Inn on Top

31 January 2014

Manuscript finally delivered, stress frown turned upside down, I’m back in the game!

For those who’ve read The Inn at the Top – and with apologies to those who haven’t – I wanted to take a moment to answer a couple of queries raised by some of the many Amazon reviewers there have been.

The first is why the book is called “The Inn At The Top” and is never given its real name in the book, when anyone who knows the Yorkshire Dales or, indeed has read any of the reviews or articles about it, will know at once that the inn is Tan Hill, the highest inn in Britain at 1732 feet above sea level, on top of the Pennines to the north of Swaledale.

The reason is that, at the time I was writing the book, my Baldrick-style cunning plan was not to identify the inn in the hope of generating a bit of “buzz” among readers speculating about its identity and wondering if their favourite Dales pub could be the one featured. This still seems to me to have been a reasonable plan and indeed, The Dalesman reported a bit of exactly that sort of buzz from readers, when the serialisation began in that magazine.

However, my publishers, Michael O’Mara Books, felt there was greater publicity mileage to be gained from identifying it as Tan Hill, and since they were paying the piper, it seemed only fair to let them call the tune. So that’s what we did and the sales figures suggest they may well been right, but by then the book had already been printed, so The Inn At The Top it stayed.

The second often-voiced query or complaint is why – present company excepted – none of the characters in the book are identified by their real names. Quite a few people have suggested that I did it to dodge potential libel writs but, while that’s always a potential concern among nervous writers, my principal reason was to protect the privacy of those I was writing about. Many are now dead, of course – the book is about the inn in the late 1970s – but many others are still living and even those who have died often have children still living in the area. It did not seem fair to me to subject them to potential intrusions into their lives by well-meaning but not necessarily welcome outsiders. If they recognise themselves and want to identify themselves, they can of course do so, but that will be by their choice, not mine.

For similar reasons, none of the locations are identified by name either. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the name of the small Cumbrian town with an annual horse fair, but once you start naming names, they lead on to others, and some of the places are so small, that to name the village would render pointless any attempt to disguise the identity of the individuals who live there.

Whether I’ll continue the same policy in the follow-up, provisionally titled – spoiler alert! – “Return To The Top” which I’m working on at the moment, remains to be seen but you know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!