Novelist Martin Amis escalates argument with newsreader Anna Ford over dead husband

A public war of words has broken out between novelist Martin Amis and former newsreader Anna Ford.

The public spat began when Ford, 66, said in a public letter that the writer should have a "closer and more honest look at yourself in relation to others".

Amis, 60, in turn has retaliated, saying that Ford's "surprise attack" was "ungenerous and self-defeating".

Ford penned an open letter to The Guardian on Saturday saying Amis should take a closer look at himself after he wrote an article on his treatment in the press.

She accused him of narcissism, smoking over her late husband's deathbed - Amis and Mark Boxer were close friends until Boxer died in 1988 - and neglect of his godfatherly duties.

She accused him of visiting her husband's deathbed to fill "time before you caught a plane at Heathrow", adding: "You wrote a piece about your feelings and tears as you left. I saw no evidence of these."

Amis wrote in his open letter in The Guardian today that he did not smoke in Ford's husband's room, that he had been "overwhelmed" by the time he reached his car and that he caught a plane the next day.

He acknowledged that he had been a poor godfather to Ford's daughter Claire, who was made "abruptly fatherless" and said he would be "writing to her to offer my apologies and regrets".

He wrote: "I wonder how it serves Mark's memory, or warms his ghost, to suggest that his two devoted friends (I and Christopher) (Hitchens, the journalist) behaved with such implausible callousness."

Amis, the author of Money and London Fields, told The Guardian that the outburst was "ungenerous and self-defeating" and said it "makes me wonder how long all this has been brewing".

Ford, who famously threw a glass of wine over former Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken after she was sacked from TV-am, was among the first female newsreaders on ITN.