The Martin Amis Challenge: Hey Genius, Try Writing a Thriller!

Can a highbrow author go low? Today at Book Expo America, during a panel of thriller authors, Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels, issued something of a challenge. Genre writers, he asserted, are as a rule extremely well read and capable of writing in a diversity of styles. “If you asked a genre writer to write a book in the style of Martin Amis, anyone of us could write a good imitation of one of his books. Could he write one of our books? I don’t think so.”

Of course, Mr. Amis has dipped into genre before. His 1998 novel Night Train was a police procedural narrated by a female cop. It was also something of a flop. His highbrow peers Julian Barnes and John Banville have published crime fiction too, under the pseudonyms Dan Kavanaugh and Benjamin Black, respectively. Neither alter-egos have matched the authors’ success under their own names nor the commercial success of Mr. Child, whose real name is Jim Grant.

Meanwhile, reviews of Mr. Amis’ new book, The Pregnant Widow, have been mixed.