You can’t have a vasectomy and expect to father a new political generation. I found Gordon Brown inviting Margaret Thatcher to Downing Street a stunning gesture. If he hadn’t invited her, it wasn’t as though anyone would have objected or even noticed. It was a gesture of surrender, it was a white ﬂag from the past to the present.
William McIlvanney has been a vital chronicler of Scottish life in his novels and journalism for close to half a century. He was born in 1936, the youngest of four children, in Kilmarnock, a town he has ﬁctionalised as Graithnock. His father, a miner, had taken part in the General Strike of 1926, and this heritage would inspire McIlvanney’s best ﬁction. After an impressive school career at Kilmarnock Academy, McIlvanney went on to study at Glasgow, the ﬁrst person in his family to go to university. After graduation, he became a teacher. While teaching, he wrote his ﬁrst novel, Remedy Is None, a story with shades of Hamlet and Camus about an intense student, Charlie, driven to a murderous act in the wake of his father’s death. Remedy Is None was published in 1966 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Two years later McIlvanney published his second novel A Gift From Nessus whose salesman protagonist Eddie is brought low by conﬂicting feelings about his job and marriage. By 1975, McIlvanney had quit teaching to write fulltime, and it was in this year he published perhaps his best known novel, Docherty, the story of Tam Docherty, a miner struggling to do right by his family and by his own code during bleak economic conditions. Docherty went on to win the Whitbread Novel Award. McIlvanney should he choose to could claim the mantle of the progenitor of the ‘Tartan Noir’ genre. His 1977 novel Laidlaw set out the blueprint for urban Scottish detective novels which those who followed him have yet to better. As a hero Laidlaw is quite unlike any of the detective characters who came after him, not least for his insistence that there are no monsters and the book’s emphasis on the way socio-economic factors drive people to become criminals. McIlvanney also brought to the crime novel a tough yet lyrical prose few in that ﬁeld can muster. McIlvanney took his poetic style and love of verse to its logical conclusion in 1970 with the publication of The Longships in Harbour: Poems. Throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s, McIlvanney wrote journalism, a faithful, funny, often melancholic record of the fallout from the failed devolution vote of 1979 and of Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies. Surviving the Shipwreck collected his journalism in 1991. The Big Man, published in 1985, details the knockout blow Thatcherism dealt small Scottish communities. It was turned into a ﬁlm starring Liam Neeson and Billy Connolly. In 1996, The Kiln told Tam Docherty’s writer grandson Tom’s story, and 2006’s Weekend reminded readers of his ﬁrst novel with its cast of student characters. The week before the General Election, Colin Waters met William McIlvanney at Glasgow’s La Lanterna restaurant. McIlvanney’s interest in other people was evident post-interview when he got chatting about the Election to a couple who recognised him. With humour, intelligence, and not a little patience he drew out the male half of the couple, a former pupil of Gordonstoun who claimed, provocatively perhaps, he was going to vote BNP. Before that revelation, McIlvanney enjoyed his ravioli and talked to the SRB about Gordon Brown, capital punishment, and James Bond.
Scottish Review of Books: Here we are talking just before the general election.What would be your best prognosis for the election?
William McIlvanney: Sorry to be a Jeremiah but I cannot see a good outcome. What I would like to see our politicians do is return to taking social concern seriously and a desire to move away from the simplistic materialism that Thatcher embodied. Maybe the least bad option would be a hung parliament. At least it might not make matters worse. Until we rediscover a genuine concern for society across the board, I don’t see what progress we can make. I’m reading a book at the moment, Ill Fares The Land by Tony Judt, which addresses this issue. He writes we have to rediscover the means to care for one another. I wrote years ago in the Eighties, it’s not just your family you should look after, because your family will have to inhabit the same wreck of a society as everyone else. From a selﬁsh point of view it makes sense to care for every member of society. If you don’t, your children pay the price in the society they inherit. I don’t see that care coherently expressed anymore in a Labour Party Tony Blair effectively destroyed. I can only hope if there is a hung Parliament we can make a start towards bringing back serious values and serious politics. At least, it might push the pause-button on our lemmings’ march into meaningless materialism. The lack of a mandate might leave space to think more deeply.
As the era of New Labour draws to a close, what has happened to Scotland and Britain in past 13 years? What happened to that sense of optimism seen in 1997? I’m not sure I had huge hopes in ’97, although I voted for Labour that year.
