cover image Smattering of Monsters: A Kind of Memoir

Smattering of Monsters: A Kind of Memoir

George Greenfield. Camden House (NY), $0 (309pp) ISBN 978-1-57113-071-6

Greenfield, who retired in 1986 as a partner in the celebrated John Farquharson literary agency in London, was a figure of considerable probity in a field not always renowned for that virtue, and his ``kind of memoir'' makes excellent and sometimes salutary reading for those in the book business. He served for a time as a publisher himself before an unsupportive board caused him to look for work elsewhere, and as an agent he brought an admirable blend of sympathy (for all sides) and pragmatism to bear. Greenfield has delightful stories to tell about clients as various as Margaret Thatcher (whom he much disliked, and for whose memoirs the late Robert Maxwell offered $10 million, only to withdraw the bid the next day) and David Niven, whose first highly successful book, The Moon's a Balloon, was turned down by Michael Korda, according to Greenfield, because Niven was just ``an old ham.'' For an American audience there is far too much here about such legendary British explorers as Edmund Hillary, Francis Chichester and Vivian Fuchs; and an account of Greenfield's first boss, Clarence Hatry, should have been severely trimmed. But Greenfield's sunny spirit, his charity and his skills as a raconteur carry the day. The book's price, however, is unfortunate. (May)