Dominic Sandbrook

Rules for Literary Survival

More than a decade ago, when I was a bored postgraduate student, I became obsessed with the work of Kingsley Amis. I had read Lucky Jim before, and thought it not as funny as it should have been; but now I reread it and found it wonderful. So I started working my way through Amis’s other novels. Very few of them were in print: even a decent Waterstones usually had only Lucky Jim and The Old Devils. Online shopping was in its infancy, so I relied on second-hand bookshops to get the others. Even a visit to the most obscure market town carried a frisson of excitement: would that battered little bookstall hold a dog-eared copy, of, say, The Riverside Villas Murder? Would this be the day I finally tracked down Amis’s James Bond novel, Colonel Sun?

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