Three months or so have passed by since I first published “In the Footsteps of the Valiant”, which was the story of the lives and deaths of 23 of the 120 or so men who were educated at Nottingham High School and who subsequently sacrificed their lives for us all in the Second World War. Also included is one young man who was killed in the early 1950s in the RAF.
So far, I am afraid, sales have been really quite disappointing. I have no real idea why this should be the case. The book is of a length commensurate with the price. The number of words holds up well alongside, say, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, “The Two Towers”, “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Emma”.
The book is priced at £18 and is more or less entirely my original research. And what better things could you get for £18? Two cinema seats. A bottle of “Graham’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port”. You could buy a Venus Fly Trap. Or a glasses case with your name on it. Or enough wildflower seeds to plant three square metres. You could buy some Miracle berry tablets. The tablets last for about an hour and alter your taste buds so that anything sour tastes sweet.
Perhaps the book is being perceived as being limited to only one town or city. I don’t know, but I had hoped that people would realise that Nottingham stands here for any British town of similar size.
What is much more important though, much more important than sales alone, is that my original research has now been completed and that we now have a much longer list of war casualties than was previously the case. In the immediate aftermath of the end of hostilities in 1945-1946, the High School thought that 82 of its former pupils had perished in the war. My researches have extended that number to 121 men whose lives and deaths have been investigated and will now never be forgotten. I have also found five deaths in the early 1950s. Once they have been unearthed and brought out into the light, they will never be lost again. And people will have a chance to read something about the lives of these brave men and to see what they did for us all.
In the First Volume, the men featured are Alfred Highfield Warren, Bruce Arthur Richardson, Sidney Moger Saxton, Edwin Thomas Banks, Francis Nairn Baird, Clifford Frank Shearn, John Edwin Armitage, Wilfrid Henry Vivian Richiardi, Ian Mactaggart MacKirdy, John Harold Gilbert Walker, Robert Renwick Jackson, Howard Rolleston Simmonds, Charles Davy Hudson, Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, Walter Raymond Julyan Hoyte, Paul Wilson Cherry, Warren Herbert Cheale, Philip Bonnington Smith, Anthony Bertram Lloyd, Philip Mackenzie Britton, Richard Christopher Sowerbutts, William Roy Llewellyn, Keith Henry Whitson and John Jeffrey Catlin.
Here are just a few of them. This is Tony Lloyd of the Parachute Regiment:
This is Keith Whitson:
And John Harold Gilbert Walker, Spitfire pilot:
And Alfred Chenhalls:
And Edwin Banks and his aircraft, a Gloster Gladiator:
And Robert Renwick Jackson and his all-black Douglas Boston:
Their brave deaths spanned a whole world. Killed in a Dakota over the Bay of Biscay. Killed in a Bomber Command aircraft over Germany. Killed by the Blitz in Leicester. Killed in North Africa fighting on foot. Killed fighting to seize a bridge in Sicily. Killed fighting to seize a bridge too far in the Netherlands. Killed by exposure during the summer in an unenclosed RAF dinghy in the English Channel. Killed in the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Persia. Killed crashing a Gloster Gladiator in Greece. Lost for ever in the trackless snowy Canadian wastes. Killed crashing a Fleet Air Arm fighter into the warm waters off Trincomalee.
21 responses to “In the Footsteps of the Valiant (Volume One)”
Having participated in books on crosswords and cemeteries I have found that these specialised subjects have small circulations – what has been important is the length of time in print and the regularity of enough pocket money for whisky, plants, seeds, etc.
You’re absolutely right, of course, Derrick! I need to look at it in terms of my research being the last time that anybody would be bothered enough to investigate the stories of these men and to find out what they did for us.
Once I’ve done that, and stopped them disappearing for ever, the job that I set out to do has been done.
I don’t know why sales aren’t as good as they should be. I would presume that promotion of the book needs to increase. The cost, the approximate equivalent to $23 US dollars, is a normal asking price, but for shipping out of the UK to the US it is about the same (which puts it out of my social security budget I’m afraid.). The cost of shipping might be part of the problem?
I think you have hit the nail on the head there! One other thing is that perhaps people think that the book is limited to just one school in Nottingham, England, whereas, being a certified windbag, I do talk in general terms on many occasions, and never miss a chance for an anecdote!
We also have to deal with high shipping costs to other countries, but there isn’t much we can do about the prices since we’re a small company. It is what it is. Have you tried getting in touch with bookstores? Review copies for newspapers or magazines? Donations to hospitals that serve veterans?
Thanks a lot for that. There’s some good practical advice there. Thank you.
Yup – and I look forward to it too!!
I must say from my distance, the snippets that you have included in posts have been very interesting and were I in England I would have on on my shelf. But that is, of course, no comfort to you.
You’re very kind ! I think that it just seems a book too closely linked to Nottingham, although, as I said to GP above, I have tried to be as general as possible.
One certain positive is that I have rescued just over forty brave yet forgotten men from total oblivion, because if I hadn’t researched them, nobody would.
John, perhaps your marketing efforts have not yet reached readers that would be interested in your book.
Yes, I think you may have something there. I had thought that the book was just perceived as being too specialised, but there must be people in a city the size of Nottingham who would find it interesting.
Incidentally, I had a look at “onthepathleasttravelled” and I am now one of Larry “Dutch” Woller’s many followers, so thanks for that.
That’s rather disappointing John. Are the publishers helping to promote your book, even online sellers should be able to I’d have thought. Have you spoken to them about it? I’m sure as time goes on sales will pick up. Keep plugging away social media, your excellent blog etc. Exposure is key to any success (all of which I’m sure you know!).
Yes, hopefully sales will pick up. I might have made a mistake making it five volumes but I found it very difficult to know what to leave out. The main thing is though, that at least I have traced the forty odd missing men that nobody even knew about. That gives a total now of about 120-odd, who have been rescued from oblivion.
Actually it’s not too dissimilar from your airfields. You write about them just as they disappear for ever into the landscape, and in that way they are preserved, if only on the page (or screen!)
You need to feel proud of what you have accomplished, John. You have finished your part which entailed a great deal of work and time. What others do with what you did, now that you cannot control. If I were you, I would know once I am gone from this world, my words will still exist, thereby making my life ongoing well after I’m gone. I’m sorry to hear sales are disappointing. Flip side …. you did outstanding!!
There’s a lot of wisdom in what you say there, Amy.
I think what I may well do is to buy some copies and donate them to the city and county archives. At least that way, what I have written will not be lost and, in actual fact, will be there as long as the city.
Thanks again for your advice.
How wonderful of you to do this, John. We all need to know the past sacrifices that were made to keep our country free, if you will. I am very proud of you! Have a great weekend!
I used to see the names of these young men on the War Memorial at school, but I never properly made the link to them as people that had real lives, with successes and failures like the rest of us. John Knifton has done a great job to honour these men, but also to make others think about them as individuals who had the same hopes that we all do. A fantastic effort – well done – and I thoroughly recommend it to other potential readers
Thank you so much for your kind words. I had got a little “down” with the apparent lack of interest, but you have really cheered me up. Bringing these young men to life was exactly what I was trying to do, which is why I have talked about their exam results, their jobs, the houses where their parents lived, and, where appropriate, the enormous help the High School gave the less fortunate of them to take their rightful ,place in society.
If possible, could you go to
and go to “Log in to review this item” and, if possible, just copy what you have written as a review? That would perhaps attract people’s attention!
And thanks again!
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