* Three volumes of autobiography? Really? There are perfectly serviceable single-volume lives of Napoleon and Churchill – a point which SF, sensible chap, admittedly makes himself.
° The ‘Groucho-Club-excess’ days of the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s do sound horribly self-indulgent, wasteful, unhealthy and a lot of fun. I freely admit I would have liked to have been there. More to the point, I would have liked to have had the money and success to have been able to be there. At the end of The Life Of Stephen Volume II: The Fry Chronicles, Stephen had been introduced to cocaine and wrote that ‘the tragedy and farce of that drama are the material for another book’. So, More Fool Me. It is not devoid of interest: Max Hastings offered SF £200,000 a year to write for the Telegraph (£200,000 a year, 22 years ago, for something that could be fitted in around real work), for instance. But. But. But I can’t really see much excuse (except abject laziness? lack of imagination? a pressing deadline? rampant profiteering?) for the last 140 or so pages (out of only 380) being taken up with a fucking diary from August to November 1993. And not a very interesting diary at that. ‘Stayed at health farm, played golf, finished second novel, went to parties, took coke, was very in demand’. I paraphrase only slightly. SF justifies the virtually unedited entries by saying: ‘I offer them to you because I think they recapture better than my memory ever can the hectic, intensely busy and fractured nature of my life back then.’ I’m afraid he’ll have to do better than this: memoirists often use diaries to create a new, coherent narrative – otherwise, just publish your diaries as ‘diaries’ and have done with it. More Fool Me is a long, long way from the, at times, brilliant confessional writing of Moab Is My Washpot. There were 13 years between the publication of that and Chronicles; the gap from Chronicles to Volume III is just four years. It’s a rush job: the law of diminishing returns, illustrated in text form.