The better part of valour is discretion, the Bard wrote, and in Australia we are blessed with publishers both discreet and brave.
Black Inc, Morry Schwartz’s increasingly indispensable publishing house, has picked up the book People In Glass Houses by Tanya Levin. An insider’s account of life inside the megachurch Hillsong, this book was dropped by Allen and Unwin just before publication because of legal issues.
Allen and Unwin, of course, was the lucky publisher that won the right to publish Chris Masters’s Jonestown after the ABC did the pre-emptive buckle in the face of legal threats. Allen and Unwin are not known for being weak-kneed about defamation.
So, is Black Inc being crazy-brave, or is it just that when it comes to an unknown author, discretion wins the day for big business publishing? Black Inc’s Chris Feik says he has taken legal advice, and believes there are no reasons for concern.
Meanwhile, Patrick Gallagher from Allen and Unwin says he is delighted that the book will be published and wishes it well. He just doesn’t want to publish it. So, were there legal concerns? “We thought so,” he says. “One looks at every book on a case-by-case basis. Black Inc take a different view and that’s great.”
Black Inc’s publicity describes the book as “the first insider’s account of what it’s really like growing up inside the country’s most ambitious, entrepreneurial and influential religious corporation”.
I understand the sticking point for Allen and Unwin was a late-in-the-day realisation that while corporations can no longer sue for defamation, this does not apply to not-for-profits, such as Hillsong.
The will to publish was apparently not strong enough to push the book past this barrier. People In Glass Houses will be out in August. Time will tell whether the Bard was right.