An author is supposed to write books. They can either write lots of short ones (Graham Greene) or just a few long ones (Leo Tolstoy). Additionally, they can die too soon (John Kennedy O’Toole) or begin too late (Raymond Chandler, Joseph Conrad). Almost as bad, they can accidentally lose themselves in a miasma of anxiety, alcohol and/or drugs (William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler again). Mind you, there are authors who will never lose themselves in drink and drugs no matter how hard they try (Charles Bukowski, Hunter Thompson). Their failure is counter-balanced by the authors who quite literally lose themselves (Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Ambrose Bierce, Joshua Slocum) and nobody knows where they are, although sometimes they’re just hiding (Agatha Christie) or they’ve simply caught the wrong train (G K Chesteron). Then you have the authors who were missing from the start, and nobody really knows who they are, never mind where (Thomas Pynchon). Which leads us to the authors who get other people to write their books for them and who were never really authors at all (Barbara Cartland, “Andy McNab”), at least certainly not poor ones. These last authors sit at the other end of the spectrum to those who have a mental illness which physically compels them to write (Philip K. Dick), most of whom spend their whole scribbling lives in comparative penury. And finally there are those unknown authors who will never write a book at all, not even a first line, who present perhaps literature’s greatest and most beguiling mystery. I suspect they might be the easiest to get on with. You know who you are. Or perhaps you don’t.
I have written four books. God knows how. I know I wrote them because they were published. They are:
Simon and Schuster
This was my first non-fiction book and it was The Times Book of The Week, although they got David Aaronovitch to review it. He didn’t like it. Neither did Nick Cohen or Tom Mangold. Judge a man by the reputation of his enemies, to use an old Arab proverb.
This was my fist novel and two followed after, all featuring my dissipated-to-the-point-of-annihilation private eye Robin Llywelyn. It got short-listed for the P G Wodehouse Prize and found itself, improbably, alongside Zadie Smith and Terry Pratchett.
Another Llywelyn one. I moved to Swansea to write it, where I lived briefly in a bedsit halfway up Mount Pleasant. I’ve always loved Swansea. There are days when the whole city seems drunk. This one got short-listed for Wales Book of the Year.
The final Llywelyn novel, set mostly in Llandovery, although no one there appears to have noticed (I roomed there for a bit). Merthyr makes an appearance too, notably the Wyndham Arms and Castle Bingo. Somewhat informed by the credit crunch and subsequent bail-out, this one. Got long-listed for some festival something or other. Didn’t win. Nothing ever wins.
That’s it so far for the books. I have transitioned effortlessly from being a young, promising “one to watch” into an obscure, overlooked, counter-cultural outsider. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself.
They’re all on Amazon, they were all covered in the national press, and of course there are on-line reviews all over the place too. I haven’t written any of them.