Author Lee Child is the poster boy for marijuana - and another more troubling addiction

His profoundly silly and irresponsible remarks merely confirm the terrible effects of one of the most  powerful addictions known to modern man – publicity

Share

Amid growing concerns about varying forms of modern addiction, remarks made by the bestselling author of crime novels Lee Child are likely to prove controversial. “I’ve been smoking weed for 44 years, five nights a week,” Child has boasted to a reporter. Claiming to be provided with a “a huge range of marijuana” by his dealer in New York, where he lives, the writer has described himself as “the poster boy to prove it doesn’t do you much harm”.

He is, of course, a poster boy for something entirely different. His profoundly silly and irresponsible remarks merely confirm the terrible effects of one of the most  powerful addictions known to modern man – publicity.

Authors are peculiarly vulnerable to this new form of dependence, and their cravings are never more acute than in the month of August. It is the moment of the year when the media are hungry for content, and the autumn’s new books need an early push.

Last year, it was revealed that some crime writers were using internet aliases to promote themselves and attack their rivals. Now it is Lee Child’s turn to get a hit of column inches during the holiday season.

Perhaps he deserves our sympathy. Any author is told by publishers at the start of his career that promotion and visibility are the key to success. A couple of profiles later, the soft stuff will soon give away to a stronger craving for publicity. Just another “Me and My Pets” for a Sunday newspaper, he will tell himself, or perhaps a brief guest appearance on a daytime TV show: what harm could that do?

Gradually the written stuff fades in importance, and the showy nonsense which attends publication becomes more significant  than the work itself. Hype – the skunk of publicity-addiction – kicks in.

It was Jeffrey Archer who made hype respectable. The real work of the modern writer, he would say, started when the book was written and needed to be promoted. His successors have subsequently discovered that, because there is such fierce competition for coverage, the hype-peddling author must forever go for a stronger hit.

Once Archer could get away with wild boasts about his own success, sales and popularity; now an author must claim to be a poster boy for drug use.

The tragedy of the addicted author is that hype tends to be delivered with a price-tag. The work begins to suffer as the author treats himself as the real story. “Mass exposure,” Ted Hughes once wrote in a letter, “intensifies my feeling of being ‘watched’ (which maims all well-known writers, & destroys many.)” In a similar vein, John Updike spoke of the successful writer acquiring “fat eyes”.

So it is with today’s writers. It has often seemed that the careers of some of our most gifted writers – Jeanette Winterson, Martin Amis, Will Self  – are a never-ending tug-of-war between their better writing selves and the nagging addictive need to be noticed, to be at the centre of some exciting new row.

With Lee Child, there is no struggle. He clearly sees himself in a different league of self-promotion. Not so long ago, he announced confidently that he could write “a literary book” as good as anything written by Amis. “It would take me about three weeks,” he said.

This new publicity binge is rather more serious because it is just possible that the easily influenced might actually believe the pernicious idea that one can take cannabis almost every day of one’s life without any ill effects.

People of sense and judgement, though, will ignore him or look away in embarrassment. After all, it is just another over-excited author tripping out in August on his own hype.

Keep calm, they’ll soon lose interest

A small but chilling insight into the modern way of news management has been provided by Scotland’s Grampian Police.

Its officers emerged with rather less than credit last year from Anthony Baxter’s BBC documentary You’ve Been Trumped, seeming  to have an institutional bias in favour of Donald Trump over the matter of the American businessman’s Aberdeenshire golf resort. At one point, the police took the director and producer into custody while filming and conducting an interview. Subsequently all charges against them were dropped.

Now, thanks to a freedom-of-information request from the Sunday Herald, it has emerged  that Grampian Police elected to  take a “low-key” PR approach to  the programme and the publicity surrounding it. Five days after its broadcast, a police inspector reported, with satisfaction, “We’re of the opinion that the interest is waning.”

The next time a news programme explains that an organisation with tricky questions to answer has declined to be interviewed,  it is worth remembering  Grampian Police and its “low-key” tactic. It is a simple ploy of the powerful – keep your head  down, and soon enough, interest  will wane.

Terence Blacker’s ‘My Village and Other Aliens’ is at the Zoo Southside at 5.30pm on the Edinburgh Fringe until 26 August

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea