalued genre?

It seems to be very fashionable right now in the light of green issues. We had three until the untimely death of Roger Deakin.

 
Has the influence of the UEA helped or hindered distinctive writing in the region, do you think?

Both – it has produced a few outstanding novelists and, I suspect, rather more struggling to break through.

 
I notice that you’ve published a number of books by Ronald Blythe. How would you assess his importance in terms of East Anglian creative output?

Obviously, ‘Akenfield’ was a seminal piece of work. He is the only truly great regional writer and not the product of a creative writing course. He is also at the end of a peculiar vein of English pastoral literature. People like Richard Mabey are his natural successors but their genre is the wildlife essay.

 
You’ve now released three volumes of ‘Dead Men Talking - Stories from East Anglia’. Have these books have helped to focus attention on overlooked authors such as Mary Mann? ?

I certainly hope so.

 
Do you think there is something unique about Norfolk’s literary heritage? If so, how would you define it?

Not really although the UEA writing course has given it added impetus. It may be more strongly developed than in some other counties but each has its own literary heritage.

 
Many publishers get pestered by inappropriate submissions. Has this been your experience? What advice would you give to local writers seeking publication? And, are you actively looking for new writers? 

Yes I do and I’m not especially interested in discovering new writers. My advice would be – ‘Get an agent’

 
You recently said: ‘For how much longer, in the relentless clamour for yet more houses, retail parks and road schemes, will this ‘otherness’ survive, and will its demise spell the end of a distinctive literary tradition in the region?’ How worried are you? 

Pretty worried.

 
What plans do you have for Black Dog Books in the future?

To continue to publish books on subjects that interest me in an attractive, mainly hardback format.

 

 

 

 

 

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