Ian McEwan 'heckled by ex-wife' during talk at Cheltenham Literary Festival

Ian McEwan refrained from responding to the comments before the heckler and a man were escorted from the session

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Author Ian McEwan was heckled by a woman believed to be his former wife Penny Allen, during a talk he was giving at Cheltenham Literary Festival on Friday afternoon.

The woman apparently stood up and shouted from the back of the audience about an alleged “injunction” that the Atonement author has on her and her partner and “lies and defamation” that he has put out about them, to which he was heard to mutter: “It’s my ex-wife.”

Audience members were quick to admonish the woman, one receiving applause by saying “we haven’t paid good money to sit here and listen to you”, the Times reported.

Ian McEwan refrained from responding to the comments before the heckler and a man believed to be Penny Allen’s husband Ismay Tremain were escorted from the session. The Telegraph reported that the woman was McEwan’s former wife, although his publicist and a Cheltenham Literary Festival spokesperson declined to comment.

Keira Knightley and James McAvoy starred in a film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement

McEwan’s controversial new novel The Children Act is his thirteenth: a work that he has previously hinted is influenced by his personal encounter with the courts.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily Mail last month, Allen said of her ex-husband: “It seems iniquitous that while I am bound by law to be silent, he is free to promote his new book in publicity interviews by referring to it.

“It is certainly a bit rich that Mr McEwan champions free speech but I am stifled and have no such freedom to defend myself, which has had a catastrophic effect on my ability to work as a writer and journalist. We don’t give interviews but he does.”

The Man Booker Prize-winning author – whose second wife Annalena McAfee was present at yesterday's event – was speaking with former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Alan Ward, whose work was the inspiration for The Children's Act.