UALR’s River Market Press has published its first book, a memoir centered on the actions of a British Expeditionary Force member during World War I.
“Tommy Atkins at Home and Abroad” was authored by veteran Frederick French, who recorded his memories of serving as a British foot soldier in India and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) during World War I.
“Tommy Atkins” was the common nickname for a British private, similar to American WWI soldiers being called “doughboys.”
The book was first brought to the attention of River Market Press by Dr. Charles M. Anderson in 2009. Anderson received the manuscript from French’s granddaughter, Pat Mastropieri, a long-time Little Rock resident.
Its publication seems perfectly timed with the centennial commemoration of the start of World War I in 1914.
“For those who have been hooked by ‘Downton Abbey,’ reading the memoir of a World War I British private fits the proverbial bill,” said Dr. Cynthia Nahrwold, the book’s lead editor.
Adapting the soldier’s manuscript to typescript form took longer than anticipated, according to Nahrwold.
“We were working from scanned copies of yellowed, delicate sheets of paper on which the soldier had written his memories,” Nahrwold said. “The copy was difficult to read, and he seldom started new paragraphs or used periods.”
“He claims that he’s no writer, yet in editing his work, I came across someone who had a dry sense of humor, could paint pictures in words, who sketched maps and boats and people, and who balanced his humor with matter-of-fact accounts of horror and death,” Nahrwold said.
She tackled making corrections and setting up a style sheet, as well as a glossary for terms that would be unfamiliar to a 21st-century American reader. She said one advantage of editing the book was that she could share her real-world experience with her editing students.
“What eventually became Tommy Atkins turned out to be a labor of love for me — as well as a wonderful teaching tool,” she said.
River Market Press, which is under the auspices of UALR’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing, specializes in the publication of nonfiction works including autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, and essay collections.
The press is print on demand: new copies of a book are not printed until an order has been received.
Nahrwold said the press will continue to open the door to a variety of authors. Since the department’s teaching mission is key, students are able to help with the editing and production of each book.
“With an editing and publishing graduate concentration available, we hope to provide students with opportunities to work with us on editing manuscripts and typescripts,” Nahrwold said.
For more information about the River Market Press, contact Dr. George Jensen at 501.569.3160.