An Interview with Vernon Coleman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question

You have been publishing books for over 30 years, initially books on medicine. Why and how did you get into publishing and did you initially expect to have sold over two million books?

 

Answer

I started writing books in the mid 1970s but I didn’t start publishing them myself until the late 1980s. I’d written a book which purported to be a diary of a cat – called Alice’s Diary. My literary agent at the time tried all my usual publishers in London. None of them would consider it. ‘Who would buy a book by a cat?’ said some disdainfully. ‘Vernon doesn’t write cat books,’ sniffed others. So I published it myself. Every year since then the book has sold enough copies to have been constantly on and off the hardback bestseller lists for fiction. (It hasn’t, of course, actually been on the bestseller lists. The publishing industry doesn’t work like that.) After that I published a few more books. And then I started buying back the rights to books which had been published by other publishers. So, for example, I bought back the rights to a book of mine called Bodypower which had gone straight into the Sunday Times Top Ten when it first came out in the early 1980s – published by a smart London publisher. But modern publishers don’t bother much with back list titles and so ten years later it wasn’t doing much. The paperback publisher was selling hardly any copies. I bought up their stock (which had a dull looking cover) and gave them away so that I could get the rights back. Bodypower has been selling in thousands ever since. Now I publish my books in the UK and sell the rights to foreign publishers, to audio publishers and so on. Since Royal Mail put up its prices in order to prevent people posting parcels I have published my books as ebooks.

 

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Question

Were your early books successful?

 

Answer 

The first book I ever wrote was The Medicine Men – an exposé of the drug industry. It made me very unpopular with the medical profession but sold quite well. I remember the paperback being piled up at railway stations. A series of novels I did for Macmillan under a pen name sold well and Pan did them in paperback. Three of my books got into the Sunday Times bestselling top ten. And quite a lot of foreign rights were sold. The first books I self-published were Alice’s Diary and The Village Cricket Tour – both fiction. Both are still in print. The Village Cricket Tour has sold over 30,000 in hardback which isn’t bad for a novel about cricket. One of my early self-published novels, a book called Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War, was made into a movie which won awards and is still very popular with folk over 60.

 

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Question

There seems to be a continuous thread running through your books – cynicism towards the current established view on any subject you tackle – do you think this is a fair comment and did it originate with your views on medicine?

 

Answer

Yes, it’s a fair comment. When I first started researching my early medical books I was shocked to discover just how much the establishment lies. My second discovery was that telling the truth isn’t very popular. Over the years I’ve predicted just about every major development in medicine – and frequently warned about unreported hazards. Naturally, this hasn’t made me popular with drug companies, doctors or politicians. I’ve been banned by just about every media outlet and these days it’s extremely rare for any of my books to be reviewed anywhere – or for me to be interviewed. Journalists who claim to be open-minded tend to shy away from anyone who asks embarrassing questions or reveals embarrassing truths. The news most people watch on TV or read in their newspaper is Bowdlerised and sanitised; it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the truth.

 

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Question

In 2002 you published England Our England. This was a fairly dramatic change in subject matter. Was there one reason for this or was it a steady build-up of dissatisfaction with the direction in which the country was heading?

 

Answer

I first got interested in the EU because of my researches into the world of medicine. I gradually realised that every trail I started to follow ended up in Brussels. And so campaigning against medical abuses had to involve the European Union. That led me to writing England Our England. I discovered that the EU planned to get rid of England completely. Hence the book. Most people have absolutely no idea what is going on. Since then my interest in the wider aspects of geopolitics has exploded. I’ve written a number of books about politics.

 

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Question 5

Do you still enjoy writing and which of your books gave you most pleasure to write?

 

Answer

Yes, I do still enjoy writing. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t possibly pick out one book as being ‘special’. It is often said that writers regard their books as children and in my case it’s true. If you put something of yourself into a book then it’s bound to be special. If you don’t put something of yourself into a book then it will be insipid and bloodless rubbish.

 

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Question

You are a couple of years older than the NHS. Who is in better shape, you or the NHS?

