Wednesday August 15th
On July 19th the very first copies of Erebus, The Story Of A Ship, came into the world at Clays the Printers in Bungay. There was a nice coincidence here for the first time I ever went to Bungay was on the water. I was seventeen and joint captain of a craft called the The Broadland Widgeon, on which two friends and myself spent a week navigating the Norfolk Broads. We spent one night moored up by the River Waveney at Bungay. It was 1960, and the printers were probably working round the clock to satisfy the demand for Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Less sexy, but with more icebergs, Erebus The Story of a Ship will be published soon. In America and Canada it has a different cover, adorned with a quote from Bill Bryson. “Beyond terrific, I didn’t want it to end”. Now that’s one to die for.
Right now I am re-training myself from author to salesman, making sales promotion videos, giving interviews to the national and local newspapers, TV and radio and generally, as they say, “putting myself about “.
There’s still five weeks to go to publication day, and to be honest, the time can’t go fast enough. The book looks very fine and I can’t wait to see it in the shops. I’ll be away to Majorca on a family holiday at the end of August, then back to face a triple whammy of Vanity Fair – the ITV drama series in which I appear as the author William Makepeace Thackeray, two hour-long documentaries on Channel Five made on my two-week trip to North Korea in April and May, and then Erebus, which goes down the slipway and into the viciously crowded waters of autumn book releases on September 20th.
However hard the work, none of it means anything until the public decide how much they like what comes out. So, my fingers, and everything else, are tightly crossed.
Whatever happens I have had fun. And to turn 75 whilst digging with a farmer on a North Korean collective farm, was perhaps the high point of a very wacky year. And the travelling is far from over. Watch out Falmouth, Oswestry, St Boswells, New York, Providence Rhode Island, Ottawa, Hobart, Sydney, Dublin and Brussels – to name but a few. Erebus, and its author, is coming your way. Look busy.