I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t expect a lot, but I expected more than we got. In order to get into power, Labour trimmed so far. It was like, Extreme? Us? Please don’t think so. That sweet, pink rose. Aren’t we nice people? But, you know, you can’t have a vasectomy and expect
to father a new political generation. I found Gordon Brown inviting Margaret Thatcher to Downing Street a stunning gesture. If he hadn’t invited her, it wasn’t as though anyone would have objected or even noticed. It was a gesture of surrender, it was a white ﬂag from the past to the present.
Have you met Gordon Brown? What do you make of him?
I’ve known Gordon for a long time, and I’ve got respect for him. I like him personally. But I think Gordon has made a series of dire errors. He made a bad compact with Blair. Blair held power for so long that by the time Gordon came in as prime minister, the game had changed completely. One of his prime errors, I think, was not opposing the war on Iraq. It’s not enough to say as Sarah Brown said to me that he genuinely believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was an event that was liable to split the world in two, the sort of event you only go into if you know, not if you believe. He made a cataclysmic mistake not following Robin Cook. But he was keen to be prime minister so he swallowed that. Then the game was over by the time he became prime minister. It was like bringing on the substitute when the game has ten minutes to go and you’re six goals down.
Did you watch the leader debates? What did you make of Brown? He isn’t a natural performer, is he? He’s not. But I don’t care about that.
I’m dubious of charisma as a political criterion. Sarah Palin has charisma. She also makes Genghis Khan look like a cissy. He’s a serious man, he’s intelligent, but politics have become about image, and that is not his strength. The recent debates were a version of Britain’s Got Talent. I don’t know Nick Clegg, I don’t want to denigrate him but all he has offered is a style. What’s the substance behind it? I’m not sure I know. Does anybody?
You’ve not been inactive politically yourself as a writer. To what extent has politics shaped your writing?
I write from an attempt to perceive the truth, and politics are part of that truth. Writing a novel, I’m not constantly thinking of politics. The politics comes out of writing the novel, it isn’t that the novel comes out of the politics. When I write a novel, I try to write as honestly as I can about the life I see around me. The compulsion to write came before I was politically aware. As a spin off from a desire to understand the nature of experience come political convictions.
If you think about the world you grew up in and world we live in now – as a child and young person, the world it appears to us to have its verities. In the past decade the pace of change has been so incredible, it has washed away those verities you grew up with. How has this change of pace altered your vision of Scotland? The ﬁrst thing that occurs to me about that question is the dichotomy that has been created between the past I knew and the present. As a society we’re much less integrated now. I think that’s partly technological. Walking down the street with a mobile, that creates a carapace around you. People are more isolated today. That has moral as well as mental implications. We’re more dismissive of others than we used to be. In violence, for example. Violence is of a different nature today. There was always violence, of course, but you might call it square-go violence, me versus you and that’s it – and sometimes that was dubious enough. Now there’s a randomness to a lot of city violence. It’s different. A man at a taxi rank hits another man he’s never met before with a baseball bat. The logic of that sort of act of violence is, Whatever I feel, I express, and if you’re in the way of that expression, too bad. It’s a unilateral withdrawal from society, a lot of units functioning independently of each other. I don’t know how we reverse it. But we have to acknowledge its presence before we can try.
The world described in Docherty, the working class depicted and its culture, has completely disappeared. Was it going in the mid-70s when you wrote Docherty, and was the novel then an act of preservation?
It wasn’t preservation, it was an attempt at creating a working-class genealogy. The aristocracy had one. Why shouldn’t we? It was me saying this is where we come from, not this is what we should be like. What people did after reading the book, that was up to them, but I wanted to remind them that the characters’ sense of mutuality made them who they were. I think that sense of mutuality existed strongly at least until the Sixties. I’m writing something about Connery and Bond right now. The traditional values that got us through the war, they were slowly dissipated after it. It didn’t happen right away. The Fifties were fairly staid even with the advent of rock ’n’ roll. But when the ﬁlm Bond happened in the Sixties it connected with a feeling that ended in the Me Generation and the hippies. The privatisation of politics. Do your own thing. Thatcher couldn’t have come in and done what she did if the mood wasn’t there to begin with. That’s Thatcherism – the clinic with a brutal regime where all those spaced-out hippies had to dry out.
