J R Hartley is a unique character with an interesting story. Much of the UK population will know the name; but not necessarily the 'fiction becomes fact' story behind him.

Yellow Pages

In 1983, British Telecom commisioned advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers to produce a series of TV advertisements for the Yellow Pages. They ran a series of adverts featuring an old man searching for a rare book - Fly Fishing by J R Hartley. We would see him in various second-hand bookshops being turned away. He would become more disheartened as time went on.

Later we see him at home, on the phone with the yellow pages on his knee. He seems to be having some success.

"Ah! You do.... good...
My name? .... Yes, it's J... R... Hartley."

The Fact

J R Hartley was played by Norman Lumsden, and following the advertisements, the British Library and bookshops were innundated with requests for the book. Eight years after the adverts were first shown a real version of the book was ghostwritten by Michael Russel and published by Random Century. Its full title is Fly Fishing: Memories of Angling Days. Lumsden was hired once again to pose as the author - but this time of a real book.

The book was a Christmas bestseller in 1991.


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