Thursday 1 February 2018


Today is the centenary of Muriel Spark's birth (what, no Google doodle?). More than a decade on from her death, her stars seems still to burn pretty bright – partly thanks to continuing interest in her unusual, enigmatic life and personality, but also because her books are still read. Several of them will surely endure long after most novelists of her vintage are forgotten. Novels so crisp and sharp – steely indeed – will always come up fresh.
 As a 2018 centenarian, Miss Spark is in mixed company: fellow novelist Penelope Mortimer, biographer Richard Ellmann, hard-boiled thriller writer Mickey Spillane, Alexander Solzhenitsyn – and Jacqueline Susann, author of such megasellers as Valley of the Dolls. Though she was no literary pioneer, Miss Susann was perhaps the first novelist to market herself as, effectively, a brand name, an author whose books would sell by the truckload on the back of her name alone. This was achieved by brilliant self-promotion, helped by her glamorous looks and showbiz background. With her press agent husband, she pioneered what is now a gruelling feature of every successful author's post-publication schedule – the book tour. That is a legacy, of a kind.

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