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:
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.