/ What Climbing Book Do You Want Written?

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Damo on 12 Mar 2013
So I was reading this interview with US marketing guru Seth Godin: http://www.roninmarketeer.com/2013/01/04/seth-godin-on-the-icarus-deception/#.UT8TWo7sIhU

He poses this interesting question with regard to writing a new book:
"What I was trying to do was maximize the connection. I set out to say, “Can I find 4,000 or 5,000 people who want to come with me on this journey so that I can go about—now this is key—making books for my readers instead of finding readers for my books?” So, once I knew that there were people like you and others who were waiting for me to make something for them, it changes the way you write, and it changes what you build."

I think it's an interesting idea that is suitable for a relatively small and niche segment of the publishing industry like climbing, particularly alpine climbing. Don't try to appeal to masses of anonymous strangers. Rather, find the people who like and trust your writing, and are interested in your usual subjects, will pay to read you, and ask them what they would like to read from you next. To some extent some of this has been done before by authors in other areas, but I don't think it has been done in such a small and focussed way, in this area, using this type of connection.

So, UKC, what book would you like to see written? And by whom?

My choices? Bio of Doug Scott, a history of climbing in the Khumbu, an english-language overview of Japanese Himalayan climbing in the 70s & 80s, a biography of Bill Tilman...

Note: I'm putting this in this particular forum because that's general subject matter I'm interested in reading about. It could apply to other forums - rock, gear, photography etc. But the kind of book I'm interested in reading will be about Expedition and/or Alpine climbing, more than those other things.

Note2: I know a lot of people have expressed interest in a Joe Brown autobiography, but apparently that is not going to happen.
In reply to Damo:

The Definitive Guide To Eliminating Shakey Leg
Solaris - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

Interesting question. To some extent, I think that really good (climbing) books create their markets - for example, a wonderful guide to Antarctica, packed with superb photographs, will generate an interest and a readership that might not be there otherwise; likewise a well-written, incident-packed history of a group of brilliant and audacious climbers going out and making climbing history against the odds (ie "Freedom Climbers").

Since for many people a lot of the motivation for climbing is about exploration, perhaps the same thing applies with publishing: taking readers into unknown, unanticipated places and histories...
johncoxmysteriously - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

Joe has already produced an autobiography, of course.

Jim Perrin was at one time engaged upon a biography of Tilman, wasn't he? Or do I mean Shipton? Either way there doesn't seem to be much sign of it.

jcm
biped - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

Stevie Haston autobiography.
Tom Last - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

I'd like to see a Pat Littlejohn autobigraphy.
Tom Last - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> (In reply to Damo)
>
> Joe has already produced an autobiography, of course.
>
>

Not very good though is it.

Maybe a biography would be a better bet.
Damo on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> (In reply to Damo)
>
> Joe has already produced an autobiography, of course.
>
>

Correct - my bad. Word was a biography was wanted but not likely. I've not read The Hard Years so I've no idea how valid that pov is.

Peter Steele did a bio of Shipton ('Everest & Beyond') which was quite good, and Tilman wrote quite a bit, but has no bio. With something of a private income he did not have Shipton's (relative) need for exposure and of course, died suddenly. I recently interviewed someone who travelled with him, and he had interesting insights. Tilman led a fascinating life.

One of the several advantages of bios over autobios is that, particularly some years down the track, connections can be revealed that not even the subject might have known about at the time. When the En Avant set sail to its demise in the Southern Ocean, Tilman was aboard but Gary Ball was not. He had been delayed in South America and missed the sailing date. Aside from saving his life, it meant he could go on to found Adventure Consultants with Rob Hall, popularising the Seven Summits as a guided program, helping open up Vinson and Everest, before dying on Dhaulagiri in 1993. Ironically, had Tilman and friends waited for Gary, the recent commercial history of Everest may have been quite different.
Damo on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Solaris:
> (In reply to Damo)
>
> ... for example, a wonderful guide to Antarctica, packed with superb photographs,

Ugh. Sounds awful.

