Obituary: Harold Harris

ELLIOT PHILIPP's scrupulous obituary of Harold Harris (12 August) doesn't, to me, convey much of the personality and character, the essential decency, of the man for whom I worked, writes Giles Gordon. Admittedly Harris was not a 'glamorous' figure.

When I joined Hutchinson as Harold's assistant and junior editor in 1964, he was editorial director. Before that he had been literary editor of the Evening Standard, and the standards and disciplines he brought to book publishing were very much those of the Fleet Street editor. He wasn't in thrall to 'art' or 'genius'. He was more concerned that a text be accurate.

He wasn't, as the cliche has it, a bookman. His dedication, as an ex- journalist, was essentially for non-fiction, and he definitely had a weakness for hacks who aspired to book length. Yet he was the most sensitive of human beings, with a healthy respect for professional writers, certainly including novelists and even poets.

He was the most generous of bosses. Frequently I, and other editors, would wish to acquire books and Harold would insist, rightly, that we justified our subjective passions both intellectually and aesthetically as well as commercially. When he was persuaded, even if he had little time for the manuscripts themselves, he would always root for his editors' choices - and he had a dozen or so quirky editors answering to him in the days before 'conglomerates' were thought of - with Lusty, not always the easiest of tasks.

Harold Harris, as his deep involvement with PEN endorses, was a good, intelligent man. Other publishers, Jock Murray for instance, may notch up warmer tributes, but Murray was his own master. Throughout his life Harris was a hired hand, a salaried employee. No publishing house, particularly one as disparate and grotesquely impersonal as Hutchinson was in the 1960s and 1970s, can function on a day-to-day basis without the kind of professionalism and expertise which Harold Harris had at his fingertips. His life, happily married though he was, was dedicated to his working hours.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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 People

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

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?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?