In Docherty, which begins in 1903, Tam despairs at one point, “He had fathered four children and all he ever been able to give them was their personal set of shackles”. In The Kiln, which is a semi-sequel to Docherty, Tam’s grandson, Tom, experiences freedoms Tam wouldn’t have believed and all in the space of ﬁfty years. But I wonder. While one can’t doubt for a second our lives are materially better, perhaps we have returned, politically, to that state of hopelessness Tam felt over a hundred years ago.
Or maybe a worse state. Not materially, and that’s important. Whatever errors Labour made post-war, they raised expectations of employment and improved quality of life. There’s no question we’re better off than we were in Tam Docherty’s day. I would just say it’s not all about being better off. It has to be admitted perhaps that the gaining of small advantages undermined some of the working class. Perhaps socialism never acknowledged how much of the problem was with the people they were trying to help, not just the ones they were ﬁghting against. There were and are some chancers in the working class who bail out on anything worth doing for an easy life. Tony Judt writes in Ill Fares The Land no one wants a social hand-out. Not true now. There are some working class families who haven’t worked for a while because it’s easier to take the hand out. What the ideals of socialism didn’t sufﬁciently take into account was there were people in their own ranks ready to sell out. Judas takes many forms. But the vast majority of working-class people have retained the sense of being part of a community.
What sort of novel did you aspire to write when you ﬁrst began to write? Was it literary ﬁction or entertainments in Greene sense?
I ﬁnd it difﬁcult to go back and analyse what I did when I ﬁrst began to write ﬁction. The ﬁrst thing I wrote was a poem when I was fourteen. It was like a piece
of extraterrestrial material that landed in the living room, and I thought I think that’s a poem! I chose my judge carefully. My brother Neilly was out back sawing a bit of wood; I went to him because he was tolerant of all my half-baked ambitions. Neilly said, You didn’t write that, did you? It’s great. If Neilly hadn’t said that,
I might have packed it in there and then. Writing came from an impulse I did not understand. My father, who read little in his life, would ask me what I was doing and I’d say I was writing and he never disparaged me. I liked that about him. Where I came from, writing could be regarded as a fairly limp-wristed activity. Luckily I was good at football. After writing poetry, I started writing short stories which blessedly are lost to the world. I cannot honestly explain it. I enjoy writing. Sometimes. Sometimes it feels like rubbing your head against a roughcast wall until the blood comes. I suppose writing was a clumsy desire to take hold of my experience some way. I was lucky. I was the youngest of a family where books were read and argued about endlessly.
How did you move from that ﬁrst poem to your ﬁrst novel, Remedy Is None?
I wrote a novella at university, again thankfully lost. Remedy Is None I wrote when I was still teaching. I was in my twenties. I sent it to a publisher, Hutchinson I think, and I got a strange letter back from a senior reader. It said, I can see this novel being published, and perhaps it ought to be, but I don’t want to be the one who publishes it. He said something about it being too smart. After that, I threw the book in a cupboard.
BS Johnson knew my brother Hughie, and he told Hughie that I should send the manuscript to his agent George Greenﬁeld. George, bless him, said he’d give it a go getting it published. I came home from teaching one afternoon to ﬁnd a telegram from George. All it said was Masterpiece accepted. My publisher told me he decided to put the book out after reading thirty pages because my description of the father character dying was so graphic. It’s interesting that I left off sending the book to George for six months because I thought, I can’t take this. I had visions of the postman getting a hernia lugging that big parcel back to me every month. I was so insecure about who would want to read it. I had a working-class self-doubt about writing which perhaps has never quite left me, because nobody else in my family had written a novel before me. And I’m not good at taking other people’s opinion. I’ve got to convince myself.
Were you more attracted to European or American models of literature? Your philosophic concerns feel European but the language had an American sheen.
Both. Certainly not only British. I loved a lot of French writing – Balzac, Flaubert and most of all Stendhal. I also loved
the Americans – Saroyan, Hemingway, Melville. Camus made a great impact on me. Philosophically, I prefer him to Sartre. What appealed was the way he tried to marry theory with real living, which to me was what socialism was also trying to do. Camus believed trade unionism had been the key to furthering socialism, as I did.
I love the idea that Camus combined a terriﬁc intelligence with terriﬁc humanity. What troubled me about Marxism, it was a kind of intellectual parthenogenesis, the birth of a concept without proven origins. Marx was so sure, which worried me. Karl Popper’s ‘falsiﬁcation’ wasn’t applicable. Marxism was an unsubstantiated
dream, whereas socialism was based on pragmatism. It worked through society to keep it grounded.
