There was the matter of the bullet hole, just above the stairs leading to the ground floor. “My mother-in-law tried to murder me,” she said matter-of-factly. It was a narrow house on a residential street in Camden Town, in north London, the only one slathered in ivy, and probably the only one as cluttered as Beryl’s was.  I’d been invited there in September of 1977, as Beryl and I had corresponded for a year before I moved to London to begin my career as a writer. Having left New York—and a teaching position—when, at the time, one couldn’t get an editor to read without an agent, and one couldn’t get an agent without having been published, and I was damned well determined to become a writer, I’d decided to see if I could shop a full-length interview with her to the New York Times Book Review, killing two birds with the proverbial single stone. The New York Review of Books had covered her, but she was still under the radar among general readers in America. And, of course, apart from wanting her to gain a larger audience, I was hoping I might be signed on as a regular reviewer at the NYTBR. Which might well, ahem, get the attention of mainstream publishers. The people at the Times said, sure, go ahead, we’d love to see it (which, as I’d unfortunately soon learn, is markedly different from, sure, go ahead, we’d love to buy it, or sure, go ahead, and if we don’t want it we’ll pay you a kill fee.)

I read yesterday morning of the death of one of the most original voices in British literature, Dame Beryl Bainbridge. I’d first discovered Beryl’s works in the mid-70s after reading Graham Greene’s praise of her novel The Bottle Factory Outing. It was on a trip to London in the early 70s that I managed to find the title (unavailable then in the US), along with everything else I could find by her. Once I read it I knew that Beryl’s was a unique voice and one that would influence me in some way that I couldn’t yet foresee. She’d also influenced a generation of other writers, and her powers of observation, her mordant wit, and her ability to mix in a completely convincing way the tragic and the comic, can be seen in the works of many authors, including this one.