Back in the 1980s I studied with the Open University for eight years and when that all came to an end I looked for a way to fill my time. Regular articles for the climbing magazines proved to be a good of learning the basics of writing/photography/publishing trade. The guidebooks all started with Cicerone Press back in 1990 in the form of a small (128 pages) guidebook to the Costa Blanca, with a 3000 print-run; much to Walt Unsworth's surprise it sold out. Other small guidebooks followed to Andalucia and Mallorca as well as Belgium and Luxembourg plus my 100 Best Limestone Climbs which the late Paul Williams described as a 'real belter'.
Ten years later (and after writing Bamford, Stanage, Derwent Edge, Gardoms, Chatsworth, Birchen and Willersley for the BMC's definitive series) I fancied writing a guide to my beloved Gritstone. Cicerone were initially keen but after some skulduggery by 'the establishment' they pulled the plug on it. With little to lose I approached long-term rival Alan James of Rockfax and together we produced the revolutionary Peak Grit East - perhaps the Genesis of modern rock climbing guidebook production. The acrimony surrounding the guide has passed into history but the ripples continue spread out down the years. Western Grit followed (it and PGE both won Guidebook of the Year award) followed by Northern Limestone (along with Alan and Mark Glaister) covering the Peak and Yorkshire and also the solo project of Northern England.
Alan had already produced several Spanish guides so we cooperated on a new Costa Blanca guide in 2005 and the full colour treatment proved popular, revitalising this well known area. Thorbjørn Enevold of the Nord Norsk Klatreskole was so impressed that on a visit to the magical Lofoten Islands he sidled up to me in the shop with a copy in his hands and asked if I could do one like that for him! We went one better and the magnificent Lofoten Rock which won the prestigious Banff Guidebook Award in 2008. Ariège had become another of our favourite spots and seemed ready for a UK guide. Anne and John Arran, who had lived in the area for a number of years and were much better climbers than I had ever been, were keen. We moved into Chez Arran for the spring of 2012 to work on the book, having it in the shops by the end of the year was probably some kind of record.
So what's next? Swiss Granite, Southern Norway, Canaries Rock, Corsica Climbs, or maybe as my 63rd birthday approaches we could just go climbing. 20 books in 23 years seems like a fair monument to my obsession!