What is my book about?
It is difficult for me to pick a favourite from the various books I’ve published, but since I’m obliged to make a choice, it has to be The Great Auk.
This is a volume about a bird that has been extinct since 1844 and, surprisingly perhaps for a book about a single species, it runs to almost 450 large pages. It even surprises me that I found so much to write about. When I started it, I expected it to run to, perhaps, a hundred pages or so, but the obsession to produce something entirely complete just went on and on and on.
I tried to leave no stone unturned in the hunt for information and pictures.
In fact, the size became a problem when it came to finding a publisher. In addition to all the written material, I had collected more than 200 coloured pictures of what is essentially a black and white bird. No publisher is likely to tolerate such self-indulgence, and all wanted to cut it to more reasonable proportions. This was something I couldn’t even begin to consider – so I published it myself. Then, when it was done an American publisher (Abrams) decided to take it on after all and they produced a US edition. Naturally, I was pleased about this but unfortunately, they changed the dustwrapper and it is nowhere near as beautiful as the dust jacket on my privately published UK edition.