I know we're actually still a few days away from the official Ides of March, but as out of whack as the world feels these days, it's not impossible to imagine that it arrived this year on March 6th by mistake, with all its sense of tragedy intact. As many of you already know, that was the day that Rupert Heath, founder of Dean Street Press, my friend and inspiring collaborator on the Furrowed Middlebrow series (not to mention his trailblazing work with others rediscovering Golden Age mysteries and other fiction and non-fiction as well), died suddenly of a heart attack, only a little over a month after the sudden death of his beloved wife Amanda. Rupert's sister Victoria has written a wonderful obituary for him here, which is uplifting and devastating in equal parts. Rupert was only 54.
It's difficult to know how to write about the loss of someone I had never actually met face-to-face, though we worked closely (I typed "we have worked closely" and am suddenly pained and distinctly pissed off to have to correct the verb tense) together for seven years, in some periods of intense effort emailing each other a dozen times in a day. Most of the time, both of us were equally, geekily excited about the work and how much it mattered to get it right, and having fun with the fact that we were lucky enough to be doing it.
And of course, I had the luxury—for a long time only fantasized about—to be excited about working (in however modest a way) "in publishing" purely because Rupert, apparently fairly spontaneously, had handed it to me on a platter. From the depths of my blog archive, I went back to look at a post I vaguely remembered having written but hadn't looked back at in years. This is my announcement that the fantasy was becoming reality and the first Furrowed Middlebrow books were in the works. It gives me a rather desolate feeling to read it now, but at the same time, what an amazing experience it has all been.
If it's difficult to know how to write about the loss of someone one never met, it's likewise difficult to know how to grieve for them, though grieving I certainly am. I've had many lovely emails from readers and colleagues in the past few days—you who understand how attached one can be even to people known only "virtually". Every morning since learning the news, I have, first thing in the morning, as always, checked my email and caught myself expecting to have one from Rupert. For seven years, it was always exciting and fun to have Rupert's name in my inbox, even if he was writing with bad news about the rights for books I hoped we might reprint (though, with Rupert's acumen, contacts, and professionalism in the business, it rarely was bad news: oh, how I will treasure the memories of receiving emails from him confirming that we could move forward with the likes of Stella Gibbons, or Margery Sharp, or D. E. Stevenson). I imagine I'll keep expecting that email for a long time to come.
I don't want to go on being all maudlin, and I have a feeling that Rupert would have hated such a tone, but I will say I very much regret now that we didn't get a chance to know each other better on a personal level. He sang (and played ukelele!)? He headed an Oscar Wilde appreciation society at school? He once wrote an article about French chanteuses? Clearly, we had more we could have discussed! What fun it would have been to have a pint with Rupert (and Amanda, who was a fashion expert and offered invaluable advice on some of our book covers, most recently our Susan Scarlett reprints, in which fashion was a major concern). Perhaps this is a lesson, if we need it after the past few chaotic years, in taking the time to delve deeper with the special people we come across, make it meaningful, make it count, and not assume that you can always get to know them better later.
I know many of you are wondering about the future. I am sorry to say that this does certainly mean there will be no more Furrowed Middlebrow reprints to come, though Rupert and I had had lots of great ideas for future projects. I will likely post a bit about some of those in the future (I expect that the blog will go on, though exactly how is, as they say, TBD), but for now, I am simply happy to report that the 96 (!!) Furrowed Middlebrow titles already in print will remain available. I'm delighted that they will remain as a testament to Rupert's passion, curiosity, and collaborative spirit. I might also, perhaps a little smugly, note that, when Rupert offered me the wonderful opportunity of working with him back in 2014, our line of reprints of (primarily) rather cozy middlebrow fiction was a bit of an anomaly. Today, the middlebrow is at least a bit more mainstream than it was, and there are a number of small publishers engaged in similar kinds of projects of rediscovery, not to mention some major publishers actively scouting for neglected, deserving works. As heartbreaking as this week has been, it's some comfort to know that the work will go on, and that we may have played our small part in ensuring that it does.
