Letter: Murdoch's censors

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The Independent Online
THE SHAMEFUL treatment of Chris Patten's book, and of his editor, Stuart Proffitt, reveals much of how Rupert Murdoch's censorship works. However, that censorship's insidious nature has deep roots.

Two years ago, I completed my autobiography and sent it to my editor at HarperCollins, then my publisher. I had every reason to expect its speedy acceptance and publication. My friendly editor, Malcolm Edwards, had written to me on holiday in Cyprus commenting on an earlier draft, saying, "You have 85-90 per cent of a tremendous book."

At that time, HarperCollins was undergoing one of its purges. The purge, as far as an outsider can determine, left Malcolm Edwards in charge of fiction lists and Stuart Proffitt of non-fiction. An unprecedented four months' silence followed Malcolm's receipt of my manuscript. He wrote finally, a civil and rather despairing letter, saying that the sales department had decided that my book would sell only two thousand copies.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When editors are ruled by the sales force and those above them, the atmosphere is poisonous for both authors and editors. I left HarperCollins in March last year. Shortly afterwards, Malcolm also left. Now Stuart has also gone. When such authors as Doris Lessing and Fay Weldon also leave, the sales force will have the place to themselves.

My autobiography will appear from Little Brown this autumn.

BRIAN W ALDISS

Oxford

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