The Virgin Book Story

The original paperback book was published without photographs by Virgin Books in 1998 but i actually started writing the book a year earlier. I’d always known it would be Richard Branson’s Virgin Book company that published the title. I hadn’t written more than two pages of text since leaving secondary school years earlier and to be completely blunt my writing skills had and have a long way to go before laying claim as a writer. Nonetheless i had some of my first life changing experiences within the walls of a night club owned by Branson. The entire movement south of the UK’s borders (Hacienda up north) shared this shedding of the skin moment and would never forget the impact on their personal lives.

Richard himself may not have been aware of what was taking shape within this space but given his colourful history i thought the man would quietly chuckle at the idea of his building at the epicentre of the biggest subcultural movement since Punk Rock. Today i read huge volumes of text but back then i rarely read a book and didn’t know any writers of any kind so didn’t have anyone to advise me on style or method. The one thing i did know before writing a single word was that Virgin would be publishing the book, a concept shared with few friends along the way whom Im sure just wrote it off as a dream. After all, why would anyone care what happened to a bunch of pill popping Hackney lads in search of the next party?

Personally i just knew that anything which touches large groups of people in the way Acid House did during a short period in the late eighties would be remembered for decades to come. I finished the first draft one year later and called Virgin Books. Someone on the front desk told me they had no interest in such a book and didn’t even ask the title. Undetermined i went about amending the first draft but by the third draft another fictional book was published by a major publisher.

None of the publishers wanted to release books on the topic for fear of public retribution so when one of the majors dipped their toes into the water i felt Virgin Books might also change their position. The woman on front desk didn’t mind her words and said they had no interest in my book. I felt slightly deflated but was still adamant this was Richard Branson’s book. Months later i called them for the third time and was put on hold, a voice announced himself as the senior music editor Ian Gittins.

He expressed such interested that he wanted to read the manuscript immediately and promised to give me an answer within days. Authors can wait up to three months for publishers to respond to a manuscript if you were lucky to hear anything at all. I got the manuscript to the Virgin Book’s offices the very same day and was offered the contract within days of him reading it. Ian and the Virgin team went all out to ensure the book was a huge success. Class of 88 was Book of the Month in many stores such as Virgin, HMV, or Our Price and received many other accolades along the way. Virgin Books also published my second book Spanish Highs – Sex, Drugs & Excess in Ibiza. This is Virgin’s title for the book and as you can see they pulled no punches this time out.


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