Monday 24 July 2017

Thirty years ago my first book was published

The cover shows Scott Steiner in Halfmoon Park in the Scapegoat Wilderness on the Continental Divide Trail

Back in the distant pre-Internet world of 1987 when print was the only place you could read anything my first book was published. The Great Backpacking Adventure was part of a series from long-gone imprint Oxford Illustrated Press whose editor, Jane Marshall, approached me to write the backpacking volume. I remember she said I'd been recommended. Who by I can't now recollect but whoever it was many thanks! At that point in my writing life I'd penned quite a few magazine articles and was editor of Footloose magazine (also long-gone) but had failed to find a publisher for any of my book ideas. I wasn't going to turn down an invitation.

That first book also brought about my introduction to computers. Up to that point I'd typed features, usually with many Tippex corrections, on a battered old second-hand typewriter. The contract for the book said I had to supply two copies of clean typescript. I knew that there was no way my minimal typing skills could produce a clean manuscript 80,000 words long. A bit of research - talking to other writers in person and on the phone, visiting electronics stores, looking at the small ads in writers' magazines - showed that paying a copy typist, buying an electronic typewriter, and buying one of these new-fangled personal computers would cost about the same. Thinking that computers would be the way forward I chose that option and was soon the proud (and confused) owner of an Amstrad PCW 8256. This had 256kb of RAM (that's not a misprint!) and a floppy disk drive. The word processing software was appropriately called Locoscript. The printer was a dot matrix one, very slow and prone to jamming. The Amstrad was sufficient though and I wrote my first two books on it.

Pictures from long ago Pyrenean trips

The book had eight pages of colour photos in the centre, all taken from transparency film. The eight walks described ranged from the Pennine Way to the Continental Divide Trail and were all written from my trail journals, which I started keeping long before I thought I'd be writing articles let alone books. I was glad I'd done so as I couldn't have written the book without them.

The Great Backpacking Adventure has long been out of print so anyone wanting to read it needs to find a second-hand copy. Looking back I can see that it sums up my first decade of long-distance walking as well as being the start of a whole series of books - I little thought at the time that thirty years later I'd be writing my twenty-sixth. Reading the Postcript for the first time in many, many years I see that I correctly predicted my life to come, writing that 'my wilderness treks are not one-off 'dreams of a lifetime' but a lifetime's occupation'. How true that has turned out to be.


  1. I recently bought a copy off eBay and am enjoying it. Just wanted to say thanks.

  2. Bought your Long Distance Walks in the Pyrenees 20+ years ago - still got it, still read it, longingly. One day...

  3. I bought that book when it was new (along with John Barry's "The Great Climbing Adventure" which is also excellent) - and I still have it on my bookshelf!