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Monocle Husky

Literary Legends

I'm lucky enough to live in an area blessed with several brilliant independent bookshops which are always running events, and thus last week I got to see literary giant Julian Barnes speak in Dulwich to a packed church.

Goodness, the man has a beautiful voice. I wanted to take him home and force him in a nice and non-stalkery way to read me bedtime stories.

He was kind enough to sign my ratty old secondhand paperback of Staring at the Sun - "I always like it when people bring this one" - and listen to me rave about how much I love the opening scene, in which a Hurricane pilot drops thousands of feet through the dawn sky and is astonished to see the sun rise again.

Everywhere that is anywhere is having a literary festival these days, and it's presently the turn of Bexley Libraries with Book Buzz. Last night I headed down the A207 to see Mike Gayle, whose chick lit offerings are far from the kind of thing I usually enjoy but have been my go-to comfort read for nearly 20 years.

I arrived to find Mike sitting awkwardly at the front of a silent room, avoiding eye contact. At the designated start time a member of the library staff ran through the fire safety notices and entreated us to turn off any mobile phones we might possibly have brought before at last introducing our speaker, who came to life like Bagpuss and was charming and entertaining for an hour.

I'd always suspected that he was an absolute sweetheart (before his career as a novelist he was the agony uncle for Bliss magazine, making him honorary big brother to thousands of teenage girls nationwide), and I was not disappointed.

He talked about the journey his first novel, My Legendary Girlfriend, took from first draft to published book, including the bit where two publishers were in a bidding war over the manuscript and he didn't sleep for a week; about his writing process ("I only have three or four writing hours in me per day") and about whether his books were autobiographical ("I wish my life was that interesting").

It turned out I'd read all but the last-but-one of his 14 books, so I bought that one and had it signed. He made time for a proper chat with everyone, with hugs and photos for those who wanted it, and was very kind when I took it into my head to blurt out that I had authorly ambitions too. A real Mr Nice Guy.
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in which a Hurricane pilot drops thousands of feet through the dawn sky and is astonished to see the sun rise again

Ooo.. sounds like it'd be worth it just for that!

whose chick lit offerings are far from the kind of thing I usually enjoy

I eagerly anticipate the paparazzi photographs proving you're a MLP fan too. =:)

before his career as a novelist he was the agony uncle for Bliss magazine

I'm always tickled by the fact that a few of the original 2000AD crew came from other Fleetway/DC Thomson titles, including Bunty. ^_^

While boys’ comics command huge collector interest, girls’ comics aren’t in as much demand. This may seem a little odd, especially when you discover many of the most memorable stories of the past 30 years, like The Concrete Surfer and School for Snobs – indeed, hundreds of strips – were written by 2000AD greats like Pat Mills and John Wagner. Girls comics also feature art from prestigious talents such as Enrique Romero (better known for Axa and Modesty Blaise) Barrie Marshall (Roy of the Rovers), Jim Baikie and Casanovas.


(I was always in the middle ground - Bunty et al didn't appeal, and neither did the likes of Commando, though I did enjoy the odd Action story, with Major Eazy being, I think, my introduction to Carlos Ezquerra's work)

"I only have three or four writing hours in me per day"

I suspect that's true for a lot of creative fields, even including programming - but the world maintains the illusion of an eight hour work day nonetheless.

I feel Bagpuss represents the true spirit of the United Kingdom far better than Theresa May or her ilk ever can. Bagpuss for PM! (For POTUS.. hmm. How about Sawyer, from Cats Don't Dance?)
> I'm always tickled by the fact that a few of the original 2000AD crew came from other
> Fleetway/DC Thomson titles, including Bunty.

Oh, fantastic! When I was the right age for comics I preferred the gender-neutral worlds of the Beano et al, but when I got older I began to appreciate both Bunty and Commando for what they are (I'll still grab a Commando if I find a flying one, and I had a stab at submitting a story once; it got one of the kindest, most helpful rejection letters I've ever received).

> How about Sawyer, from Cats Don't Dance?

As voiced by Scott Bakula? Yes please.