Oh dear. Just twelve months ago, Danny Leigh wrote a long piece for The Guardian on how he had been determined that his first novel, The Greatest Gift, would not be ‘just so much autobiography by proxy’. Indeed, he ‘bridled at the thought of joining those novelists torn between having a story to tell and wanting to tell their own; the creators of that book mountain glaringly drawn from life, yet unreal in all the most important places – tales of sexual exotica in Crouch End or Brixton Hill, drizzly portraits of “lovesick” blokes with alphabetised CDs and brand new football scarves, florid reminiscences of raving in the desert or backpacking around South-East Asia’. And three cheers for all that. But here we are, a year on, and along comes Leigh’s second novel, The Monsters of Gramercy Park – a book which, while it could never be accused of being confessionally autobiographical, is nevertheless remarkably solipsistic. The Monsters of Gramercy Park is one of those novels about a writer. Worse, it is one of those novels about two writers. Worse still, it is one of those novels about two writers, one of whom is suffering from writer’s block.
The blockee in question is one Lizbeth Greene, an American crime novelist with a string of bestselling books about a half-Swiss middle-aged cop called Frederick Enschell behind her. Ahead of her, though, is one blank page after another. Or rather, one discarded page after another, the discarding taking place after