John was an avid reader, curious, always asking questions. Tere was nothing he wasn’t interested in

Dotti Irving

Obituary John Hitchin

Then in 1990, Penguin seemingly wanted to sell the retail side. John put together a management buyout of the bookshops and became c.e.o. of the renamed Phoenix Bookshops. He liked selling books as much as publishing. When he leſt school, he had first trained to be a retailer and worked at Harrods. John loved books and the industry, and he wanted to give something back and bring benefits to others. So in 1992 he became president of the Booksellers Association (BA) for two years, and president of the European Booksellers Federation between 1993 and 1999—during which time he was able to put to good advantage his abilit to speak German and French.

In these last two presidential positions, I got to know

John extremely well. He was always buzzing with new ideas. This was a period when technology was being introduced within bookshops, and John embraced whole- heartedly EPOS and developed EDI relationships with the main suppliers. For the BA, it was extremely beneficial to have a president and council member who could see issues not only as a bookseller but also as a publisher. He leaves behind Ute, to whom he was married for 59 years, a son, Martin, a daughter Megan, and three grandchildren.

John Hitchin Born 26th May 1933

Died 8th August 2021

Former publisher and bookseller John Hitchin died in August, aged 88. He is remembered by Tim Godfray and Dotti Irving

Tim Godfray, former c.e.o. of the Booksellers Association, writes: John Hitchin passed away peacefully in his sleep at home in Hereford on Sunday 8th August, aged 88. He was in his garden the previous aſternoon when, no doubt, he was contemplating his many interests: family (whom he doted upon), local history, the importance of public libraries and bookshops, vegetable garden pests (!), and the books he was currently reading. There were four of them by his bed the night he died: The Odes of Horace; The Palliser Novels by Trollope; People, Power & Profits by Joseph Stiglitz; and Keats’ Selected Poems. Typical John. John joined Penguin Publishing in 1959. He worked at

Penguin for 31 years. He was Penguin’s first European rep, working his way up to become marketing director in 1976. He was by temperament an innovator who loved breaking new ground: he introduced the Penguin paperback book set and also the display dumpbin. Then in 1980 he became retail director, taking over responsibilit for Penguin’s new retail bookshops. It was a challenging time. Penguin had published Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, a fatwa had been placed on the author and the Penguin bookshops were being firebombed. At one time, John was under 24-hour police protection as the shops continued to sell the book; he demonstrated personal courage and quiet resilience throughout.

Dotti Irving, chief executive, culture, at Four Communications, writes: John Hitchin, “Hitch”, was the marketing director of Penguin when I first got a job there as a lowly assistant in the then-Schools Unit at Harmondsworth. Although he was The Big Boss, he was a modest man and seemed genuinely to value the opinions of the entire team. Having leſt school at 16, he was rightly proud of the fact that his education was founded on his having read the entire Pelican list. He was an avid reader, curious, always asking questions. There was nothing he wasn’t interested in and he came up with totally off-the-wall ideas, many of which were spot on, others less so. Hitch was a wonderful ambassador for books and read- ing. As John Mason, my immediate boss at Penguin at the time, remembers: “John inspired us to think of our job at Penguin as a mission to bring books to a wider audience, as a force for good in societ. John was a great champion of the bookshops-in-schools concept, which opened up the world of reading to children by giving them direct access to books—children who otherwise might not have had much opportunit to own their own books.” A perennial optimist, John always looked on the bright side of life. That could be quite uncomfortable at times. When I was head of PR, working with our big-name writers (Peter Ustinov, Lesley Thomas, Shirley Conran, Richard Adams), Hitch would arrange for us to have a “get-to-know-you” lunch to discuss our plans well before publication. No mater how many times I begged him not to, he would invariably finish off by saying: “Well, it’s been a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to seeing you again once Doti has got you to the top of the bestseller lists!” John was a real inspiration, not just to me but to many other people he came into contact with. Crucially, he taught me to have the crazy ideas and try them out—the many that work out are well worth the few that don’t.


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60