What do you make of the ﬁrst decade of devolution?
I’m glad we have a parliament. I shouted the odds for it long enough. But one aspect of our new-found sense of ourselves troubles me. This demand that we must constantly talk ourselves up. Everything Scottish is wonderful. No, it’s not. We seem to be being programmed into a robotic optimism that’s almost American. Have a nice day? Not if it’s pishing with rain you won’t. What happened to healthy Scottish scepticism? That wasn’t a ‘cringe’ as they like to call it. That was staring reality in the face and refusing to hide from it. That’s why I think Bill Duncan’s book The Wee Book Of Calvinism – Air-Kissing In The North-East is so valuable. It should be issued free with every Scottish birth-certiﬁcate, to be read in later life as a reminder of what Scottishness means. “In a way, Midsummer’s Day is the start o’ winter.” “Nae rainbow withoot rain.” That’s the stuff tae gie the troops, as my mother used to say when she had made a healthy, sustaining meal for us.
There’s a real continuum of feeling between Remedy Is None’s hero Charlie and Eddie Cameron in A Gift From Nessus – a real visceral disgust at the way people talk and conduct themselves especially in company. And it surfaces again in The Kiln, this hatred of phoneyness. Given how vividly it’s described, I can’t believe you didn’t at some point in your life feel something similar yourself.
Oh, yes I did. I came from a family where we argued about everything, even sometimes when the facts were unable to attend. Everybody joined in. My mother, my father, Betty, Neilly, Hughie, me and any visitors who happened to be caught in the crossﬁre. If you had an opinion, you better make it armour-plated because it was going to be attacked. Not questioned politely. We didn’t say things to each other like ‘I beg to differ’. More things like ‘How many brain cells have you got anyway?’ For years I thought that was how everybody conducted discussions. I thought it was natural to be a kind of Highland Light Infantry conversationalist: when the enemy puts his head over the parapet, attack! I’ve tried to modify my technique since then but not always successfully. I remember a social evening in the 1970s when a woman was careless enough to say to me, “The people I feel sorry for in South Africa are the ones who’ve invested money in it.” She meant that it might be a bad investment. Conversational mayhem ensued. Carriages came early that evening. But I’m still trying to take the cure. But not too determinedly.
From your ﬁrst novel, you’ve returned again and again to the ﬁgure of the young student – Remedy, your short story ‘Dreaming’, The Kiln, and Weekend. What attracts you to that ﬁgure? Is it to something to with untapped potential?
Perhaps. I was unaware I had so many student characters until you mentioned it. Thinking about it now, I remember once saying to someone that I loved writing the start of novels. Beginnings are wonderful. Endings are disappointing. Always. When you ﬁnish a book, it’s never as good as you thought it would be; you never caught the beast. You caught something like it, but never quite the beast you were hunting.
I do love beginnings. They’re beautiful because they have potential. Endings are sad, whether it’s a book or a relationship, because they’re eviction served on one area of potential. Perhaps that’s why I take so long to write books. I want to keep the dream alive. And I suppose in a way we’re always students. I don’t believe in experts. I believe in discoverers. I believe in that great thing Rilke says, “You must begin again”. While I like it when people tell me they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written in the past, it’s not me anymore. I’m looking elsewhere. The mystery of things has renewed itself and I’m trying to crack the code again. I’ll die mystiﬁed. But I’ll die trying to understand.
I can’t imagine there are students today as intense as Charlie and as willing to utterly ruin their life on a principle.
Well, I don’t know if there were many as intense as that then either. I don’t suppose Charlie was exactly Joe Average. Certainly, my own experience of that phase in my life was a lot more banal. Although it was certainly a time of intense feeling and discovery of self. I loved the intensity of
it. I had space and the time to read so many books I wanted to read. It was a huge privilege. Maybe the only hint of the kind of anger Charlie had related to those books. I couldn’t see the people I came from represented signiﬁcantly there. If literature was testimony to what it had been like to be alive, ninety-eight percent of the witnesses hadn’t been called. And I think that era of going to university for working-class students was more excitingly self-fulﬁlling than perhaps it felt later. When I taught brieﬂy at Strathclyde and Aberdeen in the Eighties and the Nineties, I thought I detected a more blasé attitude among students. Also, I was taken aback by the number of degrees you could take in stuff like Business Studies. I had always thought university was to enlarge your view of life, not give you lessons in how to make money. So maybe if Charlie went to uni now, he would still have plenty to feed his angst. I mean, Michael Jackson lecturing at Oxford and crying about how much he loves children. And they take him at face value. And the face isn’t even his own. Next, Salamanca hosts It’s A Knockout.
