Sunday, 20 March 2011


I have long known that there is a market out there for signed (but not dedicated!) first editions of my novels. Indeed, there are dealers who rush to buy the hardbacks as they come out and for whom I am more than happy to sign and write onto each title page a unique to them special line, such as "Meet Simon Fonthill," or "Charge the Guns."

On those rare occasions when I am suffering from Writer's Block (I am lucky that these really are rare moments - more than compensated, however, by my ever-present bad back and creaky knees), I go on-line and browse through Abebooks, the second hand book site, to see what my first editions are fetching on the market on that day.

At the moment, for instance, I see that PM Books, of St Clair Shores, MI, USA, is offering a signed first edition of my first novel "The Horns of the Buffalo" for £856.87. For an incomplete collection of my works, James N.Beal, of Toronto, Canada, is asking £951.87. This is all as thrilling, of course, as vicarious sex, in that I don't get a penny from these sales.

I am not, however, complaining about the existence of this strange and rather parasitic under-market. It is, after all, grist to the mill and hopefully does extend one's readership. But it has set me thinking about the new wave of electronic books and the lively debate about whether the Kindles will eventually lead to the demise of books as we know them.

I am left with one conclusion. These handy little readers must surely bring about the end of the signed, first edition trade. How can you sign a Kindle?


  1. As a huge fan of 'real' books I have often spent silly sums for a lovely signed first. I paid £80 for 'Horns of the Buffalo' to complete my collection and don't regret it at all. Some dealers online do overcharge, especially in the USA, and the first novel by an author with a small print run can be hard to find. Half the fun is tracking them down.
    As for Kindle I heard recently that amazon reckon a large proportion of customers buy both versions.
    I personally love the feel and smell of a hardcover book.

  2. Hello John. I must congratulate you on a Wonderful story - The Shangani Patrol. I left England in April 1957 as a young man (24) for Rhodesia and lived in Bulawayo until 1978. I often visited Cecil John Rhodes and Dr Jameson's grave and the Shangani Patrol Memorial which is situated at the top of a large kopje (hill) in the matopas hills.

    I was the Chief Photographer for the Rhodesia Railways and travelled from the Congo Border in Northern Rhodesia down to Cape Town in South Africa and also through Botswana.

    I saw many changes from the 1950's when Rhodesia was developing with new roads, new bridges, stations and railway lines. I met Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka when he became President of Zambia. The Chairman of Rhodesia Railways Dick Kemp and I were the guests of honour of President Kaunda at his first official dinner at the ridgeway hotel in Lusaka.

    Things changed dramatically once the "wind of change" blew down from Kenya through the Congo, Mozambique, Nabia and Zambia. Rhodesia was next with Messrs Nkomo and Mugabi reversing the progress that had been made in Rhodesia over the previous 80 years.

    I witnessed and photographed the many "talks" between Ian Smith and the various heads of state which, as history has proved to be a complete waste of time. Its time we sent in Simon Fonthill and his companion 352 Jenkins.

    I look forward to reading your two new books - The War of the Dragon Lady in 2012 and Commando in 2013. Keep up the good work. Kind regards. John Fowler. Scarborough. UK.

  3. I've often thought the same - despite having a Kindle myself.

  4. USA amazon kindle user and can't get early volumes on kindle here. Any idea when they too will be available in the colonies?