Headline punches with Prezza

<p><em>Joel Rickett writes:</em><br />
<br />
Headline&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/43801-headline-lands-prescott-punch.ht... of John Prescott&rsquo;s autobiography</a> is fascinating to dissect. The punchy <a href="http://www.hodderheadline.co.uk/index.asp?area=he">Hachette company</a> is best known for its relentlessly commercial output (thrillers, romances, mis mems); it has not previously strayed into the murky world of political memoirs. But there&rsquo;s every reason to suggest it will bring a refreshing approach to an area of the market that&rsquo;s fraught with peril.</p>
<p>The first clue is the title. Forget the usual worthy contenders<em>&mdash;My Autobiography, A Life in Politics, The Deputy&rsquo;s Tale, The Struggle for Labour&rsquo;s Soul,</em> etc. Headline is going for the jugular with <em>Prezza: Pulling No Punches</em>. Prescott&rsquo;s agreement to this indicates he&rsquo;s not taking himself too seriously&mdash;which bodes well. How his tomato-throwing punchbag will feel about it is anyone&rsquo;s guess.</p>
<p>Then there&rsquo;s the repeated promise of a &ldquo;no holds barred&rdquo; tale. Headline and Prescott have clearly noted the failure of previous New Labour tomes, such as last year&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blunkett-Tapes-Life-Bear-Pit/dp/074758821X"><em>The Blunkett Tapes</em>,</a> whose sales have yet to reach 4,000 through BookScan. Blunkett was <a href="http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=8173">hammered... for droning on about the minutae of government policy and not even mentioning his lover Kimberley Quinn. By contrast Prescott promises to address his own affair with his diary secretary Tracey Temple. Meanwhile Alastair Campbell <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n16/lanc01_.html">excised parts of his diaries</a> that he knew would embarrass incoming PM Gordon Brown. Again, Prescott promises full disclosure on the Blair/Brown saga&mdash;including recounting the dinner at his Admiralty House abode when he kept the relationship on track.</p>
<p>Another hint is the choice of ghostwriter. Rather than a lobby hack they&rsquo;ve gone for seasoned pro Hunter Davies. Forget his thankless work on Wayne Rooney&rsquo;s book&mdash;a poisoned chalice if ever there was one. Look instead at the magisterial job Davies did with Paul Gascoigne&rsquo;s book <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?... My Story</a> a few years ago&mdash;he rendered a Northerner&rsquo;s comical blatherings into a compelling life story. The challenge is similar with Prezza. And there&rsquo;s certainly a good story to tell: from ocean liners to Oxford&rsquo;s Ruskin, from unions to the centre of power, with scuffles and gaffs aplenty.</p>
<p>In sales terms much will hinge on how much Prescott has retained the affection of the public. Is he still seen as a loveable figure, or has that descended into derision and even a sense of hypocrisy? Again, Headline is refusing a whitewash or a &ldquo;self-serving&rdquo; memoir&mdash;it describes him as a &ldquo;street brawler, council tax dodger, traitor to the left, grace-and-favour croquet player, philanderer and minister without a job&rdquo;, before hastily paying tribute to his modernisation of Labour, peacekeeping between Brown and Blair, and work on the Kyoto Agreement.</p>
<p>The sales benchmark is obviously Campbell&rsquo;s The Blair Years&mdash;60,000 copies and counting. Will that many people care about Prezza come next summer? One thing is certain: the media will. Headline is canny when it comes to serial deals&mdash;last year&rsquo;s widely lamented Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand biogs actually earned out because of big newspaper splashes. The price paid for <em>Prezza</em>, believed to be around &pound;300,000, is within range. And it should be enormous fun&mdash;as Headline boss Kerr McRae puts it, &ldquo;Stuffy political guff this ain&rsquo;t!&rdquo;</p>