'Freedom Climbers' was quite good, though I would have liked it to be a little more critical. It was a story crying out to be told, for sure. As for drawing in other, non-targeted readers, that is a nice idea but I'm not sure how much it happens. There are extreme outliers - ie. Into Thin Air, Touching The Void - that have done this, but I'm not sure a writer can proactively figure that in from the beginning.
myserable old git - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo: There is already a Tilman biography, High Mountains & Cold Seas by J.L.R. Anderson
Solaris - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
> (In reply to Solaris)
> [...]
>
> Ugh. Sounds awful.
Yeah - I mean, who'd be fool enough to add the suffering of writing a book to the suffering of climbing? ;-)

To your original question: time was when some mainstream publishers would have the occasional climbing book on their list (eg Kaye and Ward with "The Black Cliff" and Messner's "The Seventh Grade") and they would get onto the shelves of WH Smiths and other such retailers and have a chance of being bought by non-climbers. But "niche" publishing like that is now increasingly done by specialists like Vertebrate who have less ready access to mainstream outlets for hard copy but have a steady captive market via climbing shops. Hence it's harder to grow a mass audience and create a non-climbing market for climbing books, though as you say, there have been exceptions, and Hutchinson have kept the faith via Kirkpatrick and others.
TRip - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

I'd like to see a comprehensive guidebook to the Central Alaska Range, that is as well written and researched as the new Patagonia one.

Cheers,

Tom
CH - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

I've always fancied reading an up-to-date biography of Hamish Macinnes.
Damo on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to TRip:
> (In reply to Damo)
>
> I'd like to see a comprehensive guidebook to the Central Alaska Range,

Have you looked at Joe Puryear's http://www.supertopo.com/packs/alaska.html ? That's probably the best you could hope for right now, in addition to Waterman's 'High Alaska'. AK will always be tough as there is a First Rule of Fight Club attitude to climbing in AK, even more so in the Hayes Range and environs.

If you want a good laugh, have a look at the St Elias Mountains guidebook by Holmes. Not only are there numerous errors and mis-captions, mis-directions, but he gives psuedo-detailed route info - for unclimbed routes :-o

Big Lee - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

I would have liked to have read my friend Peter Thompson's book (unfortunately he could not find a willing publisher). Alpine ascents of Batura & Diran, plus various FAs in the Karakoram over about ten trips. Also an infamous crossing from Shimshal into China, subsequent arrest, some time spent in a Chinese prison, followed by some more time in Gilgit prison. 'Climbs and Crimes in the Karakoram' would have been a good read I think.
TRip - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
> (In reply to TRip)
> [...]
>
> Have you looked at Joe Puryear's http://www.supertopo.com/packs/alaska.html ? That's probably the best you could hope for right now, in addition to Waterman's 'High Alaska'. AK will always be tough as there is a First Rule of Fight Club attitude to climbing in AK, even more so in the Hayes Range and environs.

Yea I own both of those. An updated version of High Alaska including Mount Huntington would also be awesome.

> If you want a good laugh, have a look at the St Elias Mountains guidebook by Holmes. Not only are there numerous errors and mis-captions, mis-directions, but he gives psuedo-detailed route info - for unclimbed routes :-o

I would also like to read John Porter's Alex Macintryre's Climb if it ever gets published.
Damo on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Big Lee:

Yeh, I always wondered if Peter would ever publish anything about his climbs. I'd love to read it anyway, book or not. His climbs seemed the epitome of the trips people talk about but very little is known of. Will he try again?
mkean - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
"I had a nice day out, the weather was lovely and I didn't have an epic" by Andy Kirkpatrick

Classic Choss would be a small market but a worthy read.

Identifying wildlife for climbers; a safety manual
Identifying Fulmars from a distance, squirrel proofing your lunch, shark avoidance for DWS, removing hornets from crucial monos...

Ramblin dave - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
I'd really like to see a good history of the pre WWI British rock climbing scene - OG Jones, Haskett Smith, the Abraham Brothers, Oscar Eckenstein, Winthrop Young, all that lot. Something in the Jim Perrin sort of line, with lots of detail on the social context and the personalities and lots of interesting stuff about the climbing combined with a bit of an tendency to want to cut through to the reality behind the classic myths and anecdotes.
robert-hutton on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
What about Sheffield climbing scene the highs and lows.

Various editions
1900 - 1930
1930 - 1950
1950 - 1980
1980 - 2010
petestack - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
> So, UKC, what book would you like to see written? And by whom?

The biography of Ian Clough I might yet have to take on myself (quoting http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=328112 from 2008):
> To me he's always been one of the great, but relatively unsung, heroes of British climbing. Something of a bit player in other climbers' histories rather than the star of his own. But his achievements were significant, from the Alps and beyond to my own Lochaber patch, where he was responsible for everything from the notorious siege of Point Five Gully, through the still contentious aided ascent of Titan's Wall (they called him 'Dangle' for a reason!), to a pivotal role in the development of Polldubh Crags. And there's really not that much information about him readily available online beyond Wikipedia, some snippets related to his birthplace of Baildon and other pieces of similar brevity...

