There was a moment about halfway through Other People’s Money when I began to wonder whether I wasn’t a bit over-familiar with Justin Cartwright’s novels. It came at the point when Artair MacCleod, the deluded Celtic playwright, hard pressed for cash, contemplates the sale of his copy of Richard III, signed by Gielgud, Richardson and Olivier in 1953. Instantly, a spectral bell clanged faintly in my ears: in Look at It this Way (1990), doesn’t Bernie Koppel, the ageing Jewish actor, present Tim Curtiz’s daughter with the identically autographed book? He does, and I got a queer little kick of satisfaction at either spotting Cartwright’s intertextual joke or catching him out in an act of unremembered duplication.
I love Justin Cartwright’s novels. There are ten of them side by side on the study shelf, each one read three or four times over. In an age where most writers make a virtue of shying away from the grand themes of