THE CANAL BUILDERS
This book might never have happened at all, if my writing careers had gone the way I first intended. I left a career in publishing in order to write full time in 1979 and I started out as a humourist. My first book, A Programmed Guide to Office Warfare, was a success – hard back and paper back in Britain and America and translated into other languages – I have an incomprehensible to me copy of the Japanese book. But my next effort, The Jones Report, sank without causing a ripple on the surface of the literary world. My agent Murray Pollinger then asked a very pertinent question: “What is the book you have read in the past year that you wished you had written yourself?” My answer was The Railway Navvies by Terry Coleman. The next question was obvious: was there a similar subject that interested me? My wife and I had already taken to enjoying canal holidays and I had become increasingly interested in their history. One element that seemed to be lacking was any information about the people who had constructed them. There were biographies of the main engineers, but very little about anyone else – their hard-working assistants, the administrators, the contractors and, of course, the navvies. I wrote an outline and Murray got me a very good contract, for what was to become The Canal Builders.