After more than 20 years of writing weekly book reviews, says Craig Brown in The Mail on Sunday, I’m finally hanging up my pen. What have I learnt? First, that “publishing is as prone to the tides of fashion as anything else”. The 1980s was all about exotic travel writing; today the vogue is for nature books by “nervy writers who keep bursting into tears at the sight of a butterfly”. Memoirs used to be mainly the preserve of “old generals”; now pop stars are so in demand that “any old deadbeat” will do. Currently on sale is one by Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, “named 73rd greatest singer in the world by Q magazine in 2012”.
There is, it seems, not a celebrity on earth who hasn’t written a children’s book. Meghan Markle, Ricky Gervais, Paul McCartney, Serena Williams, Madonna – they’ve all done it. At last count, the Duchess of York had clocked up no fewer than 42. “But that was yesterday: since then, she has doubtless tossed off a dozen more.” Also still being churned out, for no very good reason, are political memoirs. I blame Alan Clark – his peerless writing made countless “drearier” politicians think they could do the same. “Mike and Anne Eley from next door came for dinner,” reads one entry in the diary of Tory MP Alan Duncan. “Slow-cooked shin of beef. Rather tasty.”