EIGHT years ago Paul Hannon, a weekend walker and passionate admirer of the Wainwright guides, left his job as a clerk in the dole office in Keighley, Yorkshire, and became a one-man publisher-cum-writer. So far he has written 22 walking guides.

Mr Hannon's books pay tribute to both Wainwright the man and his style. The printed text and photographs are, like Wainwright's, interwoven with hand- written sections and drawings and large-scale route maps.

This year he launched his most ambitious project, a coast-to- coast guide following Wainwright's route. His volume, smaller and cheaper than the master's, is selling well. In April, he received a telephone call to his home from Jenny Dereham of Michael Joseph, asking if he could send her a copy of his guide as she could not find one in London. According to Mr Hannon, Ms Dereham did not mention her connection with Michael Joseph, or the fact that her own company had recently acquired the rights to Wainright. 'The mere fact that she gave me her home address to send it to meant she was doing it in an underhand manner. Which seems to be the way things have gone.'

Mr Hannon has now received a letter from Michael Joseph's publishing director, Susan Watt, claiming that his guide, The Coast to Coast Walk, is a breach of copyright. She asked him to cease publication and donate a percentage of his royalties to Wainwright's widow, Betty, who runs an animal sanctuary near Kendal.

'I rather suspect,' says Mr Hannon, 'that they thought one bullying letter would frighten me off. They didn't expect me to take it to a top London copyright


He has also turned to the Outdoor Writers Guild for help. The guild's president, Walt Unsworth, describes Michael Joseph's action as 'absolutely diabolical'. He says, 'We'll defend Paul Hannon to the fullest extent. My own company is bringing out a coast-to- coast next year. All I can say is let them tackle us and see how far they get because we're going to kick 'em up the arse. They haven't got a leg to stand on.'

Susan Watt, who says she may indeed take legal advice on Mr Unsworth's rival book if it uses Wainwright's pioneering route, retorts primly: 'Without using his kind of language we could return the compliment I'm sure. Our view is that there's a copyright maintained by us on behalf of the widow in both the book and the design of the walk.'

'We're not bullying Mr Hannon about it. I've tried to get a totally amiable and relaxed agreement with him and I'm slightly alarmed if at the same time I'm getting calls from the press.'

(Photograph omitted)