THE OPENING'S A cracker. 'The Duke, as usual by tea-time, was drunk. Not very drunk, not yet arrogant and clumsy, but sufficiently soft in the head to have driven his Cadillac convertible along the fairways of Nassau's premier golf club. This was before electric buggies. Evidently, he was not in the mood for long walks between shots; and, after all, he was the Governor.' An echo surely of, 'It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.' And in the final chapter Patrick Skene Catling confirms that Earthly Powers was indeed by his side as he polished this memoir. Duty done. There's no faulting this man's manners. An unnecessary fastidiousness, though, for there is no copyright on the idea of the shock opener, and Skene Catling has done it before, beginning one novel with the come-on: 'Orgasm?'
In any case there is nothing wrong with learning at the feet of the masters, even at the age of seventy-eight. During his long career as a journalist and writer Skene Catling was lucky enough to get advice, at first hand, from some of the finest. P G Wodehouse told