The Curious Incident of the Dog & the Missing Royalties

[The following is not intended for the general reader. If you are morbidly fascinated by the nuts and the bolts of the writer’s life you may find something to interest you, and if you’ve ever been published by Canongate Books it is, depressingly, worth reading. But for anybody just passing through, I recommend you go somewhere else. It contains weapons-grade righteous indignation, and at times it will seem uncomfortably akin to Positively Noel. It’s also very, very long. You’ve been warned, so no complaining.]

Here goes.

Every once in a while my reader in Cheltenham will get in touch, asking why I’ve not had a book out for such a long time. What follows is the short answer.

In October of last year, 2017, I made the heartbreaking decision to pull all but one of my books out of print. I had lost faith in their publisher, Canongate Books. The main problem was the lack of communication. This had been an issue for some years, and I’d even discovered, by chance, three editions of my work that nobody had told me about. I wonder how many more there are that I’ve never seen (seriously, publishers – if you’re going to print a distinct edition of a book, the least you could do is tell the person who wrote it. It’s balls-out dereliction of duty not to). Every time something like this happened, and I found out, they would say, Oooh, it won’t happen again, but there seems to be no introspection at management level and, with stultifying predictability, it would happen again. This was frustrating enough, and when my main contact took to ignoring my humdrum queries about contracts/royalty statements/rights, etc., alarm bells rang. (I can sense you stifling a yawn. You’re right, this is tiresome, but having set up these deals without an agent I had to keep on top of this sort of thing myself.)

I’d lost patience with them and had taken my most recent book elsewhere, but my backlist remained in place. I’d hoped we could stay on civil terms for the sake of the children, but it wasn’t to be. Not wanting to be stuck doing business with people who were cagey about finances, I requested they return the rights. They insisted on keeping hold of them (while still not answering the questions I’d been asking – they were, and continue to be, particularly evasive about the editions they’d published in the U.S. a few years back) so I dug in, looking for a way out by spending every spare moment combing through old correspondence, contracts and royalty statements, with all the joy that brought.

Throughout all this, something kept niggling: I’d not been paid a penny for my novel Timoleon Vieta Come Home since 2004, the year after it came out. I’d raised this with my main contact in 2010, after yet another demoralising £0 balance on a royalty statement. This kind of enquiry is an awkward one, because you wouldn’t be making it if you weren’t concerned that something was amiss; an author/publisher relationship is built on trust, and the clear subtext here is that your faith in their accounting has wavered. It’s obviously a very big deal to raise these reservations, yet a recent trawl through old correspondence reminded me that it took three letters of decreasing diplomacy to get an answer (seriously, publishers – if an author makes an enquiry, just answer it. It’s part of your job, and if you don’t we’ll start wondering whether you’re up to something. Perhaps you are). Eventually I was told that they’d looked into it and that everything was as it ought to be, that I’d accrued a debt on the title for deep accounting reasons that I couldn’t possibly understand. ‘Fair enough,’ I said, embarrassed for having asked.

It never seemed quite right, though – I couldn’t help feeling as if they had patted me on the head and told me to run along. I tried to push these suspicions away, because quite often people who think that money is being kept from them are having a funny five minutes. And besides, I’d had my answer: they’d looked into it, and everything was fine. Where do you go from there?

These misgivings – loopy as they seemed – kept coming back. Years of demoralising £0 balances and questioning-my-sanity later, I tentatively mentioned this odd-seeming number-crunching to a few allies in the biz (I do have some, believe it or not), and every one of them spluttered into their cornflakes. I don’t know why they were all eating cornflakes when I told them, but they were. The more people I mentioned this to, the more cornflakes were spluttered into – everybody I spoke to thought it sounded as fishy as Milky Pimms. Only Canongate Books’ cornflakes remained unsullied by splutter; only they didn’t seem to think it was odd that I’d not been paid for this book, which had been a modest success, since the year after it came out. I asked them again to look into this, but my increasingly desperate enquiries were casually batted aside, and then blanked. The old Closing Ranks/Wall of Silence trick. At every point I was treated as though I were Foolish and Deluded and an Author of No Brain at All. There were times when I thought they could be right, but the longer this went on the surer I became that my books were not in safe hands.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to send in auditors or pay for legal letters. I am, though, blessed with the tenacity of a rabbiting terrier. In the absence of civil answers to civil questions (or, latterly, incandescent ones) I decided to conduct my own audit. I have no idea how to conduct an audit, so I just gave it the full Chris-R. Faced with this, they finally – finally – scuttled back to their financial records. In the days before Christmas they returned with the admission that my hunch was bang on: in spite of their assurances to the contrary I had indeed been horrendously underpaid for ‘Timoleon Vieta Come Home’. If you want to know how it feels to find out that you aren’t mad after all, that your publisher really hadn’t been paying you properly for thirteen years, this just about sums it up. It was not a fun time.

