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Vale Bert Hingley

By September 17, 2019 No Comments

Bert Hingley

Tributes have flooded in following the announcement of the passing of publishing great, Bert Hingley on 3 September. Friends and colleagues remember the Hodder & Stoughton publisher as a champion of New Zealand publishing, legendary for his author lunches.

Joan Rosier-Jones said “The news of the death of Bert Hingley will be a shock to many. In the 1980s Bert was editor at Hodder & Stoughton, Auckland, and he began the renaissance of fiction in the New Zealand market.

He was an important part of many authors’ lives, not just as their publisher, but as a friend and bon vivant. It was therefore a blow to many, who included writers such as those mentioned above and Maurice Shadbolt, Michael King, Philip Temple and Lloyd Jones, when Bert decided to accept a position with Hodder & Stoughton, Australia.

Most of his New Zealand authors made a point of visiting Bert and his wife, Cheryl, when visiting Sydney. They were both always hospitable and eager for news of the New Zealand literary scene. Bert Hingley will be sadly missed on both sides of the Tasman. Our condolences go out to Cheryl and their sons, Benjamin and Gabriel and family.”

NZSA CEO Jenny Nagle says she was fortunate to work with Bert: “I worked with Bert Hingley at Hodder & Stoughton NZ from 1982-1987 and again at H & S Australia from 1989-1994. At the latter, I was lucky enough to have the office beside his. I remember the joke at the time Bert crossed the ditch that several small NZ vineyards would go bust when he left the country. In the NZ years, I was so proud to champion his NZ fiction and children’s publishing list to the educational market. I remember uplifting launches for Sue McCauley, Joan Rosier-Jones, Maurice Shadbolt, Marilyn Duckworth, and Russell Hayly and the moving celebration we had for Keri Hulme, MC’ed by Michael King when she won the Booker for The Bone People. Michael presented Keri with a greenstone taonga that he had been given, saying it had now come home – it was a spine-tingling moment. Bert’s NZ fiction list won many NZ awards.”

“Bert will be remembered for his role in the New Zealand Book Trade. He participated in several trade organisations influencing the development and promotion of New Zealand books. His “publishers’ lunches” were legendary – a meeting place for discussion as well as eating and drinking together. Bert’s most significant influence on New Zealand publishing was his development of New Zealand fiction where he produced a range in a way that had not been seen before.
Bert was intellectually challenging and will be fondly remembered for his warm sociability, communication and humour.”
Bob Ross

Geoff Walker said “I mainly remember Bert Hingley playing a key role in the exciting explosion of New Zealand fiction publishing that took place in the 1980s. As the publisher at Hodder & Stoughton, as it then was, Bert helped to spearhead some very exciting new fiction. One that comes to mind was A Breed of Women by Fiona Kidman, that established Fiona as a major New Zealand writer. Sue McCauley’s Other Halves was another. We look back at this time as a turning point in our fiction publishing. He also published Michael King for some time, notably Michael’s trailblazing Being Pakeha.

Bert was a classy publisher of the old school who loved working with authors because he was one himself. He was a published poet and was very comfortable in the literary world. For some time he wrote a weekly publishing news column in the Listener (yes, there was such a time).

Bert also fervently believed in such vital publishing practices as the long editorial lunch. It is said that after one particularly generous and lengthy lunch he poured his author into a cab to go home. ‘Thank you,’ the author is alleged to have said. ‘But actually, I’d rather have had the money.’ Bert’s response isn’t recorded.”

David Elworthy wrote: Bert was a clever and perceptive publisher. Selfishly I just wish that he’d stayed on this side of the ditch, so that we could have continued to enjoy his warm wit, his effervescent good humour, and his prodigious talent for hilarious book trade gossip.

Charles Goulding worked with Bert Hingley at Hodder from 1981 to 1988.
“Bert published books. It was my job to sell them.

There are moments that stand out. Sue McCauley’s ground-breaking novel Other Halves, for example. Radical at the time – a novel based on life. A Pakeha woman in her ’30s and her relationship with a Māori man half her age. It was deservedly a critical and commercial success.  Bert’s decision to publish in trade paperback, rather than hardback, was also radical. Bert explained to me that he was borrowing from the French tradition of publishing first editions in paperback. I know it seems bizarre now but I spent as much time explaining the format to booksellers as I did the novel. Bert’s bold approach to fiction publishing and his experimentation with format coincided with the genesis of a renaissance in New Zealand fiction. Did Bert lead the market or was he lucky with his timing? We may never know but whatever happened continues still.

Bert had hits and he had misses. And when they missed, they really missed. At times I would remonstrate with him about some of his publishing decisions. I offered to help with market advice. He said, ‘Anybody can fill a warehouse with books that don’t sell because they were trying to make a bestseller. If I am going to fill a warehouse with books that don’t sell, then I want to be satisfied that every one of them is a good book’. If more publishers took that approach, there would be significantly fewer books published and that would not be a bad thing.

When it comes to hits, The Bone People stands out. Keri Hulme’s novel was initially published by Spiral, a feminist collective. In the current parlance, it ‘blew up’ on publication. Bert, a man in the publishing establishment, successfully persuaded Spiral and Keri Hulme to enter into a co-publishing arrangement with Hodder. In the ’80s that was not easy to do. What is not known but is a story that deserves to be told is Bert’s contribution to the novel winning the Booker. Keri Hulme won the Booker because she wrote an extraordinary novel. However, to win any contest you have to be entered. The rules required that the novel had to be published in the UK within a calendar window. At that time, it was the London office’s view that Auckland was there to sell the books London published and not to bother them with the books we published. It was only Bert’s determined advocacy and sheer bloody mindedness that bludgeoned Hodder London into publishing before the deadline and submitting The Bone People. And the rest is history …”