Monday 20 November 1995
Though I greatly enjoy my friend Val McDermid's private eye series, as soon as she told me the subject matter of her new book, The Mermaids Singing, I assured her that nothing would persuade me to read it; I take no pleasure from being terrified. However, affection made me weaken and acquire the book and last Monday I addressed myself to it gingerly and was gripped by page two. Four hours later I was on the last page and had turned into a quivering wreck; twice I had failed to respond to the doorbell lest I be confronted by a psychopathic torturer. I read the last sentence with some bewilderment and rang Val in order tactfully to ascertain if by any chance a page had been left off the end.
Through a red haze, she told me that only that afternoon she had discovered that in an absent-minded moment the printers had omitted the last five pages; the entire print run would now have to be retrieved from bookshops, wholesalers and ships and then pulped. "Beats your trouble," she said, apropos two pages in my last book having been transposed so that all copies had to be returned to base for the pages to be cut out and restuck. Then we spoke of our friend Chaz Brenchley, whose book had been published without his substantial proof corrections being incorporated, so that whole passages of dialogue made little sense.
"I've never heard of this kind of thing happening before," snarled Val. "Seems sinister. Why all of a sudden? And only to us mates?" "Because we're all on the Crime Writers' Committee?" I proffered. "Perhaps there are enemies of the genre about? Romantic novelists, perhaps?"
Those responsible should be warned. I murder my people pretty humanely, but Chaz's victims have a horrid time and these days, Val's die screaming .
A socialist mole reported on a meeting in Euston Square to discuss 25 years of radical journalism, at which the 300 strong audience was addressed by inter alia Channel 4's Darcus Howe, who spoke reverentially of the merits of "Minister Farrakhan" and Hilary Wainwright, whom the mole described as the non-conformist La Passionara of English left-wing politics. Wainwright told the audience sadly of how hard and financially unprofitable were the lives of freelance left-wing journalists. She cited one unfortunate who was forced to subsidise his principled journalism by writing travel articles; recently he had had to waste his time travelling first class to Japan. Alas, the materialism of the Eighties appears to have left its mark on the brotherhood, for her tragic tale elicited the heckle, "I'll do it," and the audience dissolved in laughter.
On Wednesday, with another journalist, I was on an after midnight radio programme with three MPs to discuss an alternative Queen's Speech. The Conservative Alan Duncan has argued forcefully in print for decriminalising drugs, but as he is now a PPS he can no longer dissent from party policy and had to leave me to argue the case alone: he had been, as the presenter, Vincent Hanna, put it, "Clareshorted". This useful new verb means that if you want to avoid the sack you may doggedly have to refuse to state the views everyone knows you have. As Tony Walton explains:
Had to be taught
In the belly of the whale
You mustn't inhale
At dinner on Friday night I asked Micheal O'Siadhail how a full-time poet ensured he had something to write about. "I'm gregarious," he said. "And I draw a lot of inspiration from people I meet on my poetry reading tours here, in Ireland and America." I looked at him dubiously, imagining the sameness of the audiences at universities and cultural centres. "Who's next?" I asked. "On Monday," he said happily, "I'm reading at Broadmoor in the morning and Eton in the evening."
In a fit of petulance, the US blocked the appointment of Ruud Lubbers as secretary-general of Nato, so naturally France has savaged the other declared candidate, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. Bishop PC Rodger comments wisely:
When members of Nato get stuffy
It's easily misunderstood
Why the French become huffy with Uffe
And Americans rude about Ruud.
And David Shields has composed a clerihew for viewers of The Final Cut:
Each Sunday night, John Major
is glued to the box, I'll wager,
in his eagerness to work at
emulating Francis Urquhart.
"Who wrote that?" asked Andrew Boyd about this dactyl concerning the admission of the first consignment of girls to an Ivy League campus:
Fun is in store.
"If you lift the baying pack of correspondents that you have now mustered on to the scent, they will surely run it to earth and maybe even kill." Please do. And while you're at it, I want advice on how properly to describe the working readers of the column: "hounds" seems less than respectful.
Ace contributor Una O'Donoghue some weeks ago suggested "elves" - and some of you have picked up the theme in correspondence - but she became worried when she looked it up and found all sorts of dwarfish and malignant connotations. However Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says the malignant kind of imp is passe and has given way "to those airy creatures that dance on the grass in the full moon, have fair golden hair, sweet musical voices, magic harps, etc." Well, delvers that sounds just as I imagine you all. Shall we go elfish?
Life & Style blogs
Men in crop tops seem to be trending thanks to Kid Cudi, the social media and the catwalk
What is ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge?
Greggs Google fail: bakery chain falls afoul of search engine's algorithms with 'unofficial' logo
Anal sex study reveals climate of 'coercion'
Is this the end of apps? New research says a third of us don't bother to download
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
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