Bloomsbury’s senior commissioning editor Richard Atkinson, responsible for the publishing of books such as Polpo and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage series, has left the company and is focusing full-time on writing his family memoir.
The editor responsible for some of the most successful cookbooks of the last 20 years departed late last year after 12 years with the publisher. He is currently in Jamaica for a research trip for his family memoir Mr Atkinson's Rum Contract which is due to be published by 4th Estate in 2020.
Atkinson worked across Bloomsbury’s Cookery and Absolute Lists and published popular books such as Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of sorts), the Bocca Cookbook and more than a dozen titles by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, having reportedly secured the TV chef for Bloomsbury before even joining the publisher from Hodder in 2006. His most recently reported deal was for food writer Olia Hercules last year.
A Bloomsbury spokesperson told The Bookseller: "Richard resigned from his role at Bloomsbury in November. Natalie Bellos, editorial director for the Bloomsbury Cookery list, now reports to Alexis Kirschbaum, publishing director. Jon Croft continues to consult with us on the Bloomsbury Absolute list." Bloomsbury acquired independent food list Absolute Press, set up by Croft, in 2011.
Atkinson’s role has not been replaced.
Atkinson told The Bookseller: “I left Bloomsbury in mid-November - which was a great wrench. In a nutshell, I needed the freedom to focus on finishing my own non-fiction book, Mr Atkinson’s Rum Contract, which 4th Estate will publish in spring 2020. Bloomsbury had already been heroic, having allowed me more sabbatical time to write than I could possibly have expected from them.
“Right now I’m in Jamaica, on my final research trip for the book, which is the rather epic story of my family here in the late 18th and early 19th century. It’s been fascinating to have had this experience of being both a writer and an editor, both sides of the publishing fence.”
When asked about the possibility of taking on editorial projects, he said: “I’m not quite ready to take on freelance projects, but may be in a few months.”
His family memoir, Mr Atkinson's Rum Contract, is based on a chance discovery of an unpublished cookery manuscript, handwritten in 1806 by his four-times great-grandmother, Bridget Atkinson, "which prompted the cascade of dark family revelations”, according to his agency Janklow and Nesbit UK.
"Drawing on thousands of intimate letters, the first part of the book tells the colourful story of his 18th century namesake Richard ‘Rum’ Atkinson, the most controversial contractor to the British army during the American Revolutionary War,” the synopsis reads.
“The second part explores how this brilliant entrepreneur’s vast self-made fortune transformed a family of ordinary Westmorland tanners into one of the richest merchant families in Kingston, Jamaica, at a time when sugar was king, the slave trade was at its peak, and the islands of the West Indies were the undisputed jewels of the British empire."