Fishing lines: I'm going to reel in the big one this time

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The Independent Online

Let's get this written down so that I can't break my new year's resolution for the fifth year running. Right: in front of 500,000 witnesses, give or take a few, I hereby resolve that I will publish a book of these columns sometime in the coming year.

Let's get this written down so that I can't break my new year's resolution for the fifth year running. Right: in front of 500,000 witnesses, give or take a few, I hereby resolve that I will publish a book of these columns sometime in the coming year.

It shouldn't be that hard. I've been writing this column ever since the Independent started. Apart from the first few issues, it has appeared weekly. (Huge demand, and all that.) There were even two that were written before the newspaper was unveiled to the masses.

That means loyal readers have ploughed through somewhere around 800 columns - I reckon that equates to around 480,000 words. By now, there ought to be enough to make a book.

I swore I would never write another. Too much work, too little reward, unless you're J K Rowling. Worst of all, the author, who does all the work, gets the smallest slice of the cake. You slave away in a garret, then publishers, agents, printers and bookshops take the chocolate bits.

An author does well if he or she gets 10 per cent of the cover price. To hell with that. It's time to change the rules. This is not vanity publishing, but greed publishing. If I publish it myself, I want the cheese, not the rind. I've even got a provisional title: Sleeping With A Skate. This refers to a column... no, sorry, you'll have to buy the book to find out.

It's not that hard to be a publisher. All I've got to do is write an introduction, sort the 800 or so columns into some semblance of order, whack on a cover, send it to a printer and hey presto!

But there is a small problem. In the early days, I two-finger typed on a typewriter. I haven't been too careful about filing those early efforts. Others were produced on an early computer called a Sirius, on 3in floppy disks. (Remember them?) Goodness knows how I'll manage to read them now.

To make the book more attractive, I thought I might add a few of my photographs. My wife says these are far more amusing than my columns.

The best is probably not taken by myself, but by a German fisher with whom I shared a big-game boat. I caught a whopping tuna, and asked him to take a picture. When it was developed, there was a grinning shot of me, one arm outstretched - and the fish was cut out entirely. I look like a learner driver practising my left turn at sea.

Some ethical decisions need to be made here. Should I include the notorious column written on the eve of Princess Diana's funeral, the only one so far that the good-taste censors at the Independent, who have been remarkably liberal with me, have axed? Do I include the original versions of similes which were similarly rewritten for exceeding by several yards the bounds of acceptability?

So many decisions, so little time. But the die is cast. Sleeping With A Skate will definitely (well, probably) come out this year. Get your orders in now.

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