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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Corporate Communications Manager - London - £60,000

£55000 - £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

i Editor's Letter: Douglas Carswell's defection

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone