I had dinner with A, in a restaurant on the South Bank with a great view of St Paul’s. He had just finished reading my novel and had lots to say. Some of it made me nod, and want to reach for a notebook, and some made me prickle, and want to interrupt. Then he told me about his grandfather, a writer called Charles Morgan, who had been “as famous as Martin Amis” between the Wars. He made lots of money, but then became dated, and sank without a trace. He’s been out of print for decades.
I asked if Charles Morgan minded…. yes, presumably, but how much? Could it be OK to have had your day in the sun, and settle into enjoying the spoils? Before A could answer, the waiter spilled a glass of dessert wine down my back. I jumped up, and the waiter mopped at me, almost crying with mortification.
We forgot about Charles Morgan, and moved on to Bob Dylan, and then Venice, and then wheelchair access. The back of my top was soaked and sticky, and I was trying and failing not to mind. Around us, people were getting their bills in ancient, moth-eaten hardbacks. Ours came, and A opened it and went very pale. He’s very comfortably off, so I presumed it wasn’t the cost of the meal that had shocked him. “Look!” he cried. “It’s incredible!”
The red leather book the bill had come in was The Judge’s Story, by Charles Morgan.