London, Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Publisher drops Irving trial
Top historian's work,
rejected amid libel fears, finds new home
UK publisher Heinemann has pulled out at the last minute
from publishing a leading British historian's study of
the Holocaust denial libel case, it was disclosed
yesterday. The book, Telling
Lies About Hitler: The Holocaust, History and the Irving
Libel Trial, was put on sale by another
publisher in the US two weeks ago. The British edition --
due out last week -- continues to be advertised on the
website of Random House, Heinemann's parent company, as
"a major contribution to our understanding of the
But it was never sent to a printer and is still in
typescript. Heinemann has told the author, Richard
Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge
University, that it has abandoned the project.
The decision apparently sprang from fears
that publication might provoke further libel action
from David Irving, despite his humiliating
defeat last July in a libel action which cost the
publisher contesting it, Penguin Books, more than
£2m in legal costs, which are still unpaid.
Heinemann's climbdown enabled Irving to rejoice on his
website yesterday: "Book has been pulped by British
publisher William Heinemann Ltd because it libels Mr
But the book is now likely to be taken over by another
British publisher, Granta, which said last night after
reading the typescript that it was "very enthusiastic and
keen to publish".
Gail Lynch, Granta's associate publisher, said:
"We do not see any terrible legal nightmares ahead".
Professor Evans, who has published 16 previous books,
most of them on German history, was academic team leader
for Penguin's defence in the 32-day high court case which
resulted from Irving's libel action against the American
author and scholar Deborah Lipstadt. He took two
years preparing for the court a 740-page report on the
historiography of the Holocaust.
At the end of the action, Mr Justice Charles
Gray ruled that a book by Professor Lipstadt was
justified in branding Mr Irving a Holocaust denier.
The judge found that Mr Irving was
"an active Holocaust denier; that he is
anti-semitic and racist; and that he associates with
rightwing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.
"The content of his speeches and interviews often
displays a distinctly pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish bias.
He makes surprising and often unfounded assertions
about the Nazi regime which tend to exonerate the
Nazis for the appalling atrocities which they
inflicted on the Jews.
"In my view, the defendants have established that
Irving has a political agenda. It is one which, it is
legitimate to infer, disposes him, where he deems it
necessary, to manipulate the historical record in
order to make it conform with his political
The ruling left Irving facing a total of £2.5m in
after the ruling, Heinemann commissioned Prof Evans's
book. The deal was negotiated by Ravi Merchandani,
the company's publishing director, previously a leading
editor at Penguin. Random House's website advertisement
for the book stresses the authority of Prof Evans's
report for the court case.
It says his book "unpacks the issues raised by the
trial, from the career of Mr Irving and the exposure of
his methods, to the wider question of the preservation of
the cultural memory of the Holocaust -- and the social
and cultural functions of the historian in society".
A review on the US website Amazon.com of the American
version, published by Basic Books, calls the work "a
cogent and deeply informed study in the nature of
Professor Evans and his literary agent, Peter
Robinson, said in a joint statement: "Random House UK
has taken the position that the work is not safe to
publish at present. We disagree with that. But, since it
was clearly not possible to proceed further with Random
House, we have sought -- and found -- another publisher,
Granta. They want to take the book on".
It is understood that Heinemann's legal advisers
concluded that, though the book might present some legal
problems, it was feasible to publish. Senior Heinemann
staff were attending a conference yesterday. None
returned phone calls from the Guardian inviting
team and I have other reasons for hoping that
Evans continues his present mendacious rampage.
As Granta knows, I gave Don Guttenplan,
an objective author, carte blanche to write what
he thought and felt, and I assured him I would
not take action in defamation against his book,
whatever it contained. I trusted him. Evans has
earned none of this trust, and if Granta
publishes his Lying book unchanged,
despite its having been rejected as libellous by
another British publisher, they will get what is
coming to them. He will not be able to plead
fair comment, for obvious reasons. Granta is
incidentally Mr Guttenplan's own publisher: we
wonder what he is saying about their taking on a
rival product to his own!