In hindsight, this was a sort of grotesque deus ex machina: having spent such a long time haughtily dismissing my concerns, there was now no way they could continue to hold on to the books. They paid the acknowledged missing cash, and put a bit on top that they had unilaterally decided would make up for lost interest over the preceding years. I didn’t agree with the figure they’d settled on, and couldn’t convince them (still can’t) to acknowledge the arbitration clause in the contract, so it took a further six months of gruelling warfare, culminating in a close reading and furious waving of the as-fun-as-it-sounds Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, to squeeze an acceptable settlement out of them.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: everybody makes mistakes – it could have been an oversight, a slip of the quill. Maybe it was, but it didn’t just happen once – it happened twice. Twice! I wonder whether Lady Bracknell would have had something to say about that. So why did the dough go missing in the first place? I wish I knew. The extent of their explanation was: The team here has calculated that due to errors on the royalty book that happened in 2004 and 2005 – where duplicate records of unearned balances were noted – you were underpaid £x. I expect that made your eyes hurt. (Seriously, publishers – next time you find yourself explaining how a huge amount of a hard-working author’s royalties came to end up in the silken pocket of your company’s Oxford bags you might want to try doing a bit better than this). A request for clarification didn’t yield any more than it having been human error. That’s something of a catch-all: a human had certainly erred. Beyond that, it was all left vague. They sent through some single-page summaries of accounts, as if that would clear things up. All I knew for sure was that a lot of money that should have come my way had, for deep accounting reasons that I couldn’t possibly understand, stopped shy of my bank account. I asked for a fuller picture of how this could have happened – twice – at which the human error line was modified to the comparably helpful Oooh, it’s all very complicated and we don’t really know. Unlike me, they weren’t interested in finding out. In lieu of proper answers they sent some further impenetrable spreadsheets, none which helped me get my head around it all. Somewhere along the line I discovered that these anomalies had happened in the vicinity of the U.S. operation that I’d had (and still have) so much trouble getting answers about.

Canongate Books’ final line is that it was a mistake. I’m not going to argue with that, but again it’s a catch-all. Maybe it really was a simple case of my royalties being innocently siphoned away on two separate occasions. I am very much open to the possibility that the version of events that they’ve settled on is correct, that the quality of their bookkeeping really was in freefall to the point where they were inadvertently, and repeatedly, keeping one of their authors’ wages to themselves. (And these are wages – though this may be in conflict with popular perception, people who write books are still sent electricity bills, and every sale counts towards our livelihoods. It’s rarely enough – most of us have to work shifts at Spatula City to make ends meet. I know I do.) I can’t help wondering, though, who was doing their internal stocktaking at this time. Sooty & Sweep I would guess, judging by the quality of their work. It’s all very well playing the human error card – and it may of course have been just that; everybody makes mistakes at work from time to time – but a company that is fit to trade should surely have a system in place to see that errors are caught and corrected. Mistakes of this magnitude, however accidental, should have been spotted, if not shortly after they were made, then when I pointed straight at them in 2010. We’re talking thousands and thousands of sales. Thousands! By my estimation, using the standard Scottish unit of measurement, if a book were a concert ticket they would have sold out an exhausting nine nights at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. All those readers and I never knew. It’s a OO-gauge ‘Searching for Sugar Man’, but with a substantially less zen Sixto Rodriguez.

Congratulations on having had the stamina to make it this far. As long-winded as this may appear, I’m taking a less-is-more approach.

