Dude, where’s my royalties?

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Thank you for your patience. After years of silence I’m dramatically returning with an entire paragraph of new material. I’ve contributed an anecdote to a biography of the ace illustrator Arthur Barbosa, who I came to know in his twilight years across the bar of the family boozer. Arthur’s best known works were his jackets for George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books, but they made up only a fraction of his output, a lot of which is reproduced here. It’s a superb volume and extremely specialist, hence the £80 price tag – which for a paragraph about as long as the one you’re reading now may be a bit much for even my most devoted readers. It would, though, make a triumphant Christmas present for the Flashman nut in your life (trust me, there’s a Flashman nut in your life), or for anybody who is obsessed with the history of dust jackets. Yourself, for example. ‘Barbosa: The Man Who Drew Flashman’ is by Lawrence Blackmore, and is available from the usual places.

In other news, I’ve been busy severing ties with Canongate Books. For some years I’d found them to be evasive when faced with basic business queries, and when it came to certain financial and contractual issues it reached a point where I just couldn’t get answers out of them. I thought this was as fishy as Milky Pimms, so decided to conduct my own amateur audit (in the absence of any knowledge of financial procedures, this involved going in like Chris-R) and – boom goes the dynamite – discovered they had chronically underpaid me. Twice.

I did not take this well.

Everything goes to the dogs when the sums don’t add up. It’s a long and rotten story, and nobody enjoys hearing other people moaning about work (I’m finding it hard not to come across like Les McQueen), so I’ll keep most of it off the front page. I have, though, written an epic account of what has gone on so far. It’s a wretched read, and the last thing the Internet needs is another incandescent middle-aged man sounding off at length about things he doesn’t quite understand, but if you’re a sucker for that kind of thing, knock yourself out. ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog & the Missing Royalties’ lives here.

Having to pull almost my entire life’s work out of print because of a publisher’s malpractice has been something of une saison en enfer. Anthropology? Gone! Gold? Kaput! This is Life? Splat! It goes on… Creatively, it has ground me to dust. With two non-showbiz day jobs, totalling around 70 hours of work in a normal week, time is hard to come by; the precious moments I could have spent loitering in green lanes have been obliterated by having to deal with this bollocks. It’s hard to muster the delicate balance of joie de vivre and hubris required to write a novel when your slumber is broken, your doublet is torn and a gaggle of exasperating Sloane Rangers are up in your grill.

There’s no need to panic though, because there are other books out there. There’s a new one – ‘Writer in Residence’ – from the wonderful Francis Plug/Paul Ewen, and if you’ve not yet read ‘Harriet Said’ by Beryl Bainbridge… well, there’s that too. And although it’s not a book, I expect you’re already among the dozens of people glued to the superb two-blokes-and-a-camcorder travelogues of Cummings Your Way. If not, give them a try. They are my favourite thing of recent years: I rate them, and I don’t say this lightly, alongside B.S. Johnson’s ‘Fat Man on a Beach’. Like most of my favourite things, I feel they deserve a wider audience. We’ve been following in their footsteps a lot, and our lives are richer because of it. We’re just back from our first trip to Lincoln, on their recommendation. Ever been? It’s marvellous. And I personally guarantee that this will make you want to go to Beverley. We’ll see you there. I’d had no idea that what my life needed was a man from Stourbridge with a dicky hip looking, through mirrored aviators, at slightly unusual brickwork, and saying into an infuriatingly erratic microphone that everything reminds him of either Belgium or Charlton Heston. Funny how things turn out.

Apart from the soul-crushing Canongate Books shitshow, all is well. We’ve spent some of the recovered money on having a spare toilet installed – those of you who share living space with other humans will understand that this is a great leap forward. I’ve also discovered, to Wife-features’ dismay, the infinite wonder of the first Hanoi Rocks LP, and have started, again to Wife-features’ dismay, fermenting my own sauerkraut. There’s no need for you to arrange a benefit concert or a sponsored walk. Were it not for my every moment being blighted by the unfolding horror of this excruciating debacle, everything would be fine.

As this hellride kicked off I was getting ready to launch into writing a highly annotated 20th anniversary edition of ‘Anthropology’, and was also working up an entirely uncalled-for follow-up to ‘When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow’, in which a slightly different mid-profile windbag stays with a vicar. I’ve abandoned both. I am all at sea, and have no idea what to do with my back catalogue. Above all things I’m raising a family, and the bad vibes this has brought across our threshold are more than I’m willing or able to put up with. I’ve been stuck dealing with people like this for twenty years – they seem to be lurking around every corner, and I’ve had enough of them. Writing’s the only thing I’ve ever been any good at, and I love my books to distraction. I’m very sad at the prospect of them fading away, but if staying in the book trade means I’ll be inviting this kind of poison into our home then it’s just not worth it.

