Adult and children’s author Blacker (Homebird, 1993, etc.) reveals far more than anyone should know about a writer’s inner and outer lives—in a very amusing bit of madness that will prove hideously embarrassing to anyone who’s ever dreamed of literary success.
Dark and scary in spots, but mostly riveting and wildly entertaining, this send-up of literary and middle-class life, as well as of the London publishing scene, takes no-longer-Young-Turk Gregory Keays from the depths of creative-writing-class-and-writers’-magazine hell to the heavenly heights of prepublication raves on the strength of a stolen manuscript. Thickening, unlovely, adulterous, and still smug, Keays is making a few thousand quid a year, trading on the ancient success of his one youthful novel, teaching writing at an undistinguished institute, scribbling for something like Writers’ Digest, and suffering serious Martin Amis envy. After many damply false starts, his only real writing-in-process is a book of literary lists (which turn up amusingly throughout the story). It’s his wife Marigold who brings home the bacon as London’s leading feng shui decorator. The Keayses’ marriage is on life-support, and their son Doug is in the running for most revolting adolescent in the UK. But things look up for Gregory when Peter Gibson, skinny, intense, handsome and brilliant, enrolls in Gregory’s writing class and reveals true talent. Gregory takes Peter under his wing and then, in a shocking bit, between his sheets. It’s a onetime thing for Gregory, but not for Peter, who pines away in rejection, leaving this earth and a brilliant manuscript, which Gregory takes for his own. Retyped and only slightly tweaked, the stolen novel brings Gregory in from the cold and sells for zillions. The only shadows in the sunshine falling on the next toast of London are cast by Pussy McWilliam, the lit world’s favorite gangster, with whom Gregory has done sordid dealing, and by Doug, who turns out to have been cleaning Dad’s wastebaskets.
A long in-joke, but a good one.