No Further Errors


Angels and ministers of grace defend you: I’m back. That’s me on the R.S. Thomas trail, in his pulpit at St. Hywyn’s in Aberdaron. Years ago I set a scene in this church, having only seen the outside of it in photographs, and it was a real pleasure to finally visit. I often find myself grabbing people by the lapels and quietly recommending they read Byron Rogers’ R.S. Thomas biography, The Man Who Went Into the West. Consider your lapels grabbed. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who I’m talking about (here’s one of his poems either way), he was quite a character, and you’re always in safe hands with Byron Rogers.

So I’m still here, just, and this seems like as good a time as any to deliver my Annual Report. Things are still messy, and most of it will be a familiar howl of rage about unreliable bookkeeping, so please take the opportunity to move along if that doesn’t sound up your street. It’s all very niche. I’ve kept it to a relatively modest 4000 words, but that’s still far too long for anybody who isn’t obsessed with the minutiae of publishing disputes. If that’s you, I strongly recommend you bail out while the going’s good. For those of you who do read on, I hope this medically necessary release of pent-up fury also provides some entertainment. It is, after all, a very strange story. Film rights are available.

I’ll start with the rotten stuff, and once I’ve had enough of sounding like a broken record I’ll get on to more upbeat topics – including yet more reading recommendations and the eagerly awaited announcement of my coveted Book of the Year award.

Here goes.

Some of you may remember that a few months ago I treated the world to an interminable account of the slo-mo shitshow that is my near-decade-long effort to get a clear picture of my first eight titles’ financial histories from Canongate Books. At the heart of it was the discovery that two large amounts of money due from Timoleon Vieta Come Home had got lost on the way to my bank account; it also touched on the Indiana Jones-esque struggle I had in retrieving them. This piece seemed to strike a chord, and I was able to fulfil every writer’s dream of moaning about their publisher in front of an arena-sized crowd. Let me see your hands!

Unbelievably, yet still somehow predictably, things have gone from bad to worse. More missing money has surfaced, and two more of my beloved books (Anthropology and The Little White Car) have been dragged through the nettles. They paid the latest shortfalls without an explanation for the money having been missing for such a long time, without a word of apology, and without – drum roll – a penny of interest. All this despite the lion’s share dating back to a missed foreign rights payment from fifteen years ago. 0% over fifteen years!!!!! They couldn’t have found a better rate at DFS. After everything that’s happened, in real terms I’m still out of pocket. What a bunch of [I’ll leave you to finish this sentence. Let your vocabulary run wild].

The extent of their explanation for both of these sums was: ‘An overseas rights payment was received, and the author share of £x is remitted to you.’ I had to dig further to find out where in the world these payments had come from, and when they had been due [2004 and 2016, timespan fans]. I don’t know whether this money had been received at the correct time and had been resting in their account ever since, or if it had only just been collected. They didn’t say, but either way it’s hardly ideal. They placed these bland bombshells amid some quite reasonable explanations of straggling e-book royalties; perhaps they thought I wouldn’t notice.

The sums involved are less spectacular this year, hundreds rather than thousands, but the relative amounts are beside the point. Not that they see it this way: last time around, the boss tetchily dismissed as ‘negligible’ the Timoleon Vieta Come Home royalties that I would have received over the preceding few years had they been paying me properly. They may not have been Harry Potter level, but they would have been useful dollops of income nonetheless. One man’s negligible is another man’s coins for the gas meter. I suppose some people are fortunate enough to be unable to grasp this.

When the initial chunks of missing money were admitted to, my main contact was quick to insist that the books’ histories had been comprehensively inspected, grandly declaring: ‘I can confirm that our finance team have been through the accounts for all eight of your titles that we have published since 2003. We can find no further errors.’ This felt like a door slamming in my face. Not having been born the day before, I knew it couldn’t be the full story. No way could they have been through so much data in any meaningful depth in so short a time [as well as their own UK and US editions, they also handled subsidiary rights. I’d set up these deals without an agent, so Canongate Books effectively worked as both management and record company: an arrangement doomed to failure without solid accountancy and open communication]. I’ve asked around the biz, and the consensus is that it takes æons to thoroughly inspect years of international accounts; it’s a specialist job and a colossal ball-ache, yet my questioning of this grand declaration was batted aside by the top brass as though it were histrionics. It’s unsettling to have your intelligence insulted so brazenly, and before a growing audience [their cheeks round with unmelted butter, they stuck to their Oooh-we’ve-looked-everywhere line in front of my new agent and the Society of Authors]. Being on the receiving end of such eerie treatment really does make you question yourself, and I spent a lot of time wondering whether I really was Foolish and Deluded and an Author of No Brain at All. I’ve been vindicated yet again; it wasn’t groundless melodramatics, the accounts hadn’t been checked with anything like the requisite assiduity. For them to ‘confirm’ that they had been was, to put it politely… [I’ve tried and tried, but can’t find a way to put it politely. Feel free to have a go yourself].

