“With age comes wisdom”, says Oscar Wilde to which he adds, “But sometimes age comes alone.” Few would dispute that. In most cases, we do indeed become wiser as we grow older. For the simple reason that the more of life we experience, the more opportunities we gain to learn. The only barriers to stand in our way are arguably ill health and degeneration of the brain through conditions like dementia, and isolation from civilised society.
Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule. What about ruthless tyrants? Vladimir Putin has just turned 70. What about him and his ilk? He is clearly someone who is growing stupider with age. In his case and others like him, the isolation argument probably holds true. The tyrant will surround himself with sycophants and only listen to what he wants to hear. His own world is a distorted one from which he will learn nothing.
Conversely, good examples of those growing wiser with age can be reflected by the writing community. Particularly those who come to writing late in life, of whom there are plenty. Mark Twain started his writing journey at 41; J. R. R. Tolkien at 45; Raymond Chandler at 51; and Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt at 66.
A Brand to Die For
I’m not expecting to hear from the jury of the Pulitzer Prize in the coming weeks, but my own modest writing journey began in 2011. I was 56. And I guess I wasn’t ready to write fiction until I had the life experience, sense of perspective, and confidence that come with age. Some will no doubt lump all these attributes together and call them ‘wisdom’. And I wouldn’t argue with them.
It is often said that writers should write about what they know. And my most recent novel A Brand to Die For is a case in point. That’s because my murder mystery is set in the world of advertising circa 1983. It’s a world I inhabited for the best part of 35 years, and during the 80s I worked in Soho, where my novel is set. Besides knowing my subject matter very well, there was another reason for writing it: there hadn’t been one written since 1933. And that had been penned by Dorothy L. Sayers who, like me, had been an advertising copywriter. Her novel Murder Must Advertise was one in a series of Lord Peter Wimsey novels and went on to become a best-seller. Of course, the advertising world of 1933 was a very different place to the one of 1983; and in turn, 1983 was very different to the modern digital age of 2022.
A Brand to Die For revolves around two protagonists Angus Lovejoy, the product of an upper-class dysfunctional family and Brian Finkle, the only child of left-wing neurotic Jewish parents. The two are an unlikely duo but make a brilliant creative team at advertising agency Deedes Gordon Rutter, where they create a TV campaign for real fires that warms the heart of the nation and is showered with accolades. All, it seems is going swimmingly until one of the agency’s most important clients is mysteriously murdered on his estate during a multi-agency briefing, and the news ripples out into the national media. While the dearth of evidence leaves the police baffled, Lovejoy and Finkle take it upon themselves to apply their creative brains to solve the mystery, and in so doing, inadvertently get themselves into particularly deep water.
There is much in the novel that is based on my own experience. Can that experience be described as wisdom? I’ll let the reader be the final arbiter of that.
Alex’s book, A Brand To Die For, is available to buy in hardback on Amazon UK.
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