Beryl Bainbridge claimed that she began to write biographical novels because she had exhausted the store of autobiography that had inspired earlier fiction. David Lodge has admitted to following Bainbridge’s example when he turned from campus stories to literary bio-novels. And now there’s further – possibly surprising – evidence to support the theory that a novelist who seeks longevity is likely to find his or her second wind in a different subject matter.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the prospect of Martin Amis becoming a historical novelist would have seemed as remote as John le Carré abandoning spy fiction for Tolkienesque fantasy. In action and language, the first decade of Amis – from 1973’s The Rachel Papers to Money in 1984 – was