This volume is made up almost entirely of Anthony Burgess’s book reviews and literary essays for The Guardian, The Observer, The Listener, the New York Times and The Spectator – for the most part, that is, for publications aimed at a fairly literate general readership, not at scholars and academics. He needed, then, the talent to amuse as well as to instruct, to praise, to question and to pooh-pooh, and he had those talents in abundance. Burgess also had another crucial virtue, as one of his literary editors, Peter Green, once pointed out in a BBC interview: he was a pro. You could always rely on him to file on time and at the agreed length, and his copy was so well crafted that only a fool or a creep would feel the need to tinker with it. As Green said, these are qualities for which an editor would cheerfully kill.
The Ink Trade begins with his jape – well known to Burgess fans – of writing a review for the Yorkshire Post of a novel by one Joseph Kell, who was in fact Burgess himself. Guessing that his editor had sent him the book as a kind of