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And if there's one thing that's riskier than setting a SLN of contemporary manners in the Age of Greed, it's deciding to make the protagonist a literary man.

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And then if there's one thing that's even more risky than attempting to write any of the above, it's to go right ahead and actually publish a sparkling light novel of contemporary manners, set in the 80s, starring as its protagonist a literary man who writes for the newspapers. Mr Fishwick certainly deserves the big hello for stepping in where many another literary angel would fear to tread.

Wilfred Wellingborough is that familiar English comic hero: The times we already know about: Yet it is a decade that endlessly fascinates, particularly for those of us who came of age professionally then.


There was so much excess, along with so much social upheaval. Wilf's life is more original than other fictional ones from that era, although at first it doesn't seem so. A boyhood friend puts our 'faltering, if charming' hero in charge of a low circulation arts magazine in place of the high-maintenance, high-octane Kitty Greaves.

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  • Overnight, Wilf finds himself in the ruthless world of journalists, publishers and literary agents, in the London of Martin Amis and the New York of Tom Wolfe. And then, because the first instinct of light fiction is towards the improbable, Wilf stumbles into unexpected success. With an outward semblance of bumbling raffishness, they become publishers, magazine editors, gossip columnists, literary agents, and tycoons, without appearing to languish too long in the dreary doldrums of less glamorous occupations.

    Definition of 'smashing'

    These mysterious and irritating transformations are, to some extent, Fishwick's point. Against the backdrop of a decade of rapid expansion, cut-throat careerism and insubstantial stylishness, he deploys fast-buck reputations and apparently effortless success to create a well-oiled farce. At its centre is Wilf, catapulted into the editorship of the small-circulation journal Arts Unlimited by childhood friend and aspiring press baron Jimmy Spalding, the on-the-make proprietor of a magazine empire who most resembles "a whale chasing plankton".

    Wilf, although clearly signposted as a fairly decent bloke, discovers that he is not immune to the allures of the gravy train: As a comic villain, Spalding is reassuringly wicked - thrashing his wife and waving his pistol around to indicate displeasure -and Wilf, like a lamb to the slaughter, is properly dim and clueless. Blind to Spalding's stratospheric manoeuvrings, he makes a hash of Arts Unlimited and fails miserably at his relationship with the unworldly Grace.

    Smashing definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

    Having unexpectedly fluttered into the spotlight, he finds himself more smashed than smashing and, when intimacy with Spalding's wife offers itself as a consoling option, imagines that he has little else to lose. If Fishwick's characterisation often teeters uncomfortably on the verge of caricature - women who are either ballbreaking sexpots or naively trusting nurturers, men who adopt the persona of fop or shark - then his eventual conceit is ingenious.

    In a feverish atmosphere that polarises victors and victims, it is not always immediately possible to tell one from the other or to be sure that they will stay the same.

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    • Falling prey to the vicious fallacy that my enemy's enemy is my friend, Wilf discovers that even his half-hearted attempts at revenge are open to manipulation and that his trust in ancient friendships and loyalties is fatally misplaced.