Those of you who are in the trade will be wondering where the boss was all this time – after all, this had happened on his watch. He wasn’t getting involved. He wouldn’t answer letters or offer explanations or anything, right up until I challenged the compensation they’d offered. (You’d have challenged it too: the interest they added to the unpaid sums would – over the course of 13 years – have struggled to keep pace with the Bradford & Bingley Tellytubbies Fun Saver account. At least then I’d have had some stickers and a colouring book.) At this point he sighed, rose from his chaise longue, and waded in like, as Lionel Richie would say, an elephant in a house of cards. Perhaps fearing for his Christmas bonus, he made it clear that he was determined not to pay a penny more, and in one grimly comic episode he berated me in front of a gathering crowd for quoting the shortfall figure I’d been given, as if I’d made it up. I was completely thrown by this, and – not for the first time – wondered whether I was cracking up, whether I really was babbling imaginary numbers. I dug out some recent correspondence, and was relieved to find I hadn’t lost the plot – I’d taken the figure directly from their mea culpa email, and had consequently been working with it, every spare moment, for weeks – weeks of my life that I’ll never get back spent looking at this figure, lividly stabbing at a calculator while trying to work out what on earth these people were playing at. Even though I’d been proved absolutely right about the missing money, they were still carrying on as though I were Foolish and Deluded and an Author of No Brain at All. They’re doing it to this day – it blows up in their faces every time, but they’re sticking to their guns. There’s something almost admirable about their persistence.

As he exited, stage right, to the sound of his own footsteps, it sunk in that the front end and the back end of the Canongate Books pantomime cow couldn’t even agree on how much they’d underpaid me by. I’d been wondering whether things could possibly get any more psychedelically awful, and here was my answer: depending on who I was dealing with, the figures they were using were thousands of pounds apart. Thousands! That’s right, folks – we’d gone down the Alternative Facts rabbit hole. (Seriously, publishers – if an author has uncovered a pile of unpaid royalties, and has subsequently found out that you can’t agree among yourselves on the amount of their money that had been resting in your account, then the screeds of raw data that you’ve been bombarding them with in lieu of straight answers to simple questions become meaningless. The figures you’re presenting as gospel may as well have been spat out by a random number generator. As much as you may baulk at the thought of a light being shone on your financial history, the decent thing to do at this point is to get, at your expense because after all it was your cock-up, an external forensic auditor to go through everything in minute detail. The question is, publishers: are you decent?) So it’s not only publisher/author communication that’s up the creek at Canongate Books: publisher/publisher communication also appears to have something of the busted flush about it. But that’s their problem.

In one bleakly entertaining episode, the boss tried – in front of various baffled onlookers – to make it seem as if I was in the wrong for having vigorously pursued the matter. Let’s break that down: civil questions went unanswered, so I had to become angry to get responses, at which point I discovered they had underpaid me by thousands. Thousands! They wouldn’t enter negotiations over compensation, or acknowledge my contract’s arbitration clause (which sputters to life in the event of a dispute, which this indubitably was/is), so I had to get angry again. Really, really angry this time. This was, ultimately, how I received a presentable settlement (for the discovered missing sum, anyway – the swathes of time I’m spending untangling their mess, and the toll it is taking personally and professionally, remain uncompensated). If I hadn’t gone in, repeatedly, with a mace in my hand and an Act of Parliament between my teeth I never would have recovered my property. In the boss’s mind, though, because I’d lost my rag with them, things between us had become tainted. So it’s my fault! I am raising a family on a shoestring; I have an intimate relationship with my overdraft limit, and consequently getting paid is at the forefront of my mind. Had I not turned into the Incredible Hulk, this money – several months’ worth of living costs – would still be with them instead of me. By his logic I should have kept things untainted by timidly not going in to retrieve my money or, once it had been found, not challenging their interest calculations. In other words, it was impudent of me not to have been a pushover. I don’t suppose there are many people outside the upper echelons of publishing who share this logic. I make no apologies for being angry about this, or for doing what I’ve had to do to get my due. As you may have noticed, I’m still angry.

It’s the high-handedness that gets you. The boss is from an extraordinarily rarefied financial background – maybe to the landed gentry a few grand here and there really isn’t something to get aerated about. It could be that he just doesn’t realise the impact of not being paid this amount of money (or indeed any amount of money) on the lives of people outside his milieu (his milieu being… I dunno… Lord Lucan, Lord Charles, George Osborne and the Duke of Earl). His deeper thoughts – if there are such things – will remain a mystery, as he concluded by refusing to take further questions.

[Throughout all this I was working outdoors in a particularly harsh winter (remember the Beast from the East?). I choose to spend most of my working life in the open air, and you’ve got to take the crunchy with the smooth, so I can’t complain about it, but when the wind picked up and horizontal sleet lashed my eyeballs it didn’t half bring the situation into sharp relief. You’ll have read your Solzhenitsyn: How can you expect a man who is warm to understand a man who is cold?]

There’s a ghastly received notion in the book trade that authors should keep this sort of thing to themselves for fear of being labelled ‘difficult’ and frozen out of the biz. Unfortunately there’s a good deal of truth in this. I prefer to get along with people, but I’m as difficult as I need to be to get paid properly, and besides that’s the kind of knowing-your-place that I’ve never quite got the hang of. Were I to adhere to this protocol, the bulk of my life’s work would fall out of print (probably forever) as the result of a publisher’s malpractice while I meekly tug my forelock and thank them profusely as I watch it circle the plughole. Instead of telling my story, I am expected to take it with me to the grave. And why? To spare the blushes of a cabal of superannuated trustafarians. Well stuff that.

I realise all this is pretty niche, that worse things happen at sea, and that everybody has to deal with wazzocks at work from time to time, so it’s hard to judge how much to share. I can’t, though, keep this under wraps while knowing that Canongate Books’ finances have gone through periods of disarray (in my experience at least 2004/2005, 2010 and 2017/18), and that other authors may be out of pocket. It’s been in the news that royalties are horribly low, while stakeholding publishers’ velvet purses swell. All that is true: we are expected to be content with the crumbs under the table. This makes things difficult enough for writers, and when we don’t even get our crumbs it’s a disaster for us, and for writing. Publishers who aren’t reliable payers ought to be called out for it. I’m sticking my head above the parapet, even at the risk of sounding like PPI clickbait:

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Of course it’s by no means impossible, but it would be jarringly odd if piles of my royalties had vanished – twice – as the result of shambolic bookkeeping, while every other aspect of their of their financial recording was pristine. Have a close look at your payment history (my difficulties date back a long time, but the way I had to spend years of my life chewing through concrete to get them to acknowledge the missing money, and to attain a fair settlement, brings this shabby episode bang up to date). If anything doesn’t seem quite right, ask the awkward questions. Be a meddling kid. They owe you answers, so don’t let them ignore you or fob you off. Make sure they reply in words, too – it’s not your job to understand spreadsheets. I can’t claim to have had unqualified success in my investigations, but I have at least made some inroads. Go with your gut feeling (this was mine), and steel yourself. It won’t be fun.

If you haven’t already joined The Society of Authors, do so – sometimes the only way to get a response is to widen the audience. They’ve been a real help (they were the ones who put me on to the Act of Parliament), as has my agent who, despite having nothing to do with these deals, has been a sterling ally. Former Canongate Books employees and authors have provided a great sense of community. I have a fantastic family too, so I’ve not had to stand entirely alone in the lions’ den. Anybody in my position who doesn’t have the support I’ve had…

Canongate Books was an enormous part of my life, and it’s horrible that this has happened. I was with them for years – so long, in fact, that I can even remember when some Scottish people worked there. I collaborated with many excellent characters who did some brilliant work on my books – I hope they will be the ones I’ll be thinking of when I look back. Some are pals to this day. I don’t really know who works there any more, apart from my main contact, and the boss, and the head accountant they dumped the donkey work on. (The accountant has been the only one who’s made any attempt to communicate sensibly – I have certainly had a large collection of ultimately useless lists of numbers swimming before my eyes. I also had a brief correspondence with their new chairman, who doesn’t strike me as being much of a reader. I told both of them I was writing this. I even told them the title, but neither seemed particularly interested. They were, like, ‘Whatever’.) I expect most people there are decent humans who want to work with good books, and who would consequently have cried themselves to sleep throughout the Trickster Tales fiasco (I have a lot to say about that, but…  fish in a barrel). It’s not them I have a beef with, it’s the suits. The company leaves an awful lot to be desired from the neck up.

