Quite a few rants ago (Shot Down in Flames, April 7th) I commented on the absurd number of non-fiction titles published on the same tired old subjects. One inevitable result of this, due solely to the ignorance of publishers, is that many such titles are hopelessly out of date. It is quite extraordinary, for example, the number of angling guides that are published that still recommend fibreglass rods, when fibreglass as a rod-building material was superseded by carbon fibre in the early 1980s. Occasionally one comes across a book that is not so much out of date as completely out of time, and one wonders how the hell it ever came to be published. One such is this offering, with two chapters on pigsticking by Brigadier C. R. Templer, published in 1973 by the aptly named London outfit Gentry Books, which I picked up cheap in Exeter one time:
What on earth were Gentry thinking of? Who did they think was going to buy the book, other, perhaps, than Prince Philip? Dead people? Unsurprisingly, my copy is stamped ‘Withdrawn from Devon Library Services’. I suspect it was donated to them by the author himself. Born in Assam in 1898, Major-General James Gordon Elliott was an Indian Army man until his compulsory retirement in 1948 following Indian independence the year before. In his later years he settled in Exmouth, where he penned this guide, which is actually a pretty good one, but just so wonderfully anachronistic.