When I enter a bookshop or a thrift store, I head first to the art books section and then to the history section and to the antiquarian or “vintage section”. Then I will peruse the fiction section, somewhat quickly. For some reason, a couple of months ago, the following spine caught my attention – I don’t know why.
So, I pick the book up and look at the front of the dust jacket. A novel about mining? Is it about coal mining, somewhere? Never heard of this author.
The next step was to go to the title page. Hodder and Stoughton, London. A very good press. Then
to the verso – first edition 1983.
Then to the blurb, to find out what it was all about. Here is what I read:
“On Mahone Bay a few miles from Nova Scotia (not exactly correct, since Mahone Bay is very much a part of Nova Scotia) lies a cluster of islands with their own special and well protected secrets. Ever since the eighteenth century, when explorers discovered man-made vertical shafts over 300 years old on the oldest of the islands, Oak, man has believed that somewhere deep down on the islands Aztec treasure has been buried. The belief was strengthened when would be treasure hunters found that some of the shafts were mined so that people attempting to explore them would suddenly unleash upon themselves water traps – cleverly designed, presumably by the shaft’s original makers. The resulting toll in deaths and ruined expeditions has made even the most eager entrepreneur wary.
However, Alex Bowman, millionaire head of a large American mining corporation, decides to mount one more expedition, not on Oak but on a smaller island, Dirk, a few miles distant. (does not really exist – but this is a work of fiction). He hires Alan Collier, a brilliant mining engineer, to head the expedition, almost blackmailing him into a treasure hunt which Collier regards as foolhardy. As the days pass, Collier’s initial scepticism is replaced by amazement as not only a further man-made shaft is discovered but a complete system of vaults which suggest that long ago there was indeed an encampment on Dirk’s Island. But does that necessarily mean there was buried treasure too, or is the shaft merely a trick? And when a succession of major mishaps and even deaths overtake the expedition can it be put down to accident, or are there people on the island intent on making Bowman’s search for treasure fail?”
Interesting, I think. Everyone knows about Oak Island and the failure to find any treasure. And the deaths. And The Treasure Shaft.
So who wrote this book?
Here is the back page blurb – “About the Author: During the war Paul Chevalier was the longest serving editor of the forces newspaper BURMA STAR. Later a shipping journalist and sub-editor on several national newspapers, he was widely known in publishing and bookselling as one of the most successful publicists of the 60s and 70s.
Sadly, Paul Chevalier died shortly after completing The Shaft, (the curse of Oak Island?) and the final revisions were undertaken by one of his closest friends, fellow author Eric Clark. The result is a novel in the highest traditions of suspense-story writing, which will delight anyone who enjoyed Paul Chevalier’s previous novel, The Grudge”.
What next – I had to read the book. It was not bad. Good guys and gals and bad ones too. Lots of sabotage and deaths. Love interests. And yes – they did find treasure and it was….drum roll please – Aztec gold.
What about this book, then!
The Shaft; by Paul Chevalier; Hodder Stoughton, London, 1983.
I searched the internet and there are no copies of this book anywhere. And the copy I have is in fine condition in a fine dust jacket. Since the author died, I think that the publisher lost interest and the book was not marketed and very few copies were produced. I likely have one of the few copies in existence. What to do with it?
Usually the decision is – does the book go into the personal library or as inventory into the book business. And, if the latter, at what price? I would think at least $500 since it is so rare, and some collector of Oak Island material should want to have it.
But there is a third possibility. This book would sell like hotcakes to residents of Nova Scotia and to the thousands of tourists who come to Mahone Bay every year to visit the infamous Oak Island. Maybe I should have the book reprinted. This could be a nice source of income, as long as I can keep my finger in the pie. But I could not become a pirate publisher. Shivers, No!
I went onto the Hodder Stoughton website, and they have a 9-person licencing department. And I sent them an e-mail, 19 days ago, giving them the specifics of the book and why I thought that there would be great interest in the book. The e-mail included the following:
I would be interested in knowing how to go about republishing this book today. I see several alternatives:
- You could republish in the UK and ship to Nova Scotia,
- I don't know if you have a Canadian subsidiary, but that would be an option,
- If I was given the rights, I could arrange for the publishing of a reprint here in Nova Scotia,
- The rights could be transferred to a local publishing firm in Nova Scotia, or
- Something else!
I guess the 9 people in the department are very busy, since I have had no reply.
ARRGH…. Andy Cutten, Oak Island Pirate!