[‘When the Prof’ is my only book remaining in print in my own land. It’s published by Aardvark Bureau/Gallic Books, who have provided me with plausible royalty statements.]

There’s a chapter about my writing in Michael Holroyd’s new book, ‘Facts and Fiction’. In it, he says, ‘Dan Rhodes has never believed that publishers are a writer’s best friend. That has not been his experience.’

And he wrote that before all this hit the fan.

It’s a shit business.

DR

 

 

 

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Winter is here…

…and to mark the season our friends at Aardvark Bureau/Gallic Books have given the Prof a revamp. Here’s a picture from the impromptu launch party. It was very sporting of Richard Dawkins to turn up and join in the festivities – look at him getting into the spirit of things:

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Maybe there will be a new edition every winter.

Hearteningly, my golden oldie Anthropology is still out there doing its thing. A brand new Romanian translation is due out any day now. There are rumours that it will be the first illustrated edition – hopefully this will start a trend.

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Writingwise I’m working on a couple of things that I’m not allowed to talk about. Perhaps one day this will be as glamorous as it sounds.

And so things tick on.

Happy reading.

Farewell Gig & Czech Book

For a long time it’s seemed as though I’ve been constantly on the road – recently I’ve been performing as many as two gigs in a single year. This punishing schedule has taken its toll, and I’ve decided to take an indefinite hiatus from the book reading circuit. There’s one last chance to catch my Live Spectacular though – in Liverpool on Tuesday 31st May, with full accompanying cast. Details below. See you all there – no excuses.

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I may drift back into circulation when the kids are much older, or if I ever have another book out. Both of those are dim and distant prospects, so that’ll be it for at least a few years. I’ve had some tremendous times touring, and I’m really grateful to everyone who’s helped organise the events, or turned up to listen. It’s taken me to places I would never otherwise have been (Turku! Hvar! Bellingham, WA! Inverness!); I’ve toured alongside some truly excellent people (A week with Jim Dodge! Two weeks in the opera houses of Flanders with Tama Janowitz, Jeffrey Eugenides and Tom Barman! A Trans-American haul with DBC Pierre!); and been a tiny part of some superb festivals (Edinburgh! Crossing Border! Laugharne Weekend! ATP!). I even met my wife at a gig at the Haight Ashbury branch of Booksmith. But as with just about everything (particularly exclamation marks), the secret’s knowing when to stop.

In other news, the Czech translation of When The Professor Got Stuck In The Snow is out. This  edition is very close to my heart, because for a long time Alexander Tomsky at LEDA was the only publisher in the world who was plucky enough to publish it; until the equally plucky Aardvark Bureau came along, it seemed for several months as though it would only be available in Czech.

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That’s all for now.

Happy reading,

DR

 

International Tour & Tiny Story

So The Prof has been out for a while now, and has been ticking over nicely. We’ve had some friendly reviews, like this one in The Spectator [“Set to become a comic classic… I laughed myself sick”] and a “hilarious” from The Observer, complete with a photo from an extraordinarily long time ago. Continuing kudos is due to Aardvark Bureau/Gallic Books for being brave enough to publish. They are a small operation though, and in lieu of a saturation bus campaign we’ve been heavily reliant on bookseller support and word of mouth to get the book out there, so big thanks to everyone who’s been banging the drum for us.

In other news, I’m heading out on my biggest tour in a long time. I’ll be hitting the road with an exhausting two dates – in Prestatyn and Liverpool. Details on the Tour Dates page.

Also, I’ve got a very short story in the anthology ‘Being Dad’. Called ‘Allowance’, it was going to be in Marry Me, but ended up being booted out when the record company deemed it too creepy. I had a feeling it would find a home one day, and here it is. The book contains longer contributions from some very good writers (Toby Litt, Nikesh Shukla, etc etc) and is available via the usual channels. Bearing in mind the book is about fatherhood, it seems only appropriate that my personal copy has been vandalised by a toddler:

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That’s enough self-promotion – it’s time for a cultural tip-off. I’ve recently been hugely enjoying the Youtube series “Cummings Your Way”. Homemade documentaries about largely overlooked pockets of England, they are monumentally entertaining. There are hours and hours of them, and nowhere near enough people are watching. Together we can change that. Here’s Cummings when he came to my town. Give him a try:

Happy reading.

