Black Jack in an alternative world

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From Mr Mark Lawson

Sir: Not least because of also operating as a critic, I think that in general authors should refrain from responding to reviewers, but I would worry if your reviewer Hugo Barnacle's epically pedantic catalogue of alleged "carelessness" in my novel Idlewild ("Whatever happened to JFK", 24 June) became accepted as fact.

For the record, there is one mistake in the typesetting of dialogue, which will be corrected for the paperback. However, a confusion over whether a character did or did not wear a wristwatch was deliberate in a novel openly concerned with conspiracy theories and the difficulty in establishing the facts of any situation. This is equally so in a novel obsessed with alternative outcomes, in one of which a character is seriously injured, in the other only slightly, with different consequences.

Your reviewer's glassy-eyed pedantry is at its most spectacular when he objects to the 67-year-old Marilyn Monroe referring to the 73-year- old former President Kennedy in my wholly imagined 1993 as Black Jack. This, Barnacle sniffs, was the nickname of his father-in-law. Well, if we're going to split (horse) hairs, it was also the name of the gelding that pulled JFK's funeral casket to burial. But it seemed to me a reasonable leap of imagination that - after the failure of a second term and Vietnam - JFK might have come to be known in my alternative world as Black Jack.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Lawson

London, NW6

26 June

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