 

Answer

The NHS is moribund. It is, to use that hideous, modern phrase which administrators use to restrict making financial payments to patients who are only terminally ill, ‘terminally, terminal’. The NHS is being killed by stupidity, incompetence and a complete and utter failure to understand the basic principles of healthcare. It’s easy to blame drug companies, politicians and administrators (and I have frequently done so) but doctors are the main culprits. The NHS has been kept alive, though in an irreversible coma, for many years. The sooner it is put out of its misery the better for us all.

 

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Question

You hold some controversial views on amongst other things, doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, administrators, vaccinations, screening and radiotherapy. Do you have much support for your views in the medical establishment? Do you find many people agree but are afraid to speak out?

 

Answer

You may be surprised but the majority of doctors agree with me. My views are based on the available evidence – and common sense. Most doctors are nervous about supporting me in public. (Probably because they will lose their jobs if they do). But most agree with almost everything I write. I can substantiate every claim I’ve ever made. And no one from the establishment who disagrees with me will dare debate with me in public.

 

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Question 7

You express highly controversial anti-establishment views which are unpalatable to some yet self-evident to others. Why do you think you aren’t held in high esteem?

 

Answer

Several reasons. First, I’ve made far too many powerful enemies – many of whom are very good at manipulating the media. Second, I’ve been too outspoken and honest. Third, the media in Britain is controlled by the establishment and very reluctant to publish material which asks significant questions. Fourth, I’m utterly useless at networking or promoting myself. The result of all this is that my books are pretty much ignored by the establishment in the UK but they are keenly welcomed abroad and published in 25 languages. For example, How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You was a hit in China and I’ve just signed a contract for a Spanish edition of Coleman’s Laws to be published for Spanish speaking Americans. None of that is ‘whingeing’ by the way. I can and do whinge but that isn’t it.

 

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Question

How do you avoid litigation?

 

Answer

By sticking to the truth.

 

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Question

Do you think that if you expressed your views in a less sensationalist manner – I am thinking now of the ‘are you eating cancer’ advertisement – you would be taken more seriously?

 

Answer

No. My first book (The Medicine Men) was taken very seriously by the establishment. It got a full page in The Guardian and reviews in most of the other papers – plus 20 minutes on BBC1. My second book (Paper Doctors) also had a great critical response. (Though neither book sold many copies). But it became clear that I was exposing too many truths. My next serious books (The Health Scandal and Betrayal of Trust) were totally ignored. It was only then – after my books were effectively gagged – that I became a little more adventurous in the way that I promoted my books. The ‘Are you eating cancer?’ advert is based on a simple truth. The meat on your plate could well contain a lump of cancer if the animal from which the meat was taken was ill. The question may be unpalatable but it’s worth asking. Another advertisement drawing attention to the fact that meat causes cancer (I have a mass of scientific evidence to prove this, of course) was banned by just about everyone – including Private Eye. The bottom line is that if I expressed my views in a more academic way I’d still be gagged – and I wouldn’t sell any books either.

 

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Question

Do you consider yourself to be a campaigner?

 

Answer

I’m just a writer. I see myself primarily as a purveyor of truth – though a lot of my non-fiction books have a campaigning tone.

 

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Question

Why did you at some point discontinue treating patients and concentrate on writing?

 

Answer

In the early 1980s I had a great deal of trouble with the British Government’s National Health Service. I refused to divulge my patients’ diagnoses to bureaucrats – arguing that this information was confidential. I was disciplined and fined and warned that I would continue to be fined if I continued to put confidentiality above the requirements of the bureaucrats. I resigned from the health service and hung up my stethoscope. I felt that I could do more to ‘change the world’ by writing than by struggling to practise in such an unsympathetic environment.

 

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Question

What is your opinion on the basic measures that a man must take in order to improve and maintain a good health?

 

Answer

I have gradually come to believe that diet is one of the most significant factors in the development of disease. But this again is a battle. Advertisements for my book Food for Thought were banned in the UK because I dared to tell people about the links between food and cancer. Dealing with stress is another vital factor – particularly since stress has such a powerful influence on the immune system. I was writing about stress in the mid 1970s – and was widely condemned by the medical establishment for daring to suggest that diseases such as high blood pressure might be related to stress.