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Peter James on Martin Amis (Quote Unquote)

Posted by Stephen Stratford

Never annoy a novelist, Part II. I blogged on Friday about how the crime writer Peter James was once snubbed by Martin Amis and swore to take his revenge in the next novel in his series featuring policeman Roy Grace. I am reading that novel, Not Dead Yet, and confirm that he does.

We meet a character called Amis Smallbone on page 76:

Amis Smallbone was, in Grace’s opinion, the nastiest and most malevolent piece of vermin he had ever dealt with. Five foot one inch tall, with his hair greasily coiffed, dressed summer and winter in natty suits too tight for him, Smallbone exuded arrogance. Whether he had modelled himself on some screen mobster, or had some kind of Marlon Brando Godfather fixation, Grace neither knew nor cared. Smallbone, who must now be in his early sixties, was the last living relic of one of Brighton’s historic crime families. At one time, three generations of Smallbones controlled protection rackets across Kemp Town, several amusement arcades, the drugs going into half the nightclubs, as well as much of the city’s prostitution. It had long been rumoured – a rumour circulated with much enthusiasm throughout the police – that Smallbone’s obsession with prostitution came out of his own sexual inadequacy.

On page 102 Smallbone is celebrating his release from prison with expensive whisky, an expensive cigar and an expensive hooker. She slips her hand inside his trousers:

“Like a pencil,” she breathed, huskily, into his ear. “Like a tiny little pencil stub!”.

Amis doesn’t take kindly to this so belts her then falls down, drunk. She taunts him again so:

[. . .] he climbed to his knees and lunged at her. But all Amis Smallbone saw, for a fleeting instant, was her left foot coming out of nowhere towards his face. An elementary kickboxing manoeuvre. Striking him beneath his chin, jerking his head upwards and back. It felt, as his consciousness dissolved into sparking white light, as if her foot had gone clean through his head and out the back of his skull.

On page 168 another villain tells Smallbone:

“You was never as good as you thought you was. Your dad – now there was a class act. Everyone feared your dad, and everyone respected him. You’ve always lived on that, traded on being your dad’s son, but you was never half the man he was.” No doubt Peter James will read Martin Amis’s next novel with keen attention.

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