For some while now the world has arguably been going through a strange phase involving right-wing nationalism, combined with a noticeable shift in social mores in which it’s become incredibly difficult to do or say anything remotely contentious, for fear of offending anyone. Indeed, the atmosphere has now become so fractious that equilibrium and balance seem to be in short supply.
As an advertising copywriter turned novelist, it was something I observed while still penning ads, and I shall never forget the day an account manager relayed the client’s request to remove the word ‘but’ from my copy, on the grounds that it was a negative term. For me, that was the day that the rot set in.
More recently, I received an incredibly rude email from a literary agent who, having read the synopsis to my previous novel A Brand To Die For, which is set in the politically incorrect time frame of 1983, couldn’t abide the misogyny, and wondered if the views expressed by my fictitious characters were the same views held by their author.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on Talk Radio Europe. I followed the eminent biographer Jeffrey Meyers, who spent a good deal of his interview bemoaning the spinelessness of his agents and publishers, who were now restricting his freedom of expression for the same fear of causing offence.
I find this whole thing incredibly depressing.
Then, of course, there was that ludicrous episode with the rewriting of Roald Dahl. The thing about Dahl is that there are so many other things one could get upset about — like his vehement antisemitism, but the obsession seems to be over innocuous words like ‘fat’ and ‘ugly.’ It is, I think, largely down to this kind of madness that I’ve written a sequel to my politically incorrect A Brand to Die For. Thank goodness we authors can now self-publish and not have the style police breathing down our necks.
One Man Down…
My latest offering — One Man Down follows on from the previous book, but doesn’t require the reader to have read the first one. Unlike the previous book, this one is set primarily in Soho and doesn’t have the scene shift to the Italian hills. We have moved on a year, to 1984, and art director Brian Finkle and his copywriter Angus Lovejoy continue to enthral the nation with their television commercials for ad agency Gordon Deedes Rutter. But all is not as rosy as it might seem in the frenetic world of Soho.
Following a disastrous presentation to a manufacturer of diarrhoea tablets, Lovejoy and Finkle let off steam by playing cricket for an old school friend — but in doing so, stumble upon a nest of vipers involving a gay vicar, a small-time antique fraudster, a photographer, and blackmail.
There can only be one outcome, and it’s going to entail murder.
There’s hopefully much here for the reader to laugh at. I freely admit that there are also a few autobiographical touches. Some of the advertising work is, in fact, based on stuff my art director Colin Underhay and I produced back in the day. And some of the stories involving Roy Plomley and Joanna Lumley are true. It also boasts some characters that I haven’t made up, including Lou Hart (a family friend), the owner of Bunjies, the live music venue where the likes of Al Stewart, David Bowie, Cat Stephens, et al cut their teeth in the ’60s; and the comic actor and writer Robert Conway, aka Walter Zerlin Jr, whose cast included a young Julian Clary. Julian makes an appearance and very kindly approved two pages of my text.
Is it as politically incorrect as my previous novel? I do hope so.
One Man Down becomes available to pre-order from Amazon on November 1 2023 and will be launched on 1 December 2023.