Trade pays tribute to 'kindest Scottish literature advocate' Brian Hamill

Trade pays tribute to 'kindest Scottish literature advocate' Brian Hamill

Industry figures have paid tribute to Glasgow-based publisher Brian Hamill, "one of the kindest advocates of Scottish literature".

Hamill, who founded Glasgow-based imprint The Common Breath, was reported missing from his home earlier this month. Police officers were called to the River Clyde in Glasgow on Monday morning and recovered a man’s body. Formal identification is yet to take place but Hamill’s family have been made aware, police said. 

Publisher Laura Jones paid tribute to Hamill's kindness and enthusiasm. The publishing director of 404 Ink and interim publisher at Dead Ink told The Bookseller: “Brian was by far one of the most enthusiastic, hard-working, and kindest advocates of Scottish literature and literature more generally, who was only getting started with The Common Breath. Swapping emails late at night, we were recently hashing out minute typesetting details in 'passing through' before going to print, making sure it was up to his high standard. He would always sign off saying 'thanks, friend' and you really felt it. It's a tragedy that we will not see more from him, as a publisher or as a friend.” 

White Rabbit publisher Lee Brackstone told The Bookseller: "The death of Brian Hamill who founded the literary website and independent publisher The Common Breath is something to be mourned by the whole literary community. In just two years Brian had established The Common Breath as a vital force on the independent publishing scene. He was a risk-taker with the sensibility of a true believer. He loved literature and his commitment to the contemporary Scottish literary scene from giants such as Kelman, Kennedy and Warner to new and unpublished voices was unfathomably profound.

"The Common Breath existed in a continuum which includes City Lights, Black Sparrow Press, and Rebel Inc: publishing emerging from the depths of the counter-culture. His publishing legacy is a handful of beautiful books published with an intrepid and fearless spirit; but we have also lost a sharp critical mind and a gifted writer who I have no doubt would have gone on to publish his own fiction to acclaim. Brian valued the community that literature creates and understood intuitively that this is how publishers connect books with readers, building loyalty and trust along the way."

Brackstone added: "It’s in the name, The Common Breath: a young man who believed in the common currency of ideas and the radical, oxygen-giving power of language. To have lost him is a tragedy.’

Writer Samina Chaudhry tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear this. Spent four years with Brian Hamill in a writing class. Good natured and humorous. Progressive, a champion of working-class literature, proud of his roots and the Scots language. No words to say how much he'll be missed.” 

The news comes a month after Hamill’s publishing venture was profiled in The Bookseller as part of “Glasgow’s buzzy literary scene”. The publisher's list includes reissues of lost classics such as Tom Kromer’s 1935 novel Waiting for Nothing and passing through, a collection of unpublished prose and poems by the late Glaswegian poet Tom Leonard. 

Hamill told The Bookseller’s managing editor Tom Tivnan about how he was inspired by micro-indies of previous decades including Kevin Williamson’s Rebel Inc, which first published Irvine Welsh: “I love the ethos of doing it yourself because nobody else is doing it in quite the way you want it, or quite the way you think it should be done. Don’t bother conforming to the literary ideals of others, no kowtowing or complaining, just do it all yourself instead, and folk will get on board.” 

The publisher and writer also believed that Glasgow co-existed effectively with the rest of Scotland’s publishing scene. He told The Bookseller last month: “The issue of ‘London-centrism’ in publishing exists because London is big enough and rich enough to have an unwitting myopia all of its own. Edinburgh isn’t a huge financial and cultural powerhouse in quite the same way; I’ve always found it a very welcoming and stimulating literary place. But the advantage to being a Glasgow publisher is that there are many, many great writers scribbling away, and this city seems to have that same DIY mindset as lies behind The Common Breath. There are always things happening here, folk getting stuff done. It’s quite a place.”