Paul Willetts is the author of Fear And Loathing In Fitzrovia (Dewi Lewis Publishing), a biography of the writer and Soho dandy, Julian Maclaren-Ross. On publication, the book was nominated as one of the 'Books Of The Year' in five national newspapers. In the wake of its success, Paul has edited three collections of Maclaren-Ross's work. These comprise the Selected Stories (Dewi Lewis Publishing), the Collected Memoirs (Black Spring Press), and Bitten By The Tarantula And Other Writing (Black Spring Press). A fourth collection, the Selected Letters (Black Spring Press), is due for release in January 2007. He was also instrumental in getting Maclaren-Ross's great 1947 novel, Of Love And Hunger (Penguin Classics) back into print.
The release of these books has triggered a major revival of interest in Maclaren-Ross, whose work has been acclaimed by leading critics such as DJ Taylor and Philip Hensher. More information about Fear And Loathing In Fitzrovia and Maclaren-Ross can be found by visiting the Official Julian Maclaren-Ross Website at www.julianmaclaren-ross.co.uk.
'My interest in his work dates back to the early 1980s,' says Paul. 'Quite by chance (just the type of happy accident it's tempting to attribute to the machinations of Fate), I came across one of his stories while I was leafing through a battered edition of The Saturday Book, a long since defunct miscellany of fiction, journalism, and photos. I found it in the back room of a decrepit secondhand bookshop, run by a wheezing ex-teddy boy, the smell of whose chain-smoked cigarettes had impregnated the stock.
'When I first got the book home, I read Maclaren-Ross's story, set in the Soho world he immortalised. And when I reached the end, I read it again. I'd never read anything like it. At least nothing from that era. I felt as if I'd been buttonholed in a wartime pub by a deft raconteur, itching to tell me about his inexplicably failed romance with a captivating but capricious girl, his obvious distress camouflaged by a stoical manner.
'I suppose I was also attracted by its setting, an interest in Soho having been planted by my mother who, when I was a child, had regaled me with tales of her own bohemian high-jinks there...'
Paul's journalism has appeared in many publications, among them The Times, The Independent and The Independent On Sunday. He is currently completing a second non-fiction book. Entitled North Soho 9-9-9, it tells the story of teenage gangsterism and gun-crime in bomb-scarred 1947 London.