It's all your fault, cult author tells his fans as latest book arrives five years late

The American fantasy author George R R Martin has sold millions of books worldwide, and his fame has heightened with Game of Thrones, the glossy US TV series starring Sean Bean, based on his mythical creations.

However for the past six years Martin has kept his fans waiting with baited breath over his mammoth book, A Dance with Dragons, the latest installment in his "A Song of Ice and Fire" series of warring aristocratic families in a medieval fantasy universe. In 2005 he said the 1,600-page novel would arrive within a year. It never came. He has constantly rescheduled its release since then, angering his many fans. Now, it seems, the wait is over.

Yesterday, Jane Johnson, publishing director of Martin's UK publisher Harper Voyager, said the novel is finally finished and will be released worldwide on 12 July. "This book has taken on something of a legendary status and had a mythical existence until Wednesday," she said. "But I can now reveal that it was worth the six-year wait."

Martin put his delay down to his close relationship to his fans, whom he corresponds with regularly. "The more readers you have, the harder it is to keep up, and then you can't get any writing done," he told The New Yorker.

In recent months fans have responded with increasing ire over their wait, posting negative comments on the writer's website, georgerrmartin.com, and on Amazon.com discussion boards. On Amazon, one fan wrote: "George R R Martin, you suck... Pull your typewriter out of your ass." Another wrote: "Don't hold your breath on this one unless you like passing out".

Martin first alerted fans to his book's completion earlier this week, when he posted a picture of King Kong lying defeated at the base of New York's World Trade Centre on his website. "Kong" is his nickname for A Dance with Dragons, in reference to its size.

"It is true," said Anne Groell, an editor at the Random House US subsidiary Bantam Dell Publishing. "There were a few moments of George in a spare office yesterday, cleaning up the last bits and inserting a few new bits in longhand, while I typed the changes into the electronic files, but we are honestly and officially done. And there is much rejoicing!"

Game of Thrones, the £36m adaptation of the first book in Martin's series, which was filmed in Belfast, premiered earlier this month on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in Britain. In the US, its first two episodes each attracted two million viewers. A second series has been commissioned.

The book's announcement has prompted celebrations from Martin's fans all over the world. "A Dance With Dragons is down for the count!" read a post on the fan-site westeros.org.

Worth waiting for...

* Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote, now published as one book, was originally released in two volumes in 1605 and 1615. Between the two volumes, Cervantes wrote teasers for the sequel into his fiction. "You shall see shortly the further exploits of Don Quixote and humours of Sancho Panza," he wrote in 1613 work Novelas Ejemplares.

* Thomas Harris left seven years between the first of his books about serial killer Hannibal Lector – The Red Dragon (1981) – and its sequel Silence of the Lambs (1988). It took him a further 11 years to deliver another, Hannibal, and seven more for Hanibal Rising (2006), prequel to the first three novels. "His books are very, very complex, and I think he thinks about them for a long time before he puts a pen to paper," said his agent, Mort Janklow.

* Tom Clancy was silent for seven years between two most recent novels in his "Ryanverse" series, which follow the story of former CIA agent Jack Ryan and his son Jack Ryan Jr. The Teeth of the Tiger came out in 2003, while its follow-up Dead or Alive did not appear until last year.

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