Nisha Rathode

Gordon Landsborough

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Occupation  Writer, publisher
Name  Gordon Landsborough

Role  Author
Died  1983
Gordon Landsborough httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsdd
Books  The dead commando, Tobruk Commando

Gordon Holmes Landsborough, (1913–1983), English publisher, author and bookseller, was in the forefront of change in the paperback publishing and bookselling industries in England during the 1950s to 1980s. Considered a "maverick publishing genius", he was noted for his phenomenal drive and energy, his innovative business ideas and also for his prolific output as an author.

Contents

Early life

Born in 1913 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, Gordon Landsborough left school at 14 to help support his family. In the evenings he went to night classes, eventually becoming a chemist with the research department of ICI. Continuing his studies, he turned to journalism and worked on a number of papers and journals in the north of England. In 1938, he started up ARP News, a magazine promoting air raid precautions to a war-nervous England.

He moved to London in 1939, where, among other business ventures, in 1940 he started Reveille, which was originally the official newspaper of the Ex-Services' Allied Association.

In 1940 he joined up with the London Scottish Regiment, serving for a time in the deserts of North Africa. His experiences there provide the material for several of his best selling novels.

Post Second World War book publishing and writing

In 1949, Gordon Landsborough was hired by publishers Hamilton & Co as production editor for their entire range of books. As part of his contract with Hamilton, he negotiated a deal with them to buy one novel a month from him. He soon made sweeping changes to their lists of science fiction, crime, and romance and expanded them to include foreign legion.

By the start of 1951, Hamilton’s science fiction titles were being published every two weeks and eventually evolved into the science fiction magazine, Authentic Science Fiction. With Landsborough as its first editor, it ran for 85 issues.

Landsborough left Hamilton in mid-1951 to pursue his own career as a writer and publisher. His publishing expertise was much sought after, and he was employed as an advisor to three companies in the paperback publishing industry during the next few years.

His next business venture, in 1953, was an innovation for British publishing: Weekend Novels. Published every Wednesday, they contained a complete and unabridged best selling novel in a 24-page newspaper format with some advertising and were sold for sixpence through newsagents. In these: "He bought reprint rights in existing printed novels and published them each week in tabloid newspaper format without any form of binding or stapling and with line drawings as illustrations... His venture was under-capitalised and had to close after some twenty or so issues had appeared."

In 1954, after Weekend Novels closed, Landsborough returned to Hamilton’s as editor of their Panther Books imprint, which would go on to become one of the leading British paperback publishing houses.

In 1957, Landsborough left Panther Books to start up Four Square Books, backed by the tobacco company Godfrey Phillips. Michael Geare, who was employed by him in 1957 as sales manager, said of him: "He was a gifted, clever, likeable chap, and really knew everything about book publishing. On one occasion when we were a book short on the list, he took five days off and wrote the book himself – 'Return Via Benghazi' or something. It wasn't half a bad paperback, either."

Landsborough left Four Square Books in the late 1950s to establish, in late 1960, Mayfair Books and also one of England’s first children's paperback companies, Armada Books. The Armada Books list included, somewhat controversially, Enid Blyton, whose books at that time were frowned on by libraries and academics but still sold in their hundreds of thousands. The list also included W.E. John's immensely popular Biggles series and stories he wrote for children based on the popular television series Bonanza. Armada Books were sold to Collins Books in 1963.

In the early 1960s Landsborough, together with two film-producers, set up a film company to produce a film version of Werfel's novel "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh". An edition of this book had already been published by Mayfair Books, and he approached Werfel's widow for the film rights. The project advanced to the stage of Landsborough writing a film treatment, and it being bought by an Italian film studio, before it was discovered that Metro Goldwyn-Mayer had acquired the film rights in 1932 and still held them.

In 1965 he started up another children's publishing company, Dragon Books. His list included his own abridgements for children of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books and PC Wren's Beau Geste. Dragon Books was later acquired by Granada Publishing Ltd.

In 1950, initially as part of his contract with Hamilton's, Landsborough started writing novels, prolifically producing around 90 books over the next 35 years. In 1953 he told newspapers that in a period of just 3 years from 1950 to 1953 he wrote 51 novels (at least 49 of which were accepted) at a rate of a million words a year. Like many well-known authors during those economically tough post war years, he wrote genre novels under pseudonyms for the rapidly growing paperback market, to augment his income. Most of these were westerns and crime novels, "mass produced" using a tape recorder at a rate of about one a month.

He wrote 13 books under his own name, including, in 1956, the best selling Tobruk Commando. Also in 1956 were published The Battle of the River Plate (with sales revenue going to the survivors' fund), the book of the film Storm Center, starring Bette Davis, and the book of the film The Bold and the Brave, starring Mickey Rooney. In the 1970s he continued to write, producing another five books including the popular Glasshouse Gang series.

A short story, Something in the Air, one of two commissioned in 1970 by Philip Harbottle, editor of the short-lived science fiction magazine, Vision of Tomorrow, was published in Fantasy Adventures No 4, edited by Philip Harbottle.

A number of his early books, originally written under pseudonyms, have been republished since 2003, some now under his own name, in both hard copy and as ebooks.

In 2015, a book, In Search of Burke & Wills: The Story of William Landsborough, Queensland's Forgotten Explorer that Gordon researched and wrote the first draft of in 1972 when he was living in Australia, about a distant relative, explorer William Landsborough was edited and published by his family.

Magazine publishing and remainder bookselling in the 1970s and 1980s

In 1971–73 he worked on freelance publishing ventures involving tourism and travel in Hong Kong and Australia, including the establishment of LookEast magazine.

In 1973 he returned to England and turned his hand to book selling, opening up a remainder book selling business, Bargain Books. This mushroomed into a highly successful business, with four stores.

Gordon Landsborough died in 1983, aged 70. He had five children by his marriage to Louvain (Peggy) Hussey: Drew, Stuart (proprietor of Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand), Diana, Bonny and Euan.

References

Gordon Landsborough Wikipedia


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