One balmy evening this week, Thursday to be precise, Ackroyd found himself in the company of 50-odd Ackroyd devotees at Books Etc on the Charing Cross Road. He'd been transported there to do something that he didn't especially want to do - read a slab from his new book - because, according to himself, he's not very good at it.
"The point is," he said to the poor interviewer who, just moments before, had tossed half a bottle of gaseous mineral water over his list of questions in his nervy over-eagerness to slake Ackroyd's thirst with something other than the bottles that were ranged around him in mock-homage - a bottle of Beck's and a full bottle of plonk. "Yes, the point is..." said Ackroyd, who looked a little unsteady on his feet, and a little puffed-out too - as if his inner tube had just been replaced and then pumped up a little over-zealously by a boy with a bicycle pump - "...the point is..." he went on in that fairly light and tripping voice of his, "whiting is whiting and thpeaking is thpeaking, and I don't usually make the transition." He was wrong, though: the chapter he read out - the shortest one in the book, in order not to overtax himself - was as well delivered as anyone else in that room could have delivered it, and that gorgeous lisp of his served as a kind of emotional intensifier.
And there's no denying it: Ackroyd is something of a literary phenomenon - author of 14 books, and in possession of a cast-iron contract that commits him to writing eight more. "Eight!" spluttered the interviewer, "but that's the work of a lifetime!" Ackroyd himself seemed quite nonchalant at the prospect. "What else would I do with my time?" he said, staring into the middle distance - perhaps he could see some figure (a prophet or a beggar maybe, or some artful mingling of the two) tapping at the window glass that none of us could see. "Most of the time I feel under-employed. I'm hardly tied to my desk. In fact, I spend a good part of my day lying on the rug."Reuse content