I first voiced my misgivings about their accounting in early 2010, so they’ve been dragging this out for longer than The Beatles were together [and considering money’s been going missing since 2004 we’re halfway through Wings as well]. From day one, their reluctance to engage has been profoundly creepy, and so has the way they’ve consistently tried to shut this down on their own terms, without any scrutiny from outside their inner sanctum.

[Seriously, publishers – I know I’ve said it before, but everything goes to the dogs when the sums don’t add up. Paying your authors correctly is central to what you do; though it may pain you to hear it, it’s even more important than swanning around book festivals in a Panama hat. If you’re ever found to have made error after error, and have even tragicomically described some of your own bean-counting as ‘bogus’, you shouldn’t blame the underpaid author for feeling that you’ve forfeited the credibility to police yourselves. You really must do what you should have volunteered to do straight away and commission an external audit. It shouldn’t be up to the author to chase this. It’s hardly their fault that you’ve lost your grip on cash flow, and you can’t realistically expect them to be content with a ham-fisted in-house whitewash in lieu of a credible investigation. Facing up to your responsibilities may not be cheap, but when wayward accounting comes back to haunt you there’s going to be a price to pay. And besides, it’s not as if you won’t benefit from this process – it’ll help you to work out where things have been going wrong, and how you can stop this from happening again. As it’s very unlikely that a lone author would have been on the receiving end of so many irregularities while nobody else had, it will also give you a valuable opportunity to widen the investigation and find out whether anybody else had been underpaid over the years, and if so to return their money with fulsome explanations and heartfelt words of contrition, along with – all together now – appropriate interest. All this would help you to make sure you’re on top of your own finances before, say, buying out any other publishing houses. If you look at it that way it’ll be money well spent, and the expense of the exercise can easily be recouped by indefinitely cancelling all management pay rises and bonuses. You may have to suffer the ignominy of withdrawing from one or two of your truffle syndicates, but don’t blame the authors for this. They aren’t the ones whose bookkeeping is all over the shop; they are guilty only of having had faith in you to be running a tight ship moneywise.]

I’ve lost count of the times the grandees of Canongate Books have huffily insisted that my accounts are in order, only for a wad of my wages to be found down the back of their sofa. Sometimes it’s a few quid, sometimes hundreds, and sometimes thousands. It’s become farcical, and I can’t help wondering whether there’s any more down there. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. How could I know? If I hadn’t gone in with a chainsaw and a thousand-yard stare, stacks of my earnings would never have reached me. And since the headline figures are still throwing up discrepancies, heaven only knows what could be lurking in the depths. Not great wealth, I know that, but possibly some more money that is mine, not theirs.

They are too maddening an entity to deal with directly though, and experience has taught me that there’s no point when so much of what you get back is either silence or hogwash, so I’ve been getting myself lawyered up. We’ll see how that goes – maybe Judge Nutmeg will get to the bottom of it with his Wheel of Justice. It’s early days, and these things take time. It took the Sex Pistols until 1986 to sort out their finances with Malcolm McLaren. He could have wound it up years sooner, but chose not to. I don’t know what it is with these bushy-haired impresarios, but they seem hell-bent on making life unnecessarily complicated for everybody, themselves included, while, in their obduracy, turning what ought to be a swiftly-dealt-with private financial squabble into a never-ending public pantomime. Under coherent and humane directorship, a mortified Canongate Books would have taken steps to end this fairly and unequivocally the moment the first batch of missing money was discovered. Instead they erected a wall of gammon around the heart of the matter, got all defensive, bamboozled me with baffling and sometimes conflicting figures, insisted they’d looked everywhere when they clearly hadn’t, tried to get away with paying a rotten rate of interest, and did all they could to bundle me out of the building with reams of pertinent questions unanswered. This pile-up left me with the choice of either curling into a ball or going apeshit. It didn’t require a great deal of deliberation. In their wisdom, the senior managers appear determined to string this out for as long as they can. It must be very odd for any normal people who work there to watch the paisley-clad plutocrats at the top table carrying on this way. The more I think about it – and I think about it all the time – the more of a cheese dream it seems. I’ve viewed this from every angle, and every time the way they’ve handled this looks heroically indefensible. What do they teach them at those horrible schools? There must be a reason for their modus operandi. Maybe they’re enjoying it. As the man said, people are very strange these days.

I told you I was angry, and that this was going to be long, so no complaining.

