97-year-old equestrian author’s fight for book royalties

  • A 97-year-old equestrian author is fighting for royalties from a book he wrote in the early 1970s.

    A former List One dressage judge and the first show director at Hickstead in the 1960s, Colonel Val ffrench Blake wrote Dressage for Beginners in 1972.

    He said it received “a lukewarm reception from the UK dressage mafia”, but was recommended by the British Horse Society and passed from one publisher to another until going out of print in the UK in 2002.

    “You don’t get a great deal from this type of book,” Col ffrench Blake told H&H. “I have only ever had one payment of £300 two or three years ago.”

    However, the Colonel’s granddaughter Clare ffrench Blake, who lives in the US, saw the book for sale in her local feedshop and he now thinks he’s due a windfall.

    “I wrote to the American publishers and asked how many copies had been sold and they told me 45,000 since 1972. I calculate they owe me at least £2,000,” he said.

    But now the author, who lives in a nursing home in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, and has written further books on dressage and the Crimean War, has to track down where his money has gone.

    “The publishers [Houghton Miflin] said all payments had been referred back to Penguin Books in the UK, but they could not tell me how much money that was,” he said.

    A spokesman for Penguin said the company was trying to sort out the situation.

    “It seems rather unusual — I don’t think I have heard of such a case before,” she told H&H. “We will do what we can for the gentleman.”

    The Society of Authors is also helping Col ffrench Blake in his investigation.

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (1 July, ’10)

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