Maxton Walker on literature

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There's a scene early on in Rob Grant's new Red Dwarf novel, Backwards, in which a space ship breaks the "reality barrier" and ends up in a parallel universe. Alarmingly, this is similar to the situation in the real world, in the wake of an acrimonious split with his long-term writing partner, Doug Naylor, a couple of years ago.

"Originally, the plan was that I would follow on from Doug's book [Last Human, which was published last year]," says Grant (below). "But after reading it, I decided I'd follow on from the last one [Better than Life] that we wrote together."

This leaves fans with the confusing prospect of two competing versions of the Red Dwarf saga, but Grant appears to have few regrets about the break-up. "There are ups and downs when you're working in tandem," he says. "The good bit is when you're uninspired, the other can keep you going. On the other hand, you have to compromise more. We'd written together for three decades and I just didn't want that on my epitaph. We disagreed about where the scripts should go. In the end, we went our separate ways."

"The reason I want to write Red Dwarf books is that the TV shows have a lot of really good ideas that you can't do justice to in a half-hour comedy," he says.

Grant has made it clear he won't be involved in the upcoming seventh Red Dwarf television series (which will be scripted by Naylor along with a team of writers) although this doesn't necessarily mean an end to his contribution to the cult: "I have a few other projects I'm working on first, but I'd definitely like to write another Red Dwarf."

So fans may find it worth hanging around in this particular universe, for the time being at least.

`Backwards' by Rob Grant is published by Viking Books at pounds 16.

Rob Grant will be signing copies at: Waterstone's, Birmingham today; The Red Lion Bookshop, Colchester tomorrow; Dillons Kingston, 7 May; Dillons, Chester and Waterstone's Deansgate, Manchester 8 May; Waterstone's Leeds, 9 May; Waterstone's West End, Edinburgh and Dillon's Glasgow, 10 May; Books etc Charing Cross Rd, London 11 May