Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

After the launch party of Harry Mount's How England Made the English, there was a second, impromptu, diehards' party at a flat belonging to a book reviewer called Molly. Here I fell into conversation with a publisher who, while making a lunge for our hostess, invited me to another book launch slated for the following week.

An official invitation arrived by email a few days later. The book was called The Irresistible Mr Wrong. It was written by a notorious old roue, I vaguely remembered the publisher saying, who in his prime had married a string of celebrated beauties, seduced countless others, and was so fabulously well endowed he had a giant pepper pot named after him. I think he'd also said that the book asks the serious question: what is it that makes women fall so easily for charming scoundrels? Earlier, I'd thought I was in with a shout with our hostess, and I can remember looking jealously at the publisher and his possessive, caressing hands and asking myself exactly the same question.

The launch party was in the form of a buffet lunch in Notting Hill. I pressed the bell of a white townhouse on the dot of 12.30, and after a pause was led up to the first floor and shown into an elegant drawing-room. At the far end, in front of the open window, stood what I guessed to be the author. He was deep in conversation with another elderly male.

Wavy silver hair, blazer, pink and sky-blue diagonal-striped tie, blue jeans, black loafers:

Priapus himself, if I wasn't mistaken. The living embodiment and perhaps even the origin of the term 'the swinging Sixties'.

At the nearer end of the room, two other early arrivals, publisher types, were chatting amiably beside the drinks table. One of these, a welcoming soul, passed me a wide glass of Pimms, topped it up reverently with Prosecco, and, as he did so, said with awe, 'Huge.'

'The bigger the better, ' I said appreciatively, taking an exploratory sip. But he wasn't talking about my Pimms. 'Have you read it?' he said. 'The description?' I confessed not.

Displayed around the room were pristine copies of The Irresistible Mr Wrong. He took one up, opened it at a page near the beginning and read aloud from it, following the words with his index finger. 'The last foot of a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. . . the most magnificent she'd ever seen. . . thick as a man's wrist. …

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