I am sorry for your loss and for ours . The reprints that you and brought about have been such a delight and to me personally too felt like a sort of vindication of the books and authors I started loving as a young woman and for so long it felt like I was the only one!!ReplyDelete
So heartbreaking, Scott, for his family, and friends and for all of us who happily appreciated all the books he made it possible to brought back into our world.ReplyDelete
So, so sorry to read the email , Had no idea he was so young.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the pleasure that the DSP and Furrowed Middlebrow brought over the last few years - so sad there will be no more
This was such devastating news and, as you know, I immediately thought of you. I'm glad the FM titles will remain in print and think that is a good way for things to continue although would have loved the full publishing effort to go on, of course. I think I will still run my Dean Street December challenge this year, though necessarily with an in memoriam tone. Thinking of you and grieving with you.ReplyDelete
I’m so sorry, it was through your blog that I discovered Dean Street and have so much enjoyed a lot of the books that you and Rupert brought to our notice.ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry for his friends and family and close colleagues. He always came across as such a great person.ReplyDelete
From my personal, selfish perspective I'm sad too - the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint has been such an enormous joy to me and I have been on the edge of my seat waiting for the next announcement!
I am so grateful to your blog and I hope you can keep bringing new old books to our attention. Like Marmee said - it's been a sort of vindication (this from someone who started reading Miss Read and Geraldine Mockler in my teens).
That's so sad to hear.. :( discovered dean street press through your blog, been recently buying some new books and loving them so much ! Hope someone would continue with dean street press, and hope you could one day continue republishing gems like you did with the furrowed middlebrow collection !! they are such lovely books with beautiful covers, and dean street press made them available again for us to rediscover them..ReplyDelete
Devastating news for all who knew, loved, and worked with him. I am so sorry.ReplyDelete
The 96 Furrowed Middlebrow books will remain a treasured part of my collection. I was looking forward to the centenary title, as it were, but such is life. I will always be grateful for the work you and Rupert did together and the countless hours of joy it brought and will continue to bring to my life.
Thank you for all the authors, but especially Elizabeth Fair, Ursula Orange, D.E Stevenson, and Molly Clavering.
I simply cannot wrap my head around these two tragic deaths. So sorry to all who knew these two lovely people, including you. I have to admit, sheepishly, that I am glad the books will still be available.ReplyDelete
I am so sorry for your loss of Rupert and Amanda, I understand the strange feeling of grieving for someone that you knew well but never met. A new phenomenon in our brave new world. On the other hand I feel glad for Rupert, verging on jealous, truth be told. Today marks 22 months since my wonderful husband, David, died. Literally, I’d give anything to have died one month later, in fact, I’d take that right now over the potential future life that I now have. Lucky in Love and lucky in death. 💔ReplyDelete
Such a terrible loss. I'm so sorry. He touched so many lives and made so many people happy. Yes, you might never have "met" him, but that doesn't mean you weren't friends. Again, my deepest condolences to you, his family, and everyone who ever read even one Dean Street Press book (and there are tons of us out here)!ReplyDelete
I tried to post this before, but it bumped my comment. In short, my deepest condolences to you, his family, and everyone at Dean Street Press, as well as all of the readers who were able to discover "new" authors because of his exceptional work. He will be greatly missed.ReplyDelete
I was so shocked when I got an email giving me this awful news. I know what you mean about grieving for someone you've never even met; you really can when that someone was as nice as Rupert was. I've been thinking about the family a lot.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry you've lost a friend and the chance to go on with Furrowed Middlebrow books, but those that exist are a great legacy. The crime reprints as well.
I am really sorry that this will be the end of Furrowed Middlebrow, as it's one of my favorite reprint lines. So sorry to hear about Rupert, who was really a nice guy.ReplyDelete
I am so very sorry to read about this lovely man. Thank you for th elink to his sister's obituary. He does leave quite a legecy, and it may cheer some of us to know that I have been hearing about hm from other friends in other places, too. So he tyouched mroe peope than we knew. But his poor childlren! And his poor parents and sister!ReplyDelete