An Open Letter: Rich Clarke’s Wargame Books for Schools

I know that many of you will have read Rich Clarke’s little piece in MWBG373 (which I’m repeating in MWBG374) about his “Wargame books for schools” initiative. In brief, Rich is donating a number of copies of my book The Wargaming Compendium to school libraries and has invited other interested parties to get in touch with him to extend the scheme further. Pen & Sword have kindly offered a substantial discount on the books, beating even Amazon’s ‘how on earth can they do that?’ bottom line. Not to put too fine a point on it, P&S are letting Rich have the books at virtually zero profit.

Anyway, nice idea, you might think, and I know several people have already expressed their support for the idea. But over on Meeples & Miniatures, where Neil Shuck has kindly made a supportive post, one individual decided to chime in immediately with what I can only describe as a personal attack on me and vents his spleen at Rich’s scheme. I have also seen that this individual has repeated his offensive comments on the TooFatLardies blog as well.

I almost never respond to attacks of this kind – it’s one of those odd things, the more prominence you have in any field, the more you realise you’re best to just keep your head down – but in this case, I find the posters comments so despicable that I have not only replied on the M&M site itself, but I’m going to repeat what I wrote here.

Note that the opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way representative of Miniature Wargames or Atlantic Publishing. I am confining this post to my personal blog – but don’t imagine that I therefore mean anything of what I say any less.

 

Dear Martin (surname unknown),

I really don’t know what I’ve done to deserve your tirade, but here are just a few pertinent facts.

1) If you didn’t like the podcasts, you always had the option of switching it off and going elsewhere.

2) The podcasts cost you nothing except time, but nothing compared to the time and effort that Neil puts into creating the podcasts. For free.

3) Do some homework. If you knew how little I make from the sales of my book, you might change your tone. I did it for the love of the hobby, not because I thought it would make me rich — and it never will. I spent FOUR YEARS writing and designing during one of the most difficult periods of my life and I’m proud of it. What have you achieved lately?

4) Again, you might not like or believe this, but nowadays authors have to do 99% of their own marketing. If I don’t take every opportunity I can to tell people about the book, then it would sink without trace. Publishing companies are stretched to breaking point these days, so their marketing is limited to a listing on their website and sending out a few flyers.

5) I’m incredibly flattered that Rich Clarke thinks highly enough of my book to want to get it into schools. At no point has he – nor indeed have I – ever claimed that mine is the only book in town. In fact, if you were to read my book, rather than just criticising with no evidence, you would see that it contains an extensive bibliography and reference section, as well as an introductory chapter, listing every important wargaming book, ruleset and magazine I could think of at the time of writing. Indeed, one of the criticisms I’ve heard is that the Compendium is _too much_ of an homage to the work of other people and the hobby greats *amongst whom I do NOT count myself*.

In short, I don’t believe I’ve ever met you, but it seems to me that you’ve taken umbrage at me for reasons I cannot fathom. Such is life. Perhaps you can’t stand the thought of any individual trying to make a decent living in the hobby, and tar me with the ‘commercialist’ brush? Well, I’m afraid it’s a fact of life and always has been. What would you have thought of Donald Featherstone, who made a small fortune out of writing more than 40 books, and who was never shy about telling the world about his latest project? Or Charles Grant, or Rick Priestley? (I shudder to think – fortunately, Rick is a mate and I happen to know he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.) Running a wargames magazine and writing about wargaming is how I pay the mortgage – why should I, or anyone else in the industry, be ashamed of that?

Wargaming is a business as well as a hobby. It always has been and always will be. But to imagine that someone who is involved in that business is not also capable of acting in a charitable manner, or for the good of the hobby as a whole, is simply baffling. Think of the man who plants a sapling. The tree will never reach its full height in his lifetime, and he will never benefit from the fruit and shade it will afford his children and grandchildren. but he plants it, just the same.

Rather than criticising other people, why not come up with an alternative, additional scheme of your own? Rather than spitting bile, why not support the good things other people are doing? This hobby is so diverse, and such a broad church that there’s room for everyone.

Sorry to talk about me again – I know how much you hate that – but here’s an example. I was really angry about the lack of care for returning veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It just so happens that my dad had also suffered PTSD from his wartime experiences, so it really hit home with me. But rather than simply foaming at the mouth and slagging off the government for not funding mental health care sufficiently, I discovered that a charity existed that was already in the business of helping veterans – Combat Stress.

