IN AN INTERVIEW earlier this year, octogenarian Francis King confessed to no longer worrying about how his novels will fare in the marketplace. Such insouciance, if authentic, might be admirable, or even necessary, in the cut-throat world of bestseller lists and publishing hype, but it leaves a niggling doubt. If an author of King's standing (The Nick of Time, his twenty-eighth novel, was long-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize) has become indifferent, what might this cost his creative impulse? One fears the words 'laurels' and 'resting' are lurking in the wings.
King's latest offering certainly displays his intellectual engagement with contemporary society. Mehmet, the plot's enigmatic catalyst, is an illegal immigrant from Albania. Those seduced by his charm, good looks, and apparent generosity include Meg, a multiple-sclerosis sufferer in Dalston; Marilyn, a widowed Kensington GP who tends to his wounds after