I thought it would never come. For those of you without a darling fledgling book at home, it might help to think of it a bit like graduation day for your child. You've nurtured the dear one, fed it, seen it off on its first overnight, its week abroad, told it not to take too many drugs and watch out for spiked drinks, encouraged it to marry rich and stop wearing such short skirts, given it a fiver a week pocket money and an extra £100 here and there for impractical shoes.

Yes, you've brought the little blighter up as best you can, and now it has to spread its own little wings and soar like an eagle. Or plummet out of the nest, break its tiny neck on the pavement and be eaten by a cat.


"Why aren't you more excited?" My daughter always wants to know when I don't crack open the Dom Perignon and hire the Flying Karamazov Brothers to swoop around our living room whenever a book comes out.

"I'm too busy banging my head against a wall, praying the next one comes out OK," I answer.


"Praying to whom?" she demands to know. "You always tell me there is no God."

There is no Dog, actually. But in any case, having set out to write a great atheist tract, I now feel convinced that there really must be a God after all. Who else would be clever and sadistic enough to invent the world of publishing, which requires writers to prepare another manuscript for delivery a few months after publication of the last one, on the off chance that the one coming out now doesn't make everyone rich.

It's exactly the sort of crazy mixed-up system you'd get if you appointed a 19-year-old to run the place.

I could have told you it would never work.