The Early Days of a Better Nation

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I met Ian Rankin at the Book Festival and mentioned that I'd read Ian McEwan's Saturday on holiday.

'Gangster novel,' he said. 'Brain surgeon scrapes thug's car. Thug threatens him. Brain surgeon notices ...' He summarised the plot in a few brisk sentences.

'If guys like us came up with contrivances like that,' he concluded, 'the critics would throw stones at us.'

'From Dover Beach!'

'Or Chesil Beach.'

All that needs to be said about Saturday was said some time ago.

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It's not a novel I'd want to read, even without the description in that review to deter me. And some accuse SF of being artificial.

What I write, which somebody else thought worth putting up on a web-site, is about talented people who aren't morally isolated. They might be able to be safe and comfortable, but they choose to act instead.

And maybe some of it is a reaction to the gung-ho American ways of modern adventure fiction. I've a character who could give Rambo a run for his money, and he doesn't vanish from the world between his battles.

Apart from whatever skill I might lack as a writer, there are things about these stories which would kill them for potential publishers. On the whole, I'm OK with that. I don't want to be Ian McEwan. I don't want to be known for characters like his.

Well, I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from reading the novel, which is by no means a waste of time.

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