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Is It Written in Mary Martin’s Blood?

Yep! That’s what someone asked about the price of my book on the J.M. Barrie site. And, I must admit, I fell over laughing when I read it. Of course, a few minutes later I became quite depressed (we artsy people change moods at the drop of a dime) if other potential buyers were also turned off at that price. Certainly $45 is not cheap. I chose McFarland Publishers for several reasons, one being that not many other publishers were exactly jumping on the idea for a revised edition of The Peter Pan Chronicles. As I had another book my agent was peddling at the time, I was not too interested in revising Chronicles. In the meantime, I was directing, writing, and sometimes acting in local plays at school or in local Norfolk theatre, one of which, “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, a one-act play that I am quite proud of, which is featured on youtube in three ten minute segments:

Part 1:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0LeaSvMM6E

Part 2:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHNte7fFHH8

part 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watchv=6uMMnKi0lKo&feature=related

Then, about four years ago, I received a call from John McGlinn, the conductor, requesting information on Peter Pan for a project that he was working on for Samuel French, Inc. During the series of late night telephone conversations that followed John asked me why I had not revised Chronicles. Replying that I did not think anyone would be interested he pooh poohed me, stating that he had a copy of my book on his nightstand and that I must work on a new edition. Of course I doubted that someone like John McGlinn would indeed have a copy of my book on his nightstand but when he passed away a few months later I gave serious thought to his suggestion. And when I called McFarland they quickly expressed interest. 

In 1993, when Chronicleswas published, it had cost me about $9,000: for the research, going to England, Yale, Harvard, rentals of photos, collecting ephemera to illustrate the book, etc. During the two years before handing in my new manuscript to McFarland I probably spent that and much more. You see, many of the photos and illustrations are

Henry J. Ford

from institutions and private collections and there were fees that ranged from $35 to $300. The photographers themselves, such as Sophie Baker in England, or Christopher Willoughby, representing his late father’s works, charged very little. And Photofest in NYC was quite generous in their support (I still owe them money which I hope to pay at the end of this month). The songs in the book each came with a steep fee for publication rights. In fact, I was not able to use the lyric to “The Sweetest Things in Life” from the Marilyn Miller production as it would have added an additional $750 to the overall price of permissions. The song was written in 1924. If it had been written a year earlier it would have been public domain and I could have used it for free. I paid about four hundred dollars just to have many large posters scanned only to find out that a few would actually be used in the book. And of course, there was my stay in England for almost 4 weeks in the summer of 2009 where I interviewed and did research at the V & A Theatre Museum. If not for my friend Richard Tay inviting me to live in his London flat during my stay I would never have been able to afford it all. Please understand that never in my mind did I fool myself into believing that I might make a profit on such a venture. This was definitely a labor of love. However, as McFarland, which primarily sells to libraries, has a small imprint and offers authors generous percentages (they don’t sell their books in bulk at very low prices to big name stores and on-line book dealers in which the author’s cut is then literally pennies) this is perfect for such a unique subject as Peter Pan On Stage and Screen. My book will not go out of print. So, to answer the person who asked, “Is it written in Mary Martin’s blood?” the answer is no, it was not: It was written in my blood. Perhaps, after looking through a copy in a library, he might think it worthwhile to own his own copy. If not, no sweat, as the reader still sought to find it in a library. It’s all good!



11 thoughts on “Is It Written in Mary Martin’s Blood?

  1. Well said. Thank you.

    Posted by Keith Lowe | September 22, 2011, 9:38 PM
    • Thanks Keith! By the way, I am now able to send you a signed copy of my book as I have a few extra from the book signing. I’ll send you my address and payment info this weekend via email. (Are you aware of the Annotated Peter Pan book coming out next month? It looks wonderful!

      Posted by bkhanson | September 22, 2011, 9:51 PM
      • Thanks Bruce. I’m excited to read the book!
        I hadn’t heard about the annotated Peter Pan… looks like I’ll be getting that as well.
        I know I already told you about the Magic Lantern slides, but I just found the read along script, AND i was able to get a really nice Magic Lantern from the late 1800’s. Time for a lantern show!

        Posted by Keith Lowe | September 26, 2011, 8:18 PM
  2. Thank you for a wonderful post. I really enjoyed your explanation. Hope that people thinking your book is expensive will understand that your effort deserves a compensation. You did a great job. All the best, Javier.

    Posted by Javier | September 22, 2011, 10:54 PM
  3. Thanks too, Javier! (I Hope that I did not sound as if I as whining; I laughed loud and hard at that “Mary’s blood” comment; the visual was just too much!) Are you in the states? I live in Virginia and I’m afraid I am addicted to collecting stage ephemera, particularly Peter Pan. I hope you enjoy this website, as randomn as it is. Are you aware Andrew Birkin’s site? It is an excellent source of primary material scanned and/or recorded.

    Hi Keith! Congrats on your Magic Lantern projector. I hope it works with your Peter Pan slides; mine are too smallfor my projector which also uses a candle. And where on earth did you uncover the read-along-script? I’m envious.

    Posted by Bruce K. Hanson | September 27, 2011, 1:40 PM
    • I have the complete set of slides and the script (strangely entitled ‘Lantern Lecture’), bought on eBay, but no actual lantern… I’d love to see it projected, as it must be quite magical. Have you tried it yet, Keith?

      Posted by Christine | September 28, 2011, 11:03 AM
    • You can be calm. It didn’t look like you were whining. You only wrote a detailed chronicle of the conception and development of your book. It’s good to know that you did a very hard work to bring to light part of the history of Peter Pan. Thanks. I live in Spain. I have a degree in English Language and Literature (though I still have a lot to learn). Yes, I am aware Andrew Birkin’s site. In fact, I try to participate in the forum with some regularity. Thanks for your recommendation.

      Posted by Javier | September 29, 2011, 10:58 PM
    • Oh dear, I am so very late on noticing your reply about the Peter Pan magic lantern script! After much hunting and research I ended up getting a print out (although barely readable in parts) from the UK magic lantern society. I can make you a copy, but it might be very hard to read. I think I need to look out for a better copy!

      Posted by Keith Lowe | September 7, 2012, 9:08 AM
      • Hi Keith,
        I have accidently erased your email address; can’t find it anywhere. Please write to me so i may send the scaned Nana Toy postcard you requested. Thanks much!

        Posted by Bruce K. Hanson | October 7, 2012, 6:17 PM
  4. The book is well worth the price, never fear. I hope it stays in print for many, many years. Also, thanks for the link to A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES, which I enjoyed very much. It was atmospheric, absorbing and even a tad shattering at the end. A lovely production, well worth watching, and I noticed with pleasure some “Peter Pan” music, well used.

    Posted by Dan Patterson | October 1, 2011, 4:28 AM
    • Yes, I forgot that we used Peter Pan music for that play. We were lucky as the two record companies gave us permission to use their recordings. In particular I was thrilled how the 1904 John Crook music fit “I Have a Little Shadow” so well that we were even able to treat Robert Lewis Stevenson’s poem as lyrics to that composition. Thanks for taking the time to watch “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” Dan. Those kids and that production will always remain a highpoint in my teaching career.

      Posted by Bruce K. Hanson | October 3, 2011, 3:13 PM

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