Monday, January 10, 2005

With the kind permission of author Richard Morgan I'm posting the text of a rather eloquent letter he wrote to my former manager and is copying to Waterstone's head office:

Dear sir,

I am writing with regard to the dismissal this week of one of your long-time employees, Joe Gordon. As an author who has had dealings with Joe through author events and signings at your branch, I was stunned to learn about the proceedings. I can honestly say that in my experience, Joe has always behaved with the utmost professionalism and enthusiasm, and a brief round of conversations with other authors has only reinforced this impression. He is a valuable member of staff of the sort that any bookstore should count itself fortunate to have.

I understand that this dismissal has been occasioned by comments on Joe's blog column, which I read on a regular basis and thus am familiar with. While I don't wish to interfere in company business, I have to say I think this bears comparison with taking disciplinary action based on private conversation overheard in a pub, and raises some disturbing issues of freedom of speech. Waterstones is, after all, a bookseller, whose stock in trade is the purveying of opinion, not all of it palatable to those concerned. You sell books which offer serious critique of the corporate environment and government, but do not expect to suffer punitive action from government or corporate quarters as a result. You sell books which criticise and satirise religious and political groups, but you do not expect to be firebombed by extremists as a result. Surely Joe has the right to let off steam in his free time without having to fear for his livelihood as a result. The action that has been taken so far bears more resemblance to the behaviour of an American fast food chain than a company who deal in intellectual freedoms and the concerns of a pluralist liberal society.

It seems to me that this whole matter has been an unfortunate over-reaction with no positive outcome for anyone concerned. Joe has lost a job he liked and did well, Waterstones the company in general and your branch in particular will attract rather negative publicity from the incident, and there will doubtless now be all the lengthy confrontational unpleasantness of an industrial tribunal. In short it leaves a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Surely there has to be a more productive way to deal with the issue. I worked for many years in management myself, and I understand well the stresses and complexities of situations like this. But given the value that Joe offers as a participative member of Waterstones staff, and given the issues of free speech raised, I would hope that some compromise more in keeping with a civilised society and an intellectually involved company could be reached.

Though I shall hardcopy this letter to you and Waterstones head office next week, I would appreciate your response to this e-mail as soon as you have the opportunity.

Many thanks.

Yours faithfully

Richard Morgan

Another author, Edinburgh-based Charlie Stross has also posted a very considered opinion on his live journal.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, you've got some damn good allies in this! ;)

M. 0111111110.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Lili said...

That is an excellent and very well written letter. The tone was non-confrontational, yet he got his point across rather clearly. Cannot wait to read how they respond, if they do at all.
I'm so happy to see the support you are getting in this...I'll continue to do what I can.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Gordon - what's happened to you is appalling, a clear infringement of your freedom of speech. I completely agree with the contents of this letter. I hope your tribunal is successful and that you quickly find a better job. I won't be shopping at Waterstones anytime soon.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe! You're in The Bookseller's Bookblog at! This is going way overground! Still rooting for ya! Andy Baxter (couldn't be bothered to register)

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...,39024671,39126940,00.htm

-- an interesting comment piece on, triggered by this chain of events, which has some advice for your ex-employers.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're also in El Reg

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if there is a offical place to register my annoyance at their behavior - but I am letting waterstones and Amazon know Im not buying any books from them again!
and Amazons

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Having found this type of post on a few blogs and news feeds it is a very sad affair.

I am lost really to think a good boss could not have a quite word and all this news and explosive type press would have been dealt with in a simple manner.

Thus as Richard says it will only leave sour taste for everyone.

So like the saying goes it has left a taste in my mouth.

I wish you all the best in the moments ahead of you.


9:08 PM  
Blogger Simon Chamberlain said...

I'm a big fan of Richard Morgan's writing, and my respect for him has gone up even further now. That's a great letter.

Joe, all the best, I hope things work out for you. (A few years back I went through something similar, luckily I *only* got an official warning).

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I saw in the Guardian (,14024,1388466,00.html) website about your unfair dismissal and I am here to give you 100% support. It is very sad what companies do, they use disciplinary meetings as an excuse to get you sacked, no matter what justification you give, it only takes one evil to do shit!!! I was sacked in an unfair disciplinary meeting started by a evil bastard boss. Now I have my own company.
I would like to wish you all the best in your case, drop me a line if you need any support, my email is
My birthday is the 31st of December too, sad enough you get xmas/b’day presents together, it should always be a day off, such a short day it is.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only briefly glanced at dismissal stuff via the Guardian website but my first reaction is that its an unfair dismissal (I'm an employment lawyer BTW).

Would need to know more details obviously, but that's my initial gut feeling.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote a letter telling them that he should be reinstated, I think its a travesty Ive been reading his blog for months. I have a business connection with Waterstones so I am also putting pressure on them.

Wholesale Books

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One should not persue someone to change their mind. It is what the culture they have bought up in is reflected at every aspect of their life. If one can be tolerrant enough, then why bother someone else's comment or waste time in trying to wipe what they have already said!!!
Admin at Wholesale Dept. Clthing Wholesale LTD

8:59 PM  

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