Troubador Withdraw Matador’s ‘Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons’ Book

June 7th should have marked the official release of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons, written by Carl Toms, and published by Matador (256.20), a self-publishing imprint of Troubador Publishing UK. However, on May 27th, Troubador Publishing announced the following:

“Troubador has ceased distribution of a self-published book written about Michael Jackson. Following new information that came to light on 18th May, the book’s distribution was immediately halted. The company has taken legal advice on its position, and may take further action.

There had been an ongoing, concerted campaign by some Michael Jackson “fans” against the book’s release, but the company stresses that this ‘campaign’ is not the reason why distribution was halted.”

There are a myriad of Michael Jackson books on the market, and no doubt, Dangerous Liaisons would have jostled for marketing position with several more books published on the musical idol later this month on the anniversary of his death last year. Whatever about the growing discussion on the publication of this book online ( 1, 2 , 3 , 4 ) since it first appeared on the Troubador website back in March, it was always going to be a controversial book.

From one of its forward recommendations by Richard Green, Emeritus, Professor of Psychiatry, University of California:

“Read here the unthinkable. Carefully documenting the many relationships of a celebrated entertainer, the writer promotes an alternative view of boy-man sexuality. It can be, he contends, mutually positive. It can be more than sexual – caring, bonding, loving.

This very readable book is packed with extensive research on Michael Jackson’s ‘dangerous liaisons’. It portrays his sex partner preference, without doubt, as males – those recently or nearly pubertal. And, the author argues, such pairing need not be condemned.”

The contents of this book and its advocates have been extensively analysed by those with professional credentials and those who are simply ordinary folk and fans of Michael Jackson. I am not going to attempt to critique a book I have not read, though, a final section of qualifications and references are available as part of the Amazon read inside preview (still available). In fact, the book is still listed on the Matador non-fiction catalogue listing here.
I remember Carl Toms, the author of Dangerous Liaisons from his appearance on one of my favourite programmes of the 1980’s, Channel 4’s, After Dark, an intense and often controversial TV round-table discussion on topics of the day which would run for several hours and into the early hours of a Sunday morning from late Saturday night. Back then, Toms appeared on the programme by his real name, Thomas O’Carroll, an Anglo Irish-Englishman who had a few years before come to prominence after writing ‘Paedophilia: The Radical Case’, published by respected independent publisher, Peter Owen Ltd, in 1980. I remember how BBC TV presenter, later activist for consumers and children’s rights, Esther Rantzen, became, at first, bemused, then outraged, and finally incensed by O’Carroll’s views on so-called ‘boy-man sexuality’.
So, yes, Thomas O’Carroll had a publishing record by a reputed publisher, despite his controversial views, and an academic career to go with it. Again, I would suggest to readers of this article to pursue the links and sub-links above. I have no intension of turning this into a debate on paedophilia, sexuality, or pop celebrity status in the modern world. I am no more skilled or knowledgeable on these subjects than most ordinary folk reading them. However, I do know a little bit about the publishing industry, self-publishing, and more to the point, common sense.
How Troubador Publishing allowed a person convicted of paedophilia in 2006 to use, and abuse, their self-publishing imprint, Matador, is frankly, beyond me. I consider Matador an exemplary self-publishing service for authors, but this has nothing to do with free voice, opinion or argument, no matter how extreme—this was a serious error of judgement and lack of a rudimentary check on the basic background and credentials of an author. I would be more disturbed if they were aware of all the facts and felt they were making some declaration going ahead and publishing this book. Somehow, I don’t think in light of all the facts, Peter Owen Ltd, in today’s world would not have gone with this book had it have been submitted to them.
Much as Michael Jackson fans might wish to make hay on a victory of protecting a celebrity they respect, revere and love—for me—this was about highlighting how those unscrupulous about their beliefs can use self-publishing services to propagate ideas, beliefs and practices, they have been criminally convicted of. Troubador maintain in their brief statement that other matters had to do with the halt of distribution. I would feel better if they had said; Matador are not publishing this book – rather than ‘we are withdrawing distribution’ as if it were just a product, ready to be repackaged. But then, that may very well be the only deal Matador had in place with Thomas O’Carroll and his book (Matador offer bespoke services as required).
O’Carroll was convicted to a two and a half year sentence in 2006—I suspect few publishers outside of Troubador saw the manuscript he was working on since 2002, and if they did, they passed on it pretty quickly. On at least two occasions at the end of the final proof presented to the publishing trade of Dangerous Liaisons, Toms admits he is using a pseudonym, and his real name cited in published and academic works is ‘O’Carroll’.
In respect to Troubador Publishing, for their as yet undisclosed reasons, they withdrew the book ten days before yesterday’s publication date. They should be commended for making the right choice and not indulging in what many mainstream publishers are happy to indulge in—pushing a book out for profit in place of quality, decency and common sense. They ultimately score highly there, but, as with many self-publishing services, the true integrity of a publisher (mainstream or solutions service) lies with the screening and appraisal of a manuscript. If a publisher wants to be proud of its brand—whether paid for or not—it must be fully aware, involved and a part of that brand in every aspect of its background and author and what that means. If your name is on it—it’s yours—whether by right or by association, print, production or publication.

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