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The Cult of Barney Thomson

by Douglas Lindsay - 08:36 on 07 January 2009

I was at a dinner party some time before Christmas. The dinner party, the very essence of diplomatic life. I prefer dinner parties to regular parties. For a start there's something to do. Eat dinner. And then there's always a reasonable chance that the people sitting either side of you will get into conversation with the people on the other side of them and you'll get to sit in peace.

So, there I was, eating my dinner, and I unavoidably fell into conversation with the woman on my right who I had never met before. She asked me what I did and I said I wrote crime novels. I could see her thinking, Oh my God, not only are you handsome, dynamic and suave beyond words, but you write.... I described the deep, philosophical studies into human nature that are the Barney Thomson books. At some point I remembered that our host was discerning enough to have a copy of Lost in Juarez on his bookshelf. I wandered off, collected the book, and showed it to my dinner companion.

She opened the book and read the short blurb about the author on the first page. This contains the line: He is the writer of the cult Barney Thomson series which began publication in 1999.

She nodded sagely and said, "Oh, it's a cult..."

My Chambers English dictionary which I have here defines cult (ignoring the religious sect definition) as: a great, often excessive, admiration for a person or idea: the person or idea giving rise to such admiration: (with of) a fad.

Hmm. The Barney Thomson novels aren't really a cult. Not yet. But there I was, confronted with my own marketing lie, by someone who had read it in black and white and immediately believed it. Was I any different from the people who make outrageous and spurious claims in adverts on tv every day? Was I any different from the people who make Championship Edition bags of washing powder and Limited Edition bags of crisps?

Well, yes, because they get paid stupid amounts of money.

I nodded sagely, and took another bowl of dessert, and when she'd finished looking over the lonesome copy of Lost in Juarez, I casually changed the subject to the world's economic crisis and what all us diplomats and diplomatic spouses eating dinner at dinner parties could do about it.


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