What?s Your Most Smoker-Friendly Novel, Or, Indeed, Anybody Else?s?

Dame Beryl Bainbridge

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James Leavey's Corner
  By James Leavey

TheLiverpool-born novelist airs her viewsÖ

JL:Where did you first start smoking"


BB: I wassort of interested, or went towards it, when I was 17, when I wentto Liverpool Playhouse, and everybody smoked, everybody.  But Ididnít.  Then when I went into rep, later on, around the country.  Iwas about 24, when I started to smoke. But I didnít really get intomy stride for many years because I didnít have the money. And itísonly with a few bob in say the last ten years that itís got out ofcontrol. Iíd always had a cough, all through childhood, terriblecoughs, spitting blood, and about four yearís ago I had my annualwinter cough, which everybody said was smoking. Then they said itwas asthma, and I knew it wasnít - I was convinced.  And somefriends took me up and down Harley Street, x-raying every bit ofme.  And they had a fit when they saw the x-rays, which showed thatIíd had TB as a child. Now my theory is that my lungs are so scarredĖ the x-rays were so awful Ė that I couldnít possibly get cancerfrom smoking. Of course, it could ruin my heart, but my lungs aresafe.  I donít think the young should smoke, but once youíre past50, I think itís a mistake to give up. I think giving up could killyou.  I was also brought up on chips: egg and chips, cold meat andchips, sardines and chips, and thatís the sort of food I like now.And I think itís what youíre used to.  So if I gave up egg and chipsand ciggies, something would go wrong with my digestive system.


JL:Whatís your most smoker-friendly novel, or, indeed, anybody elseís"

BB: Idonít think I notice, except perhaps in those American crime bookswith private detectivesÖ


JL:Such as Raymond Chandlerís Phillip Marlowe"


BB: Yes. Andthe Saint. I think the Saint smoked a lot.


JL:When youíre writing, are you aware of your characters smoking"


BB: No.  Ithink I donít because to me to say, ĎHe turned and lit a cigaretteíis a cop-out.  Thatís making a space because you canít think ofanything to write about. No, I donít think Iíve ever used that sortof thing.


JL:What do you actually smoke"


BB: Silk CutUltra.  I started on Woodbines.  My mother smoked Craven A and Itried them but it took me a long time, well a weekÖI couldnít tastethe filtered cigarettes.  But I persevered, I wasnít going to givein.


JL:Do you smoke a lot"

BB: Yes. I smoke a lot when I work.   

JL:Do you find that smoking helps the writing process"


BB: Oh gosh,yes.


JL: Why"

BB: I dunno.  Itís second nature.  Youíre sittingat that damned machine, you know, youíre stuck and you light up andyou put it out and you light up.  What slightly worried me againstsmoking, is that Iíve been working in the top room of my house forabout ten years.  Itís a pit. And after finishing the last bookabout a month ago I decided that maybe I ought to decorate it.  SoIíve moved out the stuff and Iíve never seen such a rim of yellowtallic acidĖ itís ghastly.

JL:Are you going to do anything about it"

BB: Iím going to wash the walls and do somethingabout the furniture, but Iím not going to do anything about me, no.

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