It is a popular trope in English novels that revenge is a dish best served cold. So believes Paul Blezard, who is to publish a fictionalised account of his time as literary editor of The Lady magazine, nearly four years after he was fired. As the incoming editor responsible for his sacking, Rachel Johnson had better watch out. "I don't really do bitter or revenge," Blezard said. "However …"
The Lady is Britain's oldest weekly women's magazine, established in 1885 by Thomas Gibson Bowles. In 2008 his great-grandson Ben Budworth inherited the struggling title and appointed Blezard. Then, more famously, he appointed Rachel Johnson, sister of London Mayor Boris and Tory Downing St strategist Jo. Rachel Johnson later said she was recruited to "sex up Britain's most genteel magazine".
The "sex up" was captured by a Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Lady and the Revamp. It also led to Blezard's dismissal. He says the series, which aired in March 2010, resulted in him being "made to look a fool" by Johnson. She lateradmitted that although Budworth "whacked" (sacked) Blezard she had campaigned for this.
Johnson told her own story in A Diary of The Lady: My First Year as Editor, which was published by Penguin in 2011. Now, Blezard's version is to see publication. Saving Grace will be a comic novel, in which Grace is the title of a venerable women's magazine that takes on a new editor. It is inspired by P G Wodehouse's fictional Milady magazine, and published by Unbound, the crowd-funded publishing enterprise behind books by Terry Jones and Robert Llewellyn.
Unbound's editor-at-large, Rachael Kerr, describes Saving Grace as "an old-school, sharp-witted comic novel. Brilliantly, affectionately funny – like Ugly Betty rewritten by P G Wodehouse", and hopes to get it live on the site within two weeks so that readers can start to back it. "It won't need to raise thousands because it's already written," explains Blezard. "I've written a first draft. It's quite gentle, but in the second draft I'm thinking that maybe I should stick the knife in, because I do need a villain. Will it be Grace's owner? The new editor? It's not going to be thinly veiled …"
Typically, Johnson is unfazed. "If he has written Saving Grace – good title –about me being a ball-breaking editrice of a Covent Garden-based small-circulation weekly aimed at gentlefolk, I take my hat off to him and, obviously, can't wait to read it." No doubt she'll be the first to chip in a few bob at unbound.co.uk.