How Rough Is It? Or, Philip Nicholas Pullman Has Always Been Philip Nicholas Pullman.

I understand the concept of the Rough Guides’ travel series. It is intended for those whose desire to travel is greater than their disposable income.  Rough then is used as an antonym for Luxury. Fine.

But why would anyone want their reference book rough? Rough as opposed to what? Fact-checked?

I haven’t ever used a Rough Guides travel book, and I never will. If the same fact-checking standards apply to the travel and reference series, I wouldn’t trust one to help me find my way out of a paper bag.

I’ve been blogging about Paul Simpson’s The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials this week. Simpson is identified as the author and he owns the copyright (in my American edition). But he had help, so to speak. There’s a masthead on the copyright page. Let’s look at this:

  • Text Editor: Paul Simpson
  • [designers]
  • Proofreading: Lesley Turner, Martin Rosser, Ian Cranna
  • Writing: Paul Simpson, Tom Bullough

First of all, I  know from painful experience that a writer should not be his or her own editor.  We’ll leave that for now and look at the other list: 

  • Series Editor: Mark Ellingham [not any longer: Andrew Lockett is the Man] 
  • Editors: Peter Buckley, Duncan Clark, Tracy Hopkins, Sean Mahoney, Matt Milton, Joe Staines, Ruth Tidball
  • Director: Andrew Lockett

Now I know we all make mistakes. But couldn’t one of these 13 people have checked the name of the author of their book’s subject? Is that expecting too much?

From page 14 of The Rough Guide:

On his website ( [sic]), Philip Nicholas Outram (as he was born–he became Pullman later in honour of his stepfather) sums up his early life with the dry observation that “I was born in Norwich…”

In pages 14 to 17, Pullman’s father is identified four times as Alfred Outram.

Boy, do we need to have a little talk.  Philip Pullman is Philip Pullman. He was never Philip Outram.His father’s name was Alfred Outram Pullman. The story about Philip abandoning his father’s name to honor his step-father is balderdash, poppycock, or whatever you want to call it. It just plain isn’t true.

Continue reading “How Rough Is It? Or, Philip Nicholas Pullman Has Always Been Philip Nicholas Pullman.”

When Stealing is Not a Crime, or My Rough Guide Ordeal Continued

If Paul Simpson had been my student, I know just what I would have done: taken out a great big fat red marker and covered his title page with a blazing O-F. Then, depending on if he were a middle school or high school student, or a college freshman or upperclassman, or a graduate student, I would have stopped there, failed him for the course, sent him to the dean or VP for Academic Affairs, filed an Academic Misconduct notice with Student Judicial Affairs, or whatever other route was appropriate. Our little talk would have been the first in a long line of unpleasantries for Paul.

But he’s not my student or anyone else’s. He is a professional writer and I have yet to find a direct route to the man. “Paul Simpson” is a fairly common name, and for all I know could be a pseudonym. He’s quite the Renaissance man; his other Rough Guides include titles on Cult Pop, Kids’ Movies, Westerns, Elvis, Muhammed Ali, and Superheroes.

Publishers are the ones who usually deal with this, anyway. First I started with Elements’ publisher and was unsurprised to find that Fell Press wouldn’t pursue it. It is tiny. Rough Guides is a division of Penguin, and in the US Penguin is a division of Pearson. In other words,  if you don’t have a stable of idle lawyers and very deep pockets, forget it. I thought I might fare better with Scholastic UK, but there were some other problems there. Scholastic UK published The Definitive Guide a few months after The Rough Guide to His Dark Materials. Although the passages Simpson weakly paraphrased from Elements are also in The Definitive Guide, Elements is the one Simpson used. Scholastic UK didn’t consider the case strong enough to pursue.

I consulted Jonathan Bailey, who runs a very informative site called

Continue reading “When Stealing is Not a Crime, or My Rough Guide Ordeal Continued”