Flights into the Trials and Tribulations with Spanish customs

Trials and Tribulations

Fershid Bharucha, a publisher. Published with permission:

The Trials and Tribulations that led up to the Publication of Flights into Fantasy

The book, as you know it now, is not the way I conceived it... there were so many disasters during the production that I could write a whole book just about that.

All the language editions were printed together (English, French, Spanish and German) in Barcelona by Richard's European agent, friend and Spanish publisher, Josep Toutain. But the printer fucked-up and used the wrong paper... it was meant to be on heavier, glossier stock. One of the color pages was printed with the magenta and cyan plates swapped, but we caught that in time and made him print that signature over again.

But some of the faulty signatures found their way to the binder's and there are a few books out there that could now be considered collectors' items... I have one of them somewhere, I think.

The biggest disaster occurred when I finished all the pre-production work in Paris and took the night train to Barcelona to deliver it to the printer. On my groggy arrival, Spanish Customs grabbed me because, apparently, printing films are a no-no and I should have declared them.

So, I was cuffed and marched, under armed guard, from the railway station, to their HQ and Toutain had to come and bail me out. They confiscated the whole shebang! There was stuff in there that was irreplaceable... transparencies of paintings that Rich had since altered... like the image on the cover that originally was an old wizard and Rich had altered to put his own face in there. They refused any and all discussion...

I had to go back to Paris and start from scratch... Rich had to have ALL of the art re-photographed and the book was delayed for almost 6 months. If you look closely at the thanks at the end of the book, I said something like, the book was published IN SPITE of the efforts of the Spanish customs (in-joke).

About 6 months later, I had my day in a Spanish court, in abstentia, was found guilty as a "contrabandista" (whatever the fuck that means) and was banned from EVER buying property in Spain (frankly, I don't see the connection). The seized items were later auctioned off, but I don't think anyone bothered to buy them... the book had already been published.

Just before I started my first interview with Rich, he said to me: All the artists that I have read books about have all been dead... what are you going to say about me, knowing that I'll be reading it? I hadn't really thought about it in that way and had to assure him that not a word would be printed without his prior approval. Only then was he willing to talk!

He was very candid about all he said, but when he saw the manuscript he thought that he had been particularly harsh about some of his collaborators, publishers and critics.

So I kept my word and edited out whole chunks for the final book. This was a labor of blood, sweat and tears and, of course, I loved doing it!

Here's an addendum to the "contrabandista" episode:

I forgot to mention that while I was cuffed and waiting for Toutain to come and rescue me, I was held in a warehouse full of rotting, stinking mushrooms that had been seized weeks before. There was no more "magic" left in them, they just exuded noxious fumes.

All the stuff that related to the book was in a large shoulder-bag, transparencies, print separations, stats, layouts with the typesetting glued into place, the works!

Before I left Kansas City, Richard had handed me a small, tin, film-can: Could you please personally hand this to Josep when you see him next; it's too precious for me to mail. I, at the time, had gladly accepted.

But, but, but now the can was in the shoulder-bag, sticking out of the side-pocket, barely visible and the whole thing had been seized by the friendly Customs guys! Sitting there in the rotting mushroom warehouse, with my hands cuffed behind my back and Miguel (he looked like a Miguel anyways) standing guard at the door holding his nose, I could see Rich's face as he handed me the can... it's too precious for me to mail!! I was devastated!!!

Fortunately, Toutain had to come all the way across town to get to me and it took quite a while. Miguel must have had a bladder problem because he nipped out for a piss.

I sprang into action at the opportunity, jumped up from the bench, waddled up to where the bag was sitting, turned around and started feeling for the for the film-can. Found it!

I pulled it out, lifted my jacket and rammed it down the back of my trousers just as Miguel walked back in. He looked at me sheepishly standing next to the bag next to the door...

I yelped, "Pissare... I need to pissare!" It's a good thing Miguel's Spanglish was fluent, he herded me off to a smelly hole-in-the-ground loo, but it had a door (another good thing) and I was able to adjust the tin-can in my trousers so's to be able to sit down again.

The rest went without incident and when we were safely in Josep's car, I handed him the can and told him what had happened. He looked shocked and said: Thank God for that...

That's the only existing copy of Neverwhere!

I love happy endings, don't you?

Copyright © 2014 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!,
Created: August 8, 2014. Modified: November 22, 2015.