PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Cover design: Marie Lane
This book, in a way, is a follow-up to Irwin’s The Runes Have Been Cast, in that key characters from that book are key characters in this book. However, this book very much stands on its own and you do not have to read The Runes Have Been Cast to appreciate it. Anything relevant from that book is explained in this one… It is all enormous fun as Irwin enjoys mocking all and sundry and giving us a somewhat improbable and complicated plot. If only the real world could be non-fiction says Mortimer Salter the TLS fiction editor. Fortunately it is not.
'For one reason or another, many writers have found themselves unable to resist mentioning the TLS in their work. We repeat our thanks to those readers who have, in recent times, kindly sent us examples of this phenomenon, from the writings of Lawrence Durrell, Marian Engels and Ian McEwan, amongst others. It is less than the TLS itself than a fictional member of staff who looms large in Tom’s Version, the new novel by Robert Irwin. In this characteristically witty glance back to the 1960s, Mortimer Salter is introduced as an “ugly customer” – a former nightclub bouncer who has studied English Literature under the tuition of J.R.R.Tolkien at Oxford, and then fallen in love with “the adrenaline rush of editing”;” it was almost better than sex”:
An editor was a superior sort of crime-buster, whose work was to stamp out offences against English proses. The first thing had to do when faced with a book review that has just been sent in was to look it over with a view to seeing what could be cut. It was generally a good idea to delete the first sentence. Also anything that might be used as a shout line when the paperback came out. Also passages of particularly fine writing…Then the piece had to be scanned for any jokes or puns…Exclamation marks should be weeded out as vulgar and showy!
We cannot think where Mr Irwin gets his ideas from. (Mr Irwin has for many years been a consultant editor for the TLS on matters relating to Islam and the Middle East.) He tells us that the thuggish Mortimer is “entirely my own brainchild” and that he will reappear in the sequel to Tom’s Version. We have, in the meantime, much to contemplate in this vision of ”the fiercely beating heart of London’s literary life” and its staff of “hard-bitten, hard-drinking types with a taste for paratactic prose”. “The office was always full of cigarette smoke and, apart from the necessary telephone calls and swearing, the place was like a morgue and the editors mostly worked in silence until late afternoon.” At that point, ”the whisky would come out ...".'
'there is much fun to be had in these pages.. and the novel ends with a deftly executed twist of perspective... It is a book haunted by many earlier writers but it is Irwin's own antic voice which proves to be the most memorable element.'
'Tom’s Version, his 10th novel, talks of edgy things – from abusive relationships to narcotics and sexual power games – but with a jovial, almost cosy air that suggests this is all now second nature for the 77-year-old author...
Tom’s Version is in many ways a book about books, with all the erudite insularity that entails. For all its esoteric trappings, there’s nothing especially high-minded about this energetic romp at its core, which I mean in a good way.'
The story takes numerous twists, turns and deviations, taking in interesting byways such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s time in Samoa, the levitating Saint Joseph of Copertino, the Spiritual Exercise of St Ignatius of Loyola, and many more. The authorial voice is elegant and well-informed.
No. of pages: 218
Publication date: 30.11.2023
Re-print date: 30.11.2023
978 1 915568 27 4
978 1 915568 44 1