How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future

After many years of research, writing, illustrating, re-writing and more re-writing, my book Ladders to Heaven is about to be printed.

The publication date is 8 September 2016, but anyone pre-ordering a copy through Unbound will get their book before it reaches the shops, as soon as it is ready. And if you order by midnight (UK time) on 2 June 2016 you will be listed as a patron in the back of the book.

Here’s a preview of the book’s cover and summary text, and a montage of its 20 illustrations, which are available as prints via Unbound.




Going dotty about fig trees: Ancient and imagined images of the world’s most fascinating trees

I want to share some photos of the illustrations I am creating for my book Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future…. (watch a short video about the book, read an extract or order a copy, here) .

The pictures below are not finished but they will give you an idea of what the final versions will look like. Below and left you can see the view you can get by looking up inside a strangler fig that has killed its host tree.


There will be 20 illustrations in the book. Some I have redrawn from very old images , such as one of Adam and Eve beneath a fig tree, which a Spanish monk created in the year 994 (see above, right).

An even older image is that found on a stone seal in the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan. The image was created about 4,000 years ago. It shows a human figure, possibly a deity, inside another kind of fig tree. In front of the tree is a kneeling man and alongside him is a human head on a stool (see below). The book will explain what’s going on in this scene.


The illustrations will include pictures of famous fig trees, such as the one Queen Elizabeth II was sleeping in when she ascended to the throne, and wildlife such as this rhinoceros hornbill, one of the most important fig-eating animals.


Each of the images involves lots of dots. In the set of photos below you can see how I move from a pencil sketch to ink. .


I will share more images as I complete them. Meanwhile, here is some more information about the book.

Ladders to Heaven will appear early in 2016. My publisher, Unbound, uses a crowdfunding model: Everyone who orders a copy in advance will be named in the book as a patron.  As well as e-book and hardback editions, supporters can choose packages that include prints or postcards of the illustrations. To watch a short video about the book, read a synopsis and summary, or to order a copy, visit: