THE BOOK PUBLISHER’S SON
This story is based on facts. However, names, characters and places have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals and the family concerned. Otherwise, the rest is fiction – well, almost. Only too many family-size book publishers have fallen by the wayside or been snapped up by Big Publishing predators in the last decade as not to need to be worked into a story like this one. Most of their names are still in existence, though – as imprints or subsidiary companies but are shells of what they once were.
In this fast-moving, hopefully entertaining and amusing family saga, I have attempted to capture the dash, air and flair behind the troubles of traditional publishing during the dawn of digitalisation in the book industry. The events forming the substance of this tale take place around 2010 and, mainly, in the medieval city of Wiesbaden in Germany, with touches of London, New York and Paris thrown in. I have attempted to put a finger on the pulse of the tornado caused by digitisation which ran through the book-publishing industry in Europe around this time.
The ageing proprietor of a family-owned book publisher, Johannes Prittmann, is a prominent businessman in the European book world but has, in recent years, ignored the warnings and the darkening clouds in publishing around him. Now, he sees his lifework crumbling as technical innovations sweep over the publishing industry. He must modernise and adapt. But he is terminally ill and his days are numbered.
A secretive man by nature, Prittmann, after his death, leaves only chaos behind, much to the surprise of his family who, like outsiders, knew nothing of the true situation of the family’s finances. Shortly before his death, Prittmann, without consulting his family, places the management of his ailing business in the hands of his eldest son, Tom, who has forsaken his inheritance some ten years previously to go his own way and is now living in Cape Town, South Africa.
Tom arranges to take a Sabbath from his job to help rescue the struggling family from loss of livelihood and heritage, but his surprise appearance in the midst of the family causes bad blood and unrest among his siblings. It becomes brother against brother, sister against sister. He soon finds himself confronted with challenges and problems he could never have foreseen – a nightmare of deceit and conspiracy, of enmity and greed. And a conflict with his widowed mother who seems ready to sacrifice her husband’s lifework for the sake of her younger son’s career while concealing family secrets of her own.
With empathy, energy and candour, Tom attempts to deal with the problems facing him but soon discovers that, besides being faced with hostility and turmoil from within the familial bounds, a greater menace threatens from without.
While fulfilling his father’s dying wish, Tom’s time in Wiesbaden will become one of crisis and profound change. And not only for him personally.