> So has anyone got any good stuff to share? Or fancy writing his biography? (I'll buy it and read it if you write it. Or possibly even consider researching and writing it myself one day!)
Big Lee - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

I don't think so. I guess with any form of biography it's the name on the front of the book that sells the units to a certain degree rather than the quality of material. It's probably too much of a gamble for publishers to take a chance on a climber without a trail of publicity behind them.

Another one (hypothetical of course): Charlie Fowler's autobiography would potentially have been a great read. Some of his near misses make Mr Kirkpatrick look tame.
Damo on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Big Lee:
> (In reply to Damo)
>
> I don't think so. I guess with any form of biography it's the name on the front of the book that sells the units to a certain degree rather than the quality of material.
> Another one (hypothetical of course): Charlie Fowler's autobiography would potentially have been a great read. Some of his near misses make Mr Kirkpatrick look tame.

Yes, agree Charlie's story would have been great, told in full.

But don't agree on publishing PT's story though. If the story and writing are good enough it will cut through. More importantly, now there are more avenues to get it out there. Have a chapter on a blog, publish a version as an ebook, test the market and go again to a more forward thinking publisher.

Within a couple of years there will be a kind of 'Outdoor Amazon' - a specialist web retailer and publisher of outdoor books and articles, with around 25% going to the author. It's in the works (not by me) but will take time to set up.
Ciderslider - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo: What about how to climb E1 on a diet of curry and beer with only a very small local wall to train on - oh and it has to be set in Sussex where there's no real outdoor climbing. It also has to be an old farts guide.
Padraig on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

Gordon Stainforth's autobio would be a "must buy" for me.
Ciderslider - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Ciderslider: It could be an instructional guide with useful pointers, things like getting permission to go climbing from the wife, how to drink less than 4-5 pints after a friday nights climbing wall action. how to employ the technique you know you should be at least trying to use. how not to get too pissed off that everyone at the wall/crag seems to be younger than you. I could go on (and usually do .....)
Only a hill - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Ramblin dave:
> (In reply to Damo)
> I'd really like to see a good history of the pre WWI British rock climbing scene - OG Jones, Haskett Smith, the Abraham Brothers, Oscar Eckenstein, Winthrop Young, all that lot. Something in the Jim Perrin sort of line, with lots of detail on the social context and the personalities and lots of interesting stuff about the climbing combined with a bit of an tendency to want to cut through to the reality behind the classic myths and anecdotes.

I think Alan Hankinson has already covered that ground fairly comprehensively with "The First Tigers" and "The Mountain Men", although of course it's possible more information has come to light since these books were published.

In reply to the OP, the sort of books I would like to see written are the ones I plan to write myself ;-) I completely agree that it's important to write for your readers and not simply to aim for mass appeal.
ice.solo - on 12 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

- mick fowlers guide to china
- history of the giri giri boys (part 1)
- a series of guidebooks to japanese alpine
- nakamura tomatsus autobio (large format)
- full translation of the japanese K2 nth side exped (summery exists in english, as they do for most big j-expeds, in the full versions published by tokyo university press)
- the collected rants of kelly cordes
- beat kammerlanders autobio
Colin Wells - on 13 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

> My choices? Bio of Doug Scott, a history of climbing in the Khumbu, an english-language overview of Japanese Himalayan climbing in the 70s & 80s, a biography of Bill Tilman...
>

In addition to aforementioned excellent 1980 biography of Tilman by John Richard Lane Anderson High Mountains and Cold Seas

http://www.amazon.co.uk/High-Mountains-Cold-Seas-Tilman/sim/0575028068/2

- There's also the more recent and rather less excellent biography by Tim Madge, The Last Hero

http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Last_Hero.html?id=WBl6-EBrWvUC
Colin Wells - on 13 Mar 2013
In reply to Only a hill:
> (In reply to Ramblin dave)
> [...]
>
> I think Alan Hankinson has already covered that ground fairly comprehensively with "The First Tigers" and "The Mountain Men", although of course it's possible more information has come to light since these books were published.
>

I suspect Hankinson's superlative research is unlikely to be surpassed - he did a pretty thorough job on both the early Welsh and Lakes climbing scenes.

Nevertheless, there is still serious research being done in this area - mainly by Jon Westaway at UCLAN and Mike Cocker (now based at the 'University of Life'), but their findings are generally to be found in the pages of specialist history journals or FRCC journals rather than more general publications.

