Friday, June 11, 2010

Only in France!

Apologies for my late posting. I just arrived in the English Channel port of Le Havre in Northern France after fifteen hours on the road from the Mediterranean over the last two days.

More French promotion. This time a weekend festival called Les Ancres Noir, described as "polar a la plage"... or mysteries on the beach. The biggest mystery for me at the moment is where the beach is. I have seen oil refineries, docks, ferry terminals, but no beach as yet. No doubt that will come.

Yesterday, after a scare with my car, I called in to visit my French publisher, Actes Sud. It is probably the most prestigious publishing house in France, and the only one who refuses to be Paris-based. The publisher's HQ is in the ancient Romanesque city of Arles, situated where the River Rhone divides itself into many mouths and debouches into the Mediterranean.

A very "individual" publisher, the buildings which house it, right down on the river front, can only be described as eccentric. There are several of them, one on top of the other, including an ancient church in which they hold concerts and book launches. The complex includes a cinema, a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the river, a bar, a huge bookstore and... hammam baths for the employees.

A tour of the building is like exploring a rabbit warren, and several offices have huge sliding glass doors which open directly on to roof terraces. Narrow stone stairs lead up to what used to be the private apartment of the publisher's original founders. They have since moved out to allow for the creation of more office space.

Of course, Actes Sud has a "branch" office in Paris, but who would want to work there when you could be based at Arles?

Had I had the time, I was invited to lunch with my publisher, my editor, and the lady who handles foreign rights - right there in their own restaurant. Sadly I had to get back on the road. But there is no doubt I will be making my way south again in the near future to take full advantage of the offer... and who knows, maybe even venture into the hammam baths on the one day of the week that men are allowed in!

With a publisher like Actes Sud who would ever want to electronically self publish?

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