The ﬁght between brothers at end of Docherty and the ﬁght in The Big Man echo each other (they’re bare-knuckle and take place outdoor, in a ﬁeld), but where one is private and settles a familial and philosophical dispute, in The Big Man, the ﬁght is merely for entertainment and for money with the hero Dan feeling most of all its pointlessness.
That’s a good point. The Docherty ﬁght is real because the two men are trying to live out something in themselves, and it is utterly about them. There is no winner, it’s just a ﬁght. The Big Man’s ﬁght is completely contrived. Dan comes back from that ﬁght realising it was phoney. He realises he wasn’t ﬁghting, he was merely satisfying a commercialism set in train by two other people. I was disappointed when some critics called The Big Man a celebration of machismo. It was actually about saying Thatcherism is a crock of shit. The whole book is meant to be a metaphor for Thatcherism, which Dan rejects when he gives his prize money to Cutty, his opponent. I was offended when people thought I was celebrating violence.
I was saying violence is meaningless whether it’s commercial or personal. Both men have been reduced to ciphers by the men organising the ﬁght. But that’s what people do. They hear something about you and bring those assumptions with them when they read your book. I think you should read a book as straight as possible if you can. Starting a book should be like arriving in a new country. Hand in your passport and take it as it comes.
Bring your intelligence, as much as you can muster. But surrender your prejudices at the border. They’re contraband. The number of people who came to the exact opposite judgement about The Big Man to the one I had intended, I found that troubling. It was the same with the Laidlaw books. There were those who thought it was about Laidlaw being hard. Laidlaw’s not just hard, he’s mad for justice. He’s true to his own manias.
Laidlaw is unusual not only as a detective but as a human being in that he believes “There are no monsters”. If we were to look at the reaction to the recent John Venables case, you’d have to say Laidlaw really is out of step with the rest of Britain. Especially when he says things like, “What we shouldn’t do is compound the felony in our reaction to it. And that’s what people keep doing. Faced with the enormity, they lose their nerve, and where they should see a man, they make a monster.”
I have to admit that there are cases which make me want Laidlaw to step out the page till I have a talk to him. One of them happened in Kilmarnock, where I come from. A horrendous crime. The perpetrator escaped to Europe, I think, was caught and sentenced. Then some time later his lawyers are in court, complaining about him having to slop out or something. I found that a weird one. When you live in a society where someone abducts a young man, sexually abuses him, murders him, dismembers the body, scatters the pieces in Loch Lomond and then has his lawyers campaigning for his civil rights in prison, you’re living in a place so morally bizarre that Jonathan Swift couldn’t satirise it. He would be out of a job. Our society is self-satirising and doesn’t even notice. I wonder what Laidlaw would think about that!
Are you disagreeing with Laidlaw?
I think I may be. I ﬁnd myself wondering if there are actions so horriﬁc that he commission of them constitutes a unilateral cancellation of any viable connection you can have with the rest of humanity.
It’s a terrible thing to admit, and my younger self would be horriﬁed to hear it, but sometimes I do think, would hanging be such a bad idea in some cases?
I know what you mean. Three friends and I. We’ve been friends since university. Every month or so we meet for lunch. Putting the world back on its axis kind of thing. All of us were formerly anti-capital punishment. Subject came up recently. Two absolutely for, two a hung jury. I was part of the hung jury but I don’t know for how long. And I don’t think that’s just hardening of the arteries.
Throughout your novels, you’ve had speech written in dialect while the prose around the dialogue is in English. Have you never considered writing an entire novel in Scots a la Kelman or Welsh?