So, I launched the Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal and several years on, we have passed the £15,000 raised mark, a tiny drop in the ocean of what the charity needs overall, but all the same, pretty damn impressive for an initiative. And I say “we” because although I took the initiative, it has needed the involvement and support of scores, no, hundreds of other people to make it a success, both by donating and by taking their own initiative to raise more funds.

So, back where we started, Rich Clarke feels there’s a danger of historical wargaming being under-represented in schools. He sees that unlike in ‘our’ day (I imagine we were both at school in the 60s and 70s) when there were lots of after-school clubs and school libraries that stocked wargaming books, wargaming has largely moved onto the internet and a random beginner might find it hard to know how to get started unless he or she happened to stumble upon a random blog or website or, perhaps at an outside chance, find themselves somewhere where there’s a show going on with participants friendly enough to explain things.

So, offering copies of my book to schools AT NO COST TO THEM as just one possible solution, he’s taken the initiative with an interesting idea. What’s not to like?

Oh, and for your information, given that Pen & Sword will be giving Rich the maximum possible discount to support the scheme, my earnings will be in the region of, let’s see, £1 per copy sold, and I’ve already got plans for using whatever comes from this as a charitable donation.

Clearly, however, that would not have occurred to you, since in your mind I’m some kind of evil, grasping, capitalist monster.

You know, 99.999% of the time, I never respond to attacks of the kind you have perpetrated. Frankly, I couldn’t give a toss whether you like me or not, but what you wrote is a libellous lie and I will not let that stand.

9 comments for “An Open Letter: Rich Clarke’s Wargame Books for Schools

  1. Jim
    June 6, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Well done, Richard, for this initiative. There are few books in fact that could do this worthy job, thank you Henry for having written it.

    And as for this Martin, what kind of fool seeks to argue there is money to be made in writing books let alone in giving them away. Get some air.

  2. May 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Henry,
    Well said, and a very well argued riposte. It is a very sad fact that there are those that do, in this world, and those that criticize, and I think the criticism in this case was very unfair, personal and totally unnecessary. Don’t apologies for feeling the need to respond and keep on doing.
    kind regards
    Jonathan

  3. May 22, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Well done Henry. I’ve got your book but am still ploughing through as there is so much to savour and not skimp. I’m in awe at the thoroughness of your approach and the quality of presentation and although i’m a veteran wargamer of even more years than you I was looking for a book to use to help newcomers to the hobby and you’ve done it. If not yet you will be one of the “greats” one day. Thanks for all you are doing for our fantastic hobby. best wishes,
    Chris
    http://notjustoldschool.blogspot.co.uk/

  4. May 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I would have loved to find such a book in my school library, and I generally think that school libraries are important places that should be supported. Great project, and well put Henry – don’t let people who seem to be full of envy distract you from the great work you are doing, be it the book, MW/BG or indeed View from the Veranda (a man can hope…)

  5. May 21, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Well put and well done. The fellow is obviously a bozo with nothing better to do than bitch and moan.

  6. Aníbal Invictus
    May 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Very well said!

  7. Allen Curtis
    May 20, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I didn’t have the benefit of a school wargames club, or books in the school library, when I was growing up. I was fortunate to have a bookstore in Portland, Maine, from which I could get the essential Featherstone and Grant books, and that started the long journey that’s lasted over forty years now. When I bought the “Compendium”, Henry, it wasn’t for me (honestly!); it was to pass on the legacy. I would have loved to have such a volume when I was a pre-teen; things might have turned out very differently. But now my son will have it, and hopefully will be inspired when I’m gone, just as I was by the “greats” in my time. And yes, I do believe I would count you in the pantheon, for all that you’ve done and continue to do: perhaps as the messenger Hermes? Rich’s proposal is completely laudable; the more copies out there available to kids of that age, the better!

  8. May 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Well said Henry. The guy’s obviously got an agenda, and a not particularly well thought out one either. Says loads that he won’t comment under his full name…

  9. Chris Brown
    May 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Good for you! I know it’s tedious to respond to idiots, but sometimes you just have to do it. More power to your elbow.

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