Complete fiction - but very familiar

Novel of literary London comes out after lawyers have their say, writes Suzi Feay

The book that became a literary sensation before it was even published - A Vicious Circle, Amanda Craig's devastating portrait of the rivalries and jealousies of some of the country's leading literary figures - finally hits the bookshops tomorrow. But not before it has been censored by the libel lawyers.

Written in the style of the grand Victorian novel, the original version of Craig's novel concerned the struggles of two women: Mary, a poor, self- taught Irish girl, and Amelia, the glamorous daughter of a newspaper tycoon. Both fall in love with Paul Pinsent, a ruthless but stylish literary journalist. But Craig's former boyfriend, the Sunday Telegraph critic David Sexton, put paid to plans to publish the tale when he warned that he might sue, claiming the Machiavellian book reviewer Pinsent was a thinly disguised attack on him.

It has taken months of legal negotiations, the withdrawal of the book by its original publishers, Penguin, a substantial rewriting of the fine detail of the novel and an auction race between other rival houses to get A Vicious Circle into the bookshops. In the revised version out goes Paul Pinsent - and in moves Mark Crawley. Craig has been forced to change not only the main male character's name but also his appearance, origin, job, the location of his flat, his kitchen's contents, the publications he freelances for and one incident of oafish behaviour. Even his fridge and Baby Belling have changed - from a second- hand one to a "a gyp-room fridge and a slo-cooker".

When the news broke that Sexton had written to Penguin, threatening to sue over resemblances he detected, Craig airily commented: "About the only similarity is that they both have a second-hand fridge and wear Italian clothing."

Mary Quinn, a cast-off girlfriend who takes her revenge, has also had her hair colour changed from red to brown. "I think he thought that she was too identified with me," says Craig.

She insists no one person was the model for "Mark Crawley". "It was never my intention to libel this man, and I don't think I did. It's ridiculous to say because my character comes from such-a-place, went to Cambridge and to London to be a journalist it must be that person." The latest version of A Vicious Circle contains a stern disclaimer: "Any resemblance of the satirical archetypes in A Vicious Circle to real-life people and events is ... not only wholly unintended but entirely wrong."

Wholly unintended? The walk-on parts so gleefully portayed are a feast for the journalists and critics who set forth on the trail of the real- life counterparts of literary London.

There's Merlin Swagg, novelist and presenter of an influential TV arts show ("he only has established authors on Snap, Crackle, Pop! and he's much too soft to give them a hard time"). There's dodgy press baron Max de Monde of MDM newspapers, a loathsome fat bully who uses face flannels as toilet paper and flies around in his company helicopter. And there's Ben Gorgle, "portly Canadian editor of Grunt ... bearded, balding, bespectacled ..." The very alliteration seems to point us inexorably towards Bill Buford, the former editor of the literary magazine Granta.

Some people were flattered to find themselves in the novel. A couple of good-natured journalists (John Walsh and Christopher Silvester) happily proffered themselves as candidates for the role of Ivo Sponge, literary editor, lecher and wit. Craig, whose latest version makes Mark Crawley a political pundit while Sponge becomes a literary critic who wants a top Westminster job, claims Sexton has behaved decently. The real villain for her is Penguin, which, she says, dumped her novel without giving her a chance to rewrite.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little