Mike has, however, done a very fine reappraisal of the early years of climbing around Wasdale with his meticulously annotated analysis of the Wasdale Climbing Book

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wasdale-Climbing-Book-Cocker-Michael/dp/B002BWZCE4

- although it is pretty much unaffordable except to wealthy book collectors because so few were printed.
Ed Douglas - on 13 Mar 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: There's a joint biography by Jim Perrin published imminently.
Jim Walton on 13 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo: A definitive history of climbing in Mont Blanc Massif in the 70's and 80's. Gabarrou, Profit, MacIntyre, Messner, Piola, Desmaison, Rouse etc. I'd reckon that would sell.

There are a couple of foreign books I'd love to see translated into English.
Alpinismo eroico by Emilio Comici
Pierre Allain's biog
Milesy - on 13 Mar 2013
A biography of Alex MacIntyre.
In reply to Jim Walton: Would love to see a definitive 'Social history of British Mountaineering' Find it fascinating comparing the social differences and freedoms between ourselves and the European climbers and mountaineers especially century up to the second world war..........
Milesy - on 13 Mar 2013
In reply to Allan McDonald (Gwydyr MC):
> (In reply to Jim Walton) Would love to see a definitive 'Social history of British Mountaineering' Find it fascinating comparing the social differences and freedoms between ourselves and the European climbers and mountaineers especially century up to the second world war..........

What about the book from last year..

Unjustifiable Risk?: The Story of British Climbing
In reply to Milesy: Didn't enjoy that at all, hardly touched the subject IMO - no offence to author btw if he should read this.
I would like to see what a good author could make of the seemingly easier access to the mountains, in the 1930's say, that our European counterparts enjoyed while we jailed our 'trespassers'. Only when the working masses were able to 'get involved' after the war did our climbing standards begin to match those of our European climbers. To say nothing of the clear social divisions in the nineteenth century .....................
tom.e - on 14 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo: Extreme Cold Climbs - the Scottish winter counterpart to Extreme Rock
Jock - on 14 Mar 2013
FA of Gaia, from the ladybird's point of view
Big Lee - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

A decent climbing guide to the Caucasus please someone.
Hay - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
Jimmy Marshall and Cubby.
SuperstarDJ - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:

You've picked my first two choices, a biography of Doug Scott and a Joe Brown biography. His autobiography is decent enough but he's so modest that you don't really see the enormonity of his acheivements in the broader context. Perrin's 'The Villan' did cover a lot of the early period in good detail though.

My other choice would be a biography of Voytek Kurtyka. I only know what I've read in Freedom Climbers and I think he's got an interesting perspective on mountaineering and I'd love to read how that evolved.

More generally, I'd love to see another climbing related book from Jim Perrin or Wade Davis. Two superb writers. Whatever it was about I expect I'd buy it.
adnix - on 15 Mar 2013
In reply to Big Lee:

A well detailed guide to the Caucasus would be nice, indeed. There are nice little hills like the Ushba but not much info available.
abcdefg - on 17 Mar 2013
In reply to Ed Douglas:

> There's a joint biography by Jim Perrin published imminently.

Now available: http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/shipton-and-tilman/9780091795467
Calder - on 17 Mar 2013
In reply to robert-hutton:
> (In reply to Damo)
> What about Sheffield climbing scene the highs and lows.
>
> Various editions
> 1900 - 1930
> 1930 - 1950
> 1950 - 1980
> 1980 - 2010

There's a climbing scene in Sheffield?!
alan moore - on 17 Mar 2013
In reply to Damo:
Peak Rock would have made a great companion to 'Welsh' and 'Cumbrian'. It would be good to see the Puttrell, Birtwhistle, Brown, Allen, Fawcett, Dawes, (and of course others), story in a single context.
shunty - on 17 Mar 2013
In reply to Solaris:
Totally agree. In fact, I am working on one such book and similar format books on certain Mountain areas and climbs. Also agree with some of the more serious suggestions mentioned in this thread and in particular Voytek and Alex Mac. Some good suggestions.

To slightly extend the scope of this thread, what do people want these days?
Eg:
High quality hardback books, prepared to pay for more expensive production and quality.
Cheaper paperback.Lower price.
Printed or/and electronic.

Only a hill - on 17 Mar 2013
> To slightly extend the scope of this thread, what do people want these days?
> Eg:
> High quality hardback books, prepared to pay for more expensive production and quality.
> Cheaper paperback.Lower price.
> Printed or/and electronic.

People want books available in every format possible: affordable paperback, high quality hardback (people are willing to pay a little more for this now), and all the major eBook formats (at a a reasonable price, ie. *not* the same price as the paperback!)

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