ENTERTAINMENT

How a nonpartisan bookman won his election bets

ROBERT FULFORD June 16 1962
ENTERTAINMENT

How a nonpartisan bookman won his election bets

ROBERT FULFORD June 16 1962

How a nonpartisan bookman won his election bets

The 1962 federal election may be remembered. among other things, as the first campaign ever fought in the bookstores. This month three books which set forth partisan views of current politics are selling briskly across the country—The Liberal Party, by J. W. Pickersgill; Canada and Mr. Diefenbaker, by B. T. Richardson; and The New Party, by Stanley Knowles. They all come from the same nonpartisan publisher: Jack McClelland, the aggressive head of a venerable Toronto firm, McClelland and Stewart.

McClelland published The New Party before the founding convention last year and reissued it later with the NDP platform added to the original text. Last winter McClelland published Walter Gordon’s Troubled Canada, an analysis of the country’s major problems by the Liberals’ economic strategist. The Pickersgill and Richardson books were published simultaneously, as the campaign started. Like the earlier books, they arc sold in both paperback ($2.50) and hardcover ($3.50).

Ihe Knowles book, with its earlier start, is the best-seller so far: about 5,000 copies. (In a French edition it sold about 10,000.) Gordon has sold 4,000. Pickersgill and Richardson have

sold about 2.500 each, but McClelland expects to gel rid of another 2.000 of each before election day.

If McClelland had his way he would be even deeper in political publishing. But a history of the Conservative party, planned to come out in April, was put off till fall when the author was involved in an automobile accident. And a biography of Lester Pearson, which. McClelland planned, was called off when he couldn’t get the subsidy he fell the book needed. All the other books are published in the ordinary way: the authors get around $1.000 in royalties, and McClelland expects to break even or make a small profit on all cí them. But he felt the Pearson biography jneeded more time and effort, and that Ihe Liberals should subsidize the writing. After talking to several writers, McClelland decided it would cost between $2.500 and $5,000. I he Liberals liked the. idea but couldn’t find the money.

The McClelland series brings some

political life to the book business, and possibly some literary class to politics, but it has yet to produce a good book. Pickersgill trudges through Liberal history from 1840 to the present, finding usually that the Liberals were on the right side of things and their opponents on the wrong. The excesses of the St. Laurent years are attributed to the failings of the Opposition, who are charged with being neither strong enough nor smart enough. The pipeline debate of 1956 is brushed off in three paragraphs.

Pickersgill concedes that Liberal public relations were rather poor, but otherwise he shows us a spotless record.

Canada and Mr. Diefenbaker is no more illuminating. It is sometimes a biography and sometimes a general comment on the Diefenbaker era, but more often it’s an exercise in heroworship. Of Diefenbaker’s cliché-ridden UN speech on Soviet colonialism, for instance, Richardson says: “No Canadian leader had ever spoken out like this.” Richardson is also given to writing metaphors which run away with themselves: “The country was

poised on the brink of a take-off.” The book has had at least one good review. It was in the Toronto Telegram, of which Richardson is the editor.

Curiously, not one book on Jack McClelland’s political list reflects his own point of view. He’s an oldfashioned conservative, opposed to the welfare state and to what he likes to call “creeping socialism.” He has no plans to commission a book on this theme: “I have no political views as

a publisher.”

ROBERT FULFORD