For the good of my health I withdrew from discussions with Canongate Books some months ago, and for the same reason I don’t have concrete plans to re-engage. Early drafts of this piece had me coming over all Henry V – gearing up to go back in, a sword in one hand and a chilling dossier of unanswered questions in the other. But you know what? I can’t do it. Even the most tenacious of rabbiting terriers can only go on so long. I feel as though I’ve fought twelve rounds and won on points; there’s unfinished business, but it’ll be a long time before I’m ready to climb back into the ring. I work 70-hour weeks outside showbiz. I have D.I.Y. to be getting on with. I have children to raise. I have cabbage to massage. I can’t afford lawyers or auditors – I have to do all this myself, and it’s filthy work. The only way to get these people to look up from their desks is to go in like the Tasmanian Devil; often even that doesn’t get results. It’s forced me to extremes, and taken over huge amounts of my life. Living in a constant state of high dudgeon is no good for the nerves, or the blood pressure. You may think I’m enjoying this, but there’s really not a great deal of satisfaction to be had from raking through contracts and painful correspondence, looking at questionable figures until your eyeballs revolve, thumping a calculator at four in the morning, and fighting battles with people who should have been your allies.

Then there’s the awful feeling in your gut whenever a letter arrives or an email pings in, because it might be them. And if it is them, in comes the inevitable disbelief and fury. Usually this stems from the black holes left by their refusal to engage (just ignoring any questions they don’t want to answer), and also their determination to spin the narrative in their favour. They are always impatient to award themselves halos for having done the right thing (looking for the missing money, locating and reporting the missing money, repaying the missing money, paying an acceptable level of interest on the missing money, returning my rights and stock), though every time it has only been because I’ve gone after them like a hellhound and manoeuvred them into a zugzwang that has left them with no choice.

Their mantra of Oooh, we said soz! has become grating – perhaps they really have convinced themselves that proffering half-arsed fauxpologies somehow gets them out of having to provide coherent answers to reasonable questions. They also seem to have convinced themselves that this is a small issue that I’m blowing out of proportion (to clarify: it’s not. The money going missing is one thing [well, two things], but the real scandal lies in the way a moat was dug around it; how boiling oil was repeatedly poured on my attempts to find it; how they tried, and are still trying, to usher me out of the building with so many questions unanswered; and how they have turned this into a unnecessarily protracted and disorientating ordeal. I wonder whether anybody on their board has read The Trial, by Czech panel show regular and occasional novelist Franz Kafka). We’ll see what their Damage Limitation Officer comes up with in response to this (presumably they have a DLO on 24-hour standby – they’re always in the shit for something or other). If past form is anything to go by, they won’t read anywhere near this far before coming in with a toe-curling stream of non sequiturs. We’ll see.

This isn’t to say I’m going to let things drop forever. With so much still in shadow – and a total of eight books to audit – I don’t think I can, but for the foreseeable future I’m going to stay in my cave, cauterising my wounds and trying to work out what I have to do to get to the black heart of the matter and see their accounts inspected by an independent specialist, somebody who can look at the figures behind the figures. I need to flush this out of my life, and that’s the only way it will ever happen. I don’t expect to find huge amounts of hidden treasure; I’m a marginal author after all (but, it turns out, not quite as marginal as I’d thought). Because of what’s gone on, though, I have limited faith in their financial reporting, and would like to be reassured by somebody outside their inner circle that everything is in order, that every sale of every edition – even ones I don’t yet know about – has been correctly recorded. You’d have to be pretty far gone to think this was an unreasonable request, and a cretin from outer space to believe I should have to either learn forensic auditing from scratch or spend more than the amount I’ve recovered on specialist accounting in order to attain this reassurance. Whenever I’ve mentioned arbitration or auditing, their response has been consistent: it’s as if I’d never raised the subject. Tumbleweed. So that’s the impasse: I feel that in light of this clear violation of my livelihood I am owed an external audit. They, on the other hand, think I should be satisfied that the same people who took my money, and who have admitted to repeated instances of ineptitude, have declared everything to be in order. Nothing to see here. Please disperse. There’s no reasoning with these people.

This has been a long read, but you’re on the home straight now. I’ve written it because I think it’s a story worth telling, perhaps not to all and sundry, but to people in and around the biz. It’s also very important to me to publicly separate my name from this company. Over the years I’ve heard of a number of authors joining Canongate Books because (among other reasons, I’m sure) they have wanted their titles to be on a list alongside mine; this must never happen again. I’ve written it at such extraordinary length because I feel the need to make sure they aren’t able to diminish this episode, and make it seem as if it’s a simple tale of a ‘difficult’ author kicking off because of a clerical error. It’s a lot stranger than that, and darker. I’ve taken a good deal of time over it, and made sure the story is backed up by our shared paper trail. There are witnesses too – this has all happened not just right in front of my salad, but right in front of the salad of a number of unfortunate onlookers. Canongate Books may come back and bellow ‘Fake news!!!’, but it isn’t. This is, sadly, how it’s gone down.

