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

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Queen at Derby day during the Epsom Derby Festival, 2013  

As an MP, I shouldn't have to swear allegiance to the Queen – I serve my constituents, not her

Richard Burgon
Fifa president Sepp Blatter  

Fifa presidential election: If I had a vote, I would back Sepp Blatter

Sean O'Grady
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor