I first got my hands on a typewriter at the age of nine. It was my father's, a 1967 Olivetti in grey bakelite. He clearly had no use for it: why would a dentist need a typewriter? Whereas I needed it to write a novel, a fast-paced, gut-wrenching, hard-boiled murder mystery set in a primary school. It revolved around a production of Macbeth, in which the hero, the boy detective, was playing one of the three witches. This was an unusually sophisticated primary school: not only were the pupils performing Shakespearean tragedy, they were doing it in drag. I had been inspired, if that's the word, by seeing the play at Basingstoke's Haymarket Theatre, which recently lost its Arts Council grant and has closed down. I remember very little about the production except that the actors were wearing heavy woollen costumes, which were no doubt suitable garb for an 11th-century Scottish castle but looked uncomfortably hot and itchy under the stage lights. As for my story, I wrote very little of it, and can remember even less. But my excitement had less to do with the storytelling - you could do that any day of the week with a pencil in an exercise book - than with the typewriting.
LRB 10 May 2007 | PDF Download