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Martin Amis to publish novel inspired by death of Christopher Hitchens | Books


Martin Amis has written his “most intimate and epic work”, an autobiographical novel that will draw on the death of his closest friend, the polemical writer Christopher Hitchens.

Inside Story, published in September, is “the unseen portrait of Martin Amis’s extraordinary life”, according to his publisher Jonathan Cape. Amis writes about the “vibrant characters who have helped define” him, including Hitchens, who had cancer and died in Houston in 2011. Amis moved to the US partly to be near him.

“It’s an awful thing, a death watch,” he told the Guardian in 2017. “Especially now, because you have the machines telling you progress. The blood pressure falls. Human nature being what it is, you actually want it to end.” Hitchens, he said, “had a greater love of life than me. He really enjoyed everything, so much. I quite like life, but I’m not as crazy about it as he was. It somehow formulated itself in me that, now he was dead, it was my job to love life as much as he did. It hasn’t gone away.”

The novel examines writers of an earlier generation including Amis’s father, Kingsley Amis, family friend Philip Larkin, Amis’s “hero” and mentor Saul Bellow, Iris Murdoch and his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard – whom he has given credit for his career.

Another figure in the novel is Phoebe Phelps, whom Jonathan Cape describe as “alluringly amoral” and “the person who captivated [Amis’s] 20s”.

“What begins as a thrilling tale of romantic entanglements, family and friendship, evolves into a tender, witty exploration of the hardest questions: how to live, how to grieve, and how to die?” said Cape, adding that Inside Story touches on the “great horrors” of the 20th century, including the impact of the 9/11 attacks, and what all this has taught Amis about how to be a writer.

Amis has written about 9/11 before, in fiction and non-fiction, and has drawn fire for his comments on Islam. The novelist is no stranger to controversy, making waves with everything from his thoughts on the English to his alleged sexism. The positive responses to his 2000 memoir Experience, which John Banville called “moving, angry, honest, and above all wonderfully stylish”, and James Wood “a beautiful, and beautifully strange book … unlike anything one expected” – suggest the author’s best subject could even be himself.

Amis has said his forthcoming novel is “not so much about me”, but about Larkin, Bellow and Hitchens. “That gives me a theme – death – and a bit more freedom, and fiction is freedom.”

He added at the time: “It’s hard going but the one benefit is that I have the freedom to invent things. I don’t have them looking over my shoulder any more.”

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