Attallah ensures book goes nowhere

What was billed in this spring's bookseller lists as The Man From Nowhere now shows every sign of becoming the biography that goes nowhere.

Naim Attallah, former jeweller to the Queen at Asprey's, head of publishers Quartet, backer of the Oldie and the Literary Review magazines, owner of the Academy Club, author, and fixture on the London literati scene, took exception to an unauthorised biography about him due to be published in the next few weeks.

His solution was radical and effective: the book's publisher has sold, for an undisclosed sum, the manuscript and rights, lock, stock and barrel to Quartet (chairman: N Attallah, major shareholder: N Attallah).

The first the author of the book, Frank Dobson, knew about Mr Attallah's coup was when he received a letter by registered post from his publisher, Blake Publishing. "We have now transferred the contract signed by yourselves and Blake Publishing on 3 May 1995 to another publisher," it announced.

The letter, from John Blake, managing director of Blake Publishing, continued: "Your new publisher will be Jeremy Beale, Quartet Books."

Mr Dobson, a former Fleet Street journalist turned financial investigator and would-be author, is livid. He spent 18 months researching Mr Attallah's life and last summer was introduced to Mr Blake. The book started as a joint production between Mr Dobson and Ken Parish, another ex-Fleet Street journalist. Mr Blake paid an advance of pounds 2,500 and agreed to pay a further pounds 2,500 on delivery of an 80,000-word manuscript. Royalties were to be shared one-third each between the two authors and Mr Blake.

The book was to be the life and times of Mr Attallah, looking at his rise from humble origins in Palestine, his sudden arrival on the board of Asprey's in 1972, his friendship with a member of the Asprey family, the subsequent history of that company - including its problems last year, culminating in its sale to the brother of the Sultan of Brunei - his retirement, and literary connections.

Mr Parish subsequently dropped out and Mr Dobson took on the book himself, completing it in August last year.

"I was asked to do one rewrite which I did, then John Blake told me it was great and would be published," said Mr Dobson at his Wiltshire home yesterday. A cover of the book was produced, bearing the title The Man From Nowhere: the mysterious life of Naim Attallah.

That was in September. Then Mr Dobson sat back and waited. In November, he received a phone call from Mr Blake: he was not prepared to publish. No explanation was offered and Mr Dobson began sounding out other publishers. Last week, he received the letter saying the book had gone to Quartet.

Unknown to Mr Dobson, negotiations between Mr Blake and Quartet/Mr Attallah had been going on since October and the book's appearance in the catalogue at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was no secret the biography was being prepared: the London Evening Standard had flagged it last August and Mr Dobson had sent 57 questions to Mr Attallah, receiving by return a firm refusal to cooperate from Biddle & Co, his City lawyers.

Mr Beale of Quartet said yesterday his firm intended to publish the book "subject to editorial and legal requirements". He had not read the manuscript before buying it, he admitted.

Quartet, he said, operated independently of Mr Attallah. "We pride ourselves on editorial freedom and we publish books independently of Mr Attallah's taste," said Mr Beale.

Mr Dobson is having none of it. He has instructed his lawyers to seek return of the manuscript and photographs he gave to Mr Blake. "I am not interested in a publishing deal with Quartet because it would not be the book I've written," he said. "This is a blatant and rather stupid attempt to suppress a story I believe should be told. Naim Attallah is a public figure who has come to play a prominent part in British business and literary life. His story is a fascinating one."

As for the action by Mr Blake, Mr Dobson said, "it speaks for itself, let other authors be warned".

Mr Blake and Mr Attallah were unavailable for comment.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?