Harry Harrison contacted me in late 1986 to say he had a project he'd like me to work on: I was in my second year at Manchester Polytechnic, studying librarianship, and Harry thought this would be right up my street.
The project turned out to be a Harry Harrison bibliography: Borgo Press in the USA publishes a series of annotated bibliographies, and they had approached Harry for a bibliography of his works. Harry knew this would be a big project - though I don't think he realised just how big - and so told the editor at Borgo Press that he would not be able to compile the bibliography himself, but that he knew someone who could...
In November 1987 I signed a contract with Borgo Press to compile the bibliography, and deliver the manuscript by 1st January 1990. The bibliography was to be 'comprehensive', including "all appearances of the author's books, short fiction, nonfiction, interviews, juvenilia, editorial credits, drama, verse, and screen work, plus all known articles on and biographies of the author, a chronology of the author's life, and index."
Work on the bibliography had actually begun in April 1987: Harry invited me out to his home in Ireland, where I would catalogue the books in his collection. It was only at this stage that I began to realise the size of the project: it took me the best part of a week to go through Harry's collection and record details of each book and short story. And I hadn't even begun to look at researching the original appearances of the short stories in the sf magazines of the 1950s and 60s, which Harry had away in storage.
Returning to Manchester, I began to fill in the gaps using secondary sources, including Francesco Biamonti's Bibliographia (1951 - 1965) and Gordon Benson Jr. and Phil Stephensen-Payne's 'Galactic Central' bibliography Harry Maxwell Harrison: A Stainless Steel Talent (4th ed.). For Swedish editions, I also borrowed heavily from Sam J. Lundwall's bibliography published in the June 1986 issue of Jules Verne Magasinet.
I delivered the first draft manuscript to the editor at Borgo Press in August 1989, and received a letter saying that the bibliography would be published as volume 20 in the Bibliographies of Modern Authors series, and should expect the book to be published Winter 1990. The manuscript ran to about 200 pages. Borgo Press advertised the bibliography in a flyer: "British librarian Tomlinson contributes a thorough bibliography of this enormously prolific American writer's many works." And I even had ISBNs for the hardback and paperback editions: 0-8095-0515-0 and 0-8095-1516-4. It seemed that I would soon see my first book in print.
1990 came and went. As did 1991, 1992 and 1993. Every year I would receive a Christmas card from the publisher, but no word on when the book might be published. By this time the bibliography was five years out of date. Harry Harrison tried on several occasions to find out from the publisher what was happening. Finally, in October 1994, Harry got a response from Borgo Press and another publication date. Which came and went.
Harry and I began to talk about the possibility of publishing the bibliography ourselves. I started work on updating the bibliography: scanned and OCRed the original manuscript, and added new material. I accessed the catalogues of national libraries via the internet, and began searching out original copies of the 1950s and 60s pulp magazines. I found an excellent dealer, Ken Cowley, with contacts in the USA, and between them they managed to find most of the items I requested. I was able to replace the entries from secondary bibliographic sources with primary research. My original research turned up some interesting facts, including that Harry's stories Spaceship Medic and Plague Ship were the same story: all previous bibliographies had listed them as separate pieces. I also spent time collecting copies of as many reviews of Harry's books as I could find.
I wrote to Borgo Press in December 1997, asking whether they still intended to publish the bibliography: technically, under the terms of the contract, they had the right to do so. I offered them my revised manuscript - the original was now more than eight years out of date - formatted in their house style, laser printed, camera-ready. If I didn't hear from them by the end of February 1998, I would assume that they were no longer interested in the bibliography, and would seek to publish it elsewhere.
In March 1998 I received a letter from Borgo Press (dated the end of February) which said they would release me from the contract if that's what I wanted, freeing me to take the bibliography elsewhere. I wrote to them to ask them to do just that, and received a letter confirming that the contract had been ended. In September 1999 I received my original manuscript back: the pages were a little brown around the edges, but it was otherwise untouched.
So here we are in October 1999 with the Official Harry Harrison Website, and the perfect medium to offer a bibliography: we can include colour scans of book covers, without worrying about the cost of printing; we can include links from short stories to collections, and back again; and we can update it online as we learn of new additions. Hopefully we'll be able to receive feedback too, especially from overseas readers, giving us details of translated editions which we don't yet know about.
So, ten years in the making and it's still not complete - maybe it never will be - but it is (to date) the most comprehensive annotated listing of Harry Harrison's works. I hope people will find it of use - and if you know of something that isn't listed here, let us know about it (click on the 'e-mail us' button above) so we can add it to the bibliography.
If you would like to get hold of a copy of the whole bibliography for research purposes, then send an e-mail message for my attention (again via the button above) and I will contact you.
Paul Tomlinson, October 1999