Having spoken to other authors, I know I’m not alone in this. Plenty (non-Canongate Books, I should point out – this is an industry-wide issue) have had difficulties with their publishers. Tales of obfuscation and unreliable accounting are rife, but we’ll only talk about it in the pub, not in public. I thought for a while about raising a rabble of similarly aggrieved authors to storm the biz, but, as above, I don’t have the resources. Even if I did, I have no idea how we would hold the publishers to account. I’ve tried to find people to report mine to (the police, trade bodies) to no avail. After a long stake-out, the top brass of Canongate Books have been caught beside the biscuit barrel, covered in crumbs, and all they’ve had to do is say, Oooh, it was an accident, and they’re off the hook; they’ve sidestepped even the slightest external scrutiny. I only have their assurance that nothing else is amiss, and history has shown that their assurance is not to be taken as the last word. The best I could have done to get this on the record would have been to follow the advice of a well-known financial discrepancy helpline and pursue a civil claim for a better rate of interest, but once the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 came into play they settled this before I had the chance (though they did make a point of saying they didn’t have to pay the extra because it was a mistake, and therefore not a debt. Wow. I’m no expert, so I’m not going to dispute this, but if negligence truly is a recognised basis for the payment of weak interest rates on recovered royalties, that’s quite the loophole. Either way, my brain went grnk at this point, and I don’t think it’s quite ungrnked since. I very nearly threw in the towel here). So without any official way of getting this on the record I’m resorting to the modern alternative: going apeshit on the Internet.

How many other situations are there where somebody can be found in possession of thousands of pounds of somebody else’s money and be able to self-absolve without breaking a sweat? I don’t know, maybe there are plenty when the people in question are a coterie of ageing boarding school boys. And with nothing going on record, how can anybody see patterns emerge? Publishers being given carte blanche to police themselves leaves writers – at least those of us who can’t afford to bring in forensic auditors or scary lawyers (so almost all of us) – in an unacceptably vulnerable position. I’m tempted to list some possible scenarios arising from this, but I don’t need to because you can see them for yourself. What irks me as much as anything else is the way they have caused so much difficulty in my life – impoverishing my family, forcing me into a protracted war, and demoralising me out of print – and they’ve not even had to fill in a form.

What a mess. It’s been like a years-long, one-contestant episode of Takeshi’s Castle. What we all needed from the start was sober neutral arbitration – this may have put my troubled mind at rest about the possibility of further incorrectly reported sales, while preventing Canongate Books from sliding into the indefensible position it now finds itself in. It should have been the first thing they offered, and it would have worked all-round; presumably this is why it’s a standard feature of contracts. We can only wonder why the Canongate Books grandees have proved so allergic to it.

I expect you’ve seen the recent Black Sabbath documentary, where Ozzy says that with hindsight he’s glad the band weren’t paid properly in their early days because they would only have spent the extra money on heroin and died. I don’t think that would have happened here. I probably would just have endured slightly fewer nights lying awake wondering how we were going to keep a roof over our heads.

A welcome side-effect of writing this is how much it’s helped get my thoughts in order – for a long time they’ve been very much out-of-order. It’s been unsettling to be thrust into such a surreal ethical landscape. It’s been like being published by the Home Office, or the Trump administration. The people I’ve been dealing with are all on the board of directors. I wonder, would they have had a meeting about refusing to acknowledge so many of my enquiries, or did each decide to do so under their own steam? I just don’t know. You’d have to ask them.

This has taken months to write, and knowing the balance of power in this situation I’ve had to build up a lot of nerve to post it. Publishers being publishers, I don’t suppose I’ll ever have a book deal again because of it, but the alternative to telling this story would have been bottling it up and having it continue to eat me from the inside, as it has been doing quite effectively for a very long time. That’s the choice I’ve had to make. The bigwigs at Canongate Books had plenty of opportunities to sort this out, to get someone in to check everything over, but every time their intransigence won the day. I wonder whether they can now see that, under the circumstances, extending the courtesy of engaging an auditor would have been not only the right thing to do, but also the best thing for everybody involved. Knowing that lot, I doubt it.

I told you this would be a long read. Hopefully it will go some way towards explaining to my reader in Cheltenham why I’ve not had anything new out for a while, and why nothing’s in the pipeline.