Having payments still coming in from The Little White Car was particularly jarring, as I’d retrieved that title’s rights in high dudgeon a few years ago after finding, by chance, that Canongate Books’ US arm had put out a completely distinct edition without telling me. They wouldn’t explain how that edition had come to be, or why I hadn’t been told about it: all the more reason for the forthcoming audit to be thorough and global. While I’m here, it’s worth emphasising that as bizarre as all this seems, I’m not making it up – I’ve taken pains to make sure it’s all there in our shared paper trail, even the stuff that reads as if it’s heavy-handed satire: the bogus line, and the negligible one, and their shimmering centrepiece: We can find no further errors. [It’s a good word, bogusBogus. To camera: Bogus.]

I’m not the only author to have been on the receiving end of financial irregularities. At the other end of the pay scale, over at Hesperus Press, Jonas Jonasson discovered that things were not as they should have been; in this article he puts very well the disorientating feeling that comes with such a situation, and how sad it all is. [It’s a particular kind of awfulness to think of the good people I’ve worked with at Canongate Books over so many years. I had dealings with tons of awesome humans – hard working, talented, communicative, conscientious, and a good laugh down the pub – none of whom would have had anything to do with this shambles.] Hesperus author Roma Tearne’s comments about the resultant uncertainty resonate too: ‘More than anything I want the book to live.’ It’s not just about losing money; the real heartbreak lies in watching a book, or books, that you’ve poured everything into being torpedoed. Jonasson talks of a feeling of helplessness. [Seriously publishers, are heartbreak and helplessness really things you want your authors to be feeling because of what you’ve done? If you ever find yourself causing that kind of damage to the people who entrusted you with their work, the least you can do as functioning humans is cooperate – as in really cooperate – and allow them to put it behind them and carry on.] I can’t find any reference to a resolution to Jonas Jonasson’s difficulties, and Hesperus seems to have weathered the scandal. I suppose something was signed, and we’ll never know what really went down or how it all ended. I hope he had enough royalties from other territories to keep him on top of his bills while this was going on. I also hope he retrieved his money and received substantial damages to compensate for the legal costs, the aggravation, the anxiety, and the wasted time. Dear God, the wasted time…

On to more positive topics now. There’s not much to report, as my life outside this battlefield consists of little more than the day job and domesticity. Neither are bad things, but I’m afraid they won’t make for riveting reading. The home-made sauerkraut’s going well; our micropond has attracted newts and frogs; I’ve been making surprisingly successful fake meat  from vital wheat gluten flour; I’m back to reading Viz – things must have been really dire to have missed Viz for so long. We also spent a lot of the recovered money on having the front wall of our house repointed. Most of the mortar was original, from the 1890s, and some of the stones were so loose they could be pulled out by hand. Yikes. So if nothing else, fighting the Crab People has stopped our house from falling down.

Glamorously, I’ve made my recording debut. Last year I saw the legendary Jilted John at the Dancehouse in Manchester, and the show has been released as a live album. Listen closely and you’ll be able to make out my voice, admittedly among a couple of hundred others, chanting ‘Yeah yeah, it’s not fair’ and other classic lines. [Many years ago I pinched the title of Jilted John’s LP to use as a subtitle for a US edition of Anthropology: 101 True Love Stories.]

Writingwise, there’s nothing to report. I used to pride myself on my productivity, but it’s been years since I wrote anything of any consequence. I’ve twice started making notes for new books, but both times a new twist in this horror show landed on the doormat and the magic was lost. It’s a delicate thing. Morale is such that the moment I put pen to paper, apparitions of the disembodied heads of the people I’ve been dealing with at Canongate Books start floating before me – transparent, bobbing up and down, cackling, and chanting: No further errors! No further errors! We can find no further errors! I only know what two of these people look like, so the others are just skulls with lasers coming out of their eye sockets. It’s hard to focus with all that going on. What keeps me fighting is knowing that the only way I’ll ever be able to get back to the work I love, to vanquish the floating heads and rebuild from the ruins, is by having this ludicrous debacle brought to a close. While it’s still in progress I can’t see beyond it. It’s like always having a wasp crawling across my face. I’ll get it dealt with if it’s the last thing I do, but whether I’ll still be able to string a story together I have no idea. All I can bring myself to write these days is a joyless annual bulletin about accounting difficulties. I used to write things that were worth reading. Thanks for ploughing through this, but it’s not exactly Little Hands Clapping. Requisite assiduity, for crying out loud. How do you claw your way back from that?

One positive aspect of all this is that I’ve sidestepped writing any clichéd midlife crisis fiction. Often an author of a certain age will wake up one morning consumed with an urge to commit a done-to-death outrage: modernising Greek myths, perhaps, or writing an excruciatingly over-researched novel based on an episode from the life of Henry James. I like to think I wouldn’t have joined them, but who knows? That sort of thing wins the Booker Prize, but I still wouldn’t want it on my conscience.