High drama – new editions and tiny tour

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Here it is. At last, after a long and wretched struggle, I’ve found a publisher bold enough to take on The Prof, and it’s back from the printers. Kudos to Aardvark Bureau for not being frightened of Richard Dawkins [see previous posts] and for matchmaking the book with the artist Pete Fowler, who has done us proud with the jacket.

The official publication date is 1st October, but we’ve heard reports of copies trickling in to the shops early. Please buy as many as you can carry, and hand them out to friends and strangers.

We’re big fans of this trade preview from Netgalley, who made it one of their picks of the month:

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There’s also a tour date to report – the first Live Spectacular in over two years. It’s in London, at Blackwell’s High Holborn on Thursday 1st October at 6.30, and it’s free to get in. Full details here. It’s likely to be the only gig of the year – though more may follow in due course, depending on this and that.

In other news there’s been a fun looking edition of Marry Me come in from the Czech Republic:

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Happy reading.

The Professor Who Came in from the Cold

MASSIVE ANNOUNCEMENT ALERT

After a year in the wilderness [see the last couple of posts] my latest novel, When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow, has found a home: Aardvark Bureau will be publishing a paperback edition this coming October. Here’s the story in trade magazine The Bookseller. It is now our sacred duty to ensure it sells a million, so all the publishers who were too chicken to take it on spend the rest of their lives clawing the air with regret. Wish us luck with that.

The next stage will be having it professionally copy edited for the first time, so I’ll get to have all my embarrassing mistakes pointed out to me; but at least we’ll finally get an answer to the nagging question: is it bell end, bell-end or bellend?

I’ve been really touched by all the support I’ve had throughout the Year of Struggle. Morale had taken something of a thumping, so I’m truly grateful to everyone who got in touch with kind words or offers of help of one sort or another.

And now for the Paragraph of Desperation. If you’ve already read the book and enjoyed it we would of course hugely appreciate it if you were to give us a review on the online forum of your choice. And if you’ve read it and not enjoyed it… you’ve probably done that already. End of Neediness Corner.

And no, we never did hear back from Richard Dawkins.

Needless to say I’ll be interminably rattling on about it closer to the time, but for now… phew.

Excelsior!

And, as ever, happy reading.

The Trouble With Richard

Most days I’m asked why my latest novel, When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow, isn’t available. The sorry situation was neatly summarised by Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday 17th January:

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It’s safe to say that news of the book and its attendant difficulties will have reached the real Professor’s court. He is, of course, under no obligation to endorse a work that makes fun of him [which the book does quite relentlessly, let’s be honest], yet not to do so would seem a little inconsistent with his furious defence of free speech, and satire in particular. It might even appear to the casual observer that he is all in favour of public figures being ribbed in light rural comedies, just so long as the public figure being ribbed in the light rural comedy isn’t him. Hmmm…

As the piece said, he’s a busy man; there’s still plenty of scope to give him the benefit of the doubt. You never know, maybe tomorrow I’ll find he’s sent me a clearance note along with a congratulatory bottle of single malt, a signed first edition of The Extended Phenotype and an open invitation to join him for biscuits when I’m next in Oxford [though a clearance note alone would suffice, and would only take a couple of minutes].

In the meantime I’m kicking my heels. My interview with the late Sir David Frost [the last post on this site] explains much of the background. It’s clear that Richard Dawkins shouldn’t even be involved – publishers should simply have more guts – but as things are, without his say-so we’re stuck…

…or are we? Rumours are reaching us of a small seam of publishers who might not be unaccountably afraid of being sued for printing a satirical novel about a vociferous defender of free speech and satire. So wish us luck there. We’ve had several false alarms over the last few months – publishers who have been gung-ho about the project, and ready to take it on, only to wake up one morning realising they are not that brave after all. It’s become a little tiresome, so let’s hope we’re on to something this time around.

Finally, in answer to an FAQ, the e-book is unavailable because we withdrew it in order to keep things clean for an incoming publisher. If no incoming publisher materialises, we will get the e-book back out. And if it sells enough to cover the cost of it, maybe we’ll do a short run of a paperback. But that’s a back-up plan – for now we’re holding out for a conventional book deal. The support we’ve had, and the resistance we’ve faced, suggests very strongly that this is a book that ought to be out there, in libraries and bookshops, being read.

If the real Prof does the right thing, good on him. If he doesn’t, then stuff him. One way or another the book will be back some time this year.

Happy reading.