No, never. I respect what they’re trying to do but it’s not what I want to do. There are reasons for that. I came from Ayrshire. For years I spoke Scots, still do where I know people will understand me. But I discovered that in a place as near as Glasgow, people would sometimes look at me as if the Martians had landed. They hadn’t a clue what some of the words meant. In other words, what people now call Scots is a poorhouse version of the language, a thin demotic gruel. In Docherty I used Scots dialogue because that’s how they spoke there at that time. I used English outwith the dialogue because the residual Scots wasn’t ﬂexible or rich enough to convey the complexity of the ideas I wanted to express. Even if, after I had studied a Scottish dictionary, I had found the Scots words. Ninety-odd percent of Scots people wouldn’t have known what the hell I was saying. It’s time to own up. Languages die. Who knows what the Etruscans were trying to say? Scots isn’t dead. But it’s no very weel. I at least tried to recognise it in the dialogue. And I took a lot of stick for not extending the Scots into the narrative. Irony is, some of the people who were criticising me wouldn’t know broad Scots if it punched them in the mouth. Which it probably would. You don’t save a language by feeding it with belated middle-class patronage like steroids. What I think can survive of Scots in English is a democratic attitude of mind, what I have called “English in its underwear”. Anyway, I write as I feel compelled to write. You don’t like it, read somebody else.
I wanted to address the issue of the artist’s life in Scotland. We speak English, and if a book by a Scottish author is written in English, in theory it should have a chance of ﬁnding an audience anywhere in the Anglosphere. Yet for a large part of your career Scotland itself has been perceived as marginal. Did you ever get the feeling if you’d been born in New York, your work would have got more attention?
Something happened once that brought that question home to me. Siobahn and I met up with Gordon and Sarah Brown in Edinburgh. We were having a meal in David Murray’s restaurant. Among the people at the table were an American, Bob Shrum, and his wife. He had been a speechwriter for President Kennedy, I was told. Gordon had given him a copy of my collection of essays, Surviving The Shipwreck. At one point, Bob Shrum said to me, “I’m going to tell you two things about you. One you’ll like. One you won’t.”
I was all attention. Who doesn’t want news of himself? “One: you write like an angel. Two: if you lived in America, you’d be a millionaire.” I’m not suggesting either statement is true. But I think it is right – at least at the time I started to write – that staying in Scotland probably limited my potential audience. Scottish writing tended not to be taken seriously then as it is now. But it’s the choice I made and I can live with it all right.
Along with your coeval Allan Massie, you are the last two novelists of Grub Street, by which I mean you make your living through writing, not residencies and creative writing workshops. This professionalisation of novel-writing which you and Massie have avoided – what do you make of it? Is it something you’ve avoided because you thought it might impact on how you write? Allan and I have a lot in common, apart from political afﬁliation. We’ve both used journalism in preference to starving in a garret. Although Allan’s done a lot more f it that I have. I did it seriously for about ﬁve years or so. But I realised that while I was doing it, I was making it my full-time job. I wasn’t going to write any more if I didn’t pack in the journalism. So I sold the ﬂat I had. To buy me time to write.
I admire the way Allan’s done it. In fact, there are a lot of things I admire about him. I think he’s massively undervalued at the moment in Scotland. Maybe time will change that. Let’s hope posterity’s more astute than the present. But then this posterity for all the writers that are dead. And think of some of the misjudgements we make about the past. Who could trust posterity? I suppose all you can do is write what you write and say, ‘Tak it amang ye.’ Who cares about posterity’s opinion? We won’t be there at the time.
Has the novel had its day? The Kiln, published in 1996, is pessimistic about its future. “He also had a strong suspicion that books were destined to become as marginal a form of social fuel as coal now. For coal, read gas and electricity. For books, read television and the Internet.”
I don’t know. It might be on the way out but people have been saying that for years. And look at the numbers being published. I suppose it could be a kind of Indian Summer, like one of those brief remissions you can get with cancer. Certainly, if Jordan can sell two million copies of a novel she ostensibly wrote. Maybe the prognosis isn’t too bright. But even if the novel as book is on its way out, who knows what other forms it might take? The internet shimmers up ahead. Like the horizon of a strange new world. Maybe that world will ﬁnd its voice in new forms.
Writing anything now?
Just now I’m trying to complete a long poem in very bad French. (Don’t ask why. You can see how astute my sense of the market is.) I’m working on the Connery book. I’m starting to write what I think is the third of the Docherty trilogy (Docherty, The Kiln and now this). There are other ideas too vague to mention. My head’s like the laboratory of Dr Frankenstein. Inert forms lying all over the place. Waiting for the lightning-ﬂash that might animate them into possible life. Just your average demented day at the ofﬁce.