Another upside of having my spirit crushed to the point where I’m creatively incapacitated is that I have a bit more time for reading: mainly slim volumes by reliable authors (you know the drill – Poirot, Wodehouse, Mapp & Lucia, John Wyndham, Muriel Spark, Cornell Woolrich, Chekhov, etc.). I recently had the pleasure of visiting Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, and came away with a copy of Doctor Glas by Hjalmar Söderberg. I can’t work out why it’s taken so long to find this – the short-novel-in-which-a-lonely-man-encounters-the-beautiful-wife-of-a-ghastly-vicar is one of my favourite genres [see also A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr]. And anybody who ever finds themselves in the company of children should investigate the Mr Gum audio books. They’d been in the wilderness for a few years, but Andy Stanton is back reading them again, and they are just tremendous.

Now here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: my Book of the Year is – consider your lapels grabbed once again – Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis. I’m six decades late to the party, but if you’ve not read it, please do. I can only remember the funny bits, but they are really, really funny. I’m always on the lookout for true comic fiction – proper clutching your sides stuff – and it’s quite hard to find. This is at the top of the A-list, with a killer line on every page. This stone cold classic seems to have been out of print for years, but copies can be found. Get yours before they become too expensive.

In other book news, I’ve just this moment discovered that Patrick Hamilton’s long-lost first novel Monday Morning has been reissued. It came out last year and nobody told me. This is what they mean when they talk about social isolation.

[It’s not a book, but towards the end of writing this I watched Underestimate the Girl, the Kate Nash documentary. If you’ve made it this far you must be morbidly fascinated by the festering giblets of showbiz, so it’ll be up your street. I empathised with a good many of her experiences, and admire her for her resilience in the face of continual aggro from people who were supposed to have been on her side. For now it’s on the BBC iplayer.]

Thanks for putting up with this – particularly all the adverbs and emotional punctuation. I’ll be back in due course with, most likely, more monotonous whistleblowing [they love a bit of whistleblowing at Canongate Books. Hmmm… maybe that’s why they’re dragging this out. I wonder whether they would pay me a fortune to not write a book about it all?]. The blockage is at the top of the company, and I can’t see them cooperating to any meaningful extent until they are left with no choice. It’s my mission to get them to that point, but there’s no saying how long it’ll take. It’s a shame because it’s the 20th anniversary of Anthropology next year, and that should have been an excuse for fun, frolics, special editions, and an eighty-six city hologram tour; instead I’ll be gnashing my teeth while it languishes out of print along with all but one of my books. Ugh. Maybe I’ll be able to get something together for its 21st. Or its 50th.

[When I do finally assemble the Annotated Anthropology, much mention will be made of its four main guiding lights when I was writing it in 1997 and 1998: Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith, The Sadness of Sex by Barry Yourgrau, the songs of Stephin Merritt, and the songs of Daniel Johnston. Here’s the first Daniel Johnston song I ever heard, on Andy Kershaw’s Sunday night show in 1993. It still gives me the shivers.]

You’ve hung around too long listening to my hard luck stories. I’ll finish on a jaunty note. I’ve put a few more short films of my stuff on the Film Club page – including this little beauty by the Ukrainian director Elena Maksymenko. I often feel I wasted my time writing all those books. Things like that remind me that I didn’t.

So there we are. We’ve made it through. What shall I do now? I dunno, maybe I’ll have a try at one of those Henry James novels. These are desperate times, after all.

It was a cool, crisp morning when Henry James awoke in his bedroom at Lamb House in the East Sussex town of Rye. ‘Gee whizz,’ he thought to himself, because it turns out he was actually American, ‘I wonder what I’ll get up to today in this historic Cinque Port. First I’ll have a bowl of Froot Loops, then maybe take a stroll over to Ypres Tower, built at the behest of King Henry III in 1249. Yes siree Bob, that would be swell.’

Bloody hell – this stuff writes itself. No wonder they’re all at it. Booker Prize here I come…

He looked around the room, which one night in 1726 had been slept in by no less royal a personage than King George I. ‘Now then,’ he mused, ‘it’s kinda cool and crisp this morning so I’ll need to keep my head warm. I’d better wear my square velvet cap.’ As Henry James placed his square velvet cap upon his head, little did he suspect that this would be no ordinary d…

Oh no. Right on cue, here come the floating heads. No further errors! No further errors! We can find no further errors!

There goes the Booker. I’ll add the lost prize money to the final bill…

Bogus, dudes.

Happy reading.


Dude, where’s my royalties?


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.





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:


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.


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.


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.


That’s all for now.

Happy reading,



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:


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


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:


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:


Happy reading.

The Professor Who Came in from the Cold


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.


And, as ever, happy reading.