Writing as though it matters


In the past I have reflected on what Jonathan Coe wrote in Like A Fiery Elephant, his biography of BS Johnson, and how Johnson’s credo was to write as though it matters. I believe this is a worthy ambition.

Coe wrote that: Novel writing is … an act of lunatic faith in the notion that by adding something to the world we might be improving it. (Read the full extract here.) Now I have dared to (in Coe’s words) throw off my wretched middle-class English self-deprecation and add my ‘something’. My novel hit the bookstores in October 2012.

It’s called No Mean Affair and is set in the opening decades of the 20th century. It combines fact and family myth to follow the relationship between my grandmother and a famous politician of her time.

The book came about because my father, shortly before his death, revealed that he had always thought himself to be the famous politician’s illegitimate son. During my research, I discovered that the politician had an enigmatic escape from poverty and dubious credentials for his reputation as a hero of socialism – a reputation that is still intact today. My version of his story highlights these flaws.

Have I written this book as though it matters?

No Mean Affair is my interpretation of my father’s revelation. It tells my grandmother’s story through the eyes of the men in her life because, in her day, men controlled the narrative. It’s true to the facts of life and left-wing politics in Glasgow and Westminster at the time. Ultimately, it’s the story of people’s lives – real and imagined – with themes of loyalty, corruption, romance and intrigue that still resonate today.  I think this matters and I hope that my writing has done it justice.


No Mean Affair published by Foxwell Press is available in paperback to order from your
favourite bookstore or in both Kindle and paperback versions from Amazon.


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