SIMON GRAY HAS become his own best comic character, the fall guy in the drama of his own life - a big, rumpled, anxious-looking fellow, seething with anger or boiling with rage, chain-smoking and (until recently) imbibing 'bottled inspiration' from champagne or Glenfiddich, and always Eeyorishly expecting disaster. Every so often Gray delivers another account of the tribulations of a playwright's life. The last one was subtitled 'Confessions of a Paranoid'. Fat Chance was a cry of mordant anguish after Stephen Fry deserted his play Cell Mates, which died by contamination.
The Smoking Diaries is a sort of notes-towards-my-memoirs, inspired by Anno Domini and the mortal illnesses of friends. It starts in 2002, when he has just become eligible for his state pension and is still smoking sixty-five a day. Just before Christmas his old friend Harold Pinter tells him he