David_Karp_Leave_Me_AloneI took a few days’ holiday last week – mostly devoted, alas, to nursing myself back from a bout of flu. Oh well. I took advantage to re-read a book I enthused about in a post a while back, Leave Me Alone, by David Karp. ‘David Who?’ I hear you ask. Indeed. The first and last time I read this book was over thirty years ago. It made a deep impression on me then and I would still recommend it as an excellent read now. Karp, who died at the age of 77 on 11 September, wrote six accomplished novels before switching to writing television plays and scripts in his 40s. The back cover blurb to my Gallanz edition of Leave Me Alone states that Karp had ‘a touch of greatness about him’. The novels do indeed suggest great promise and then, with apparent suddeness, he switched to TV scripts. I assume (I can’t find a sufficiently long bibliographical piece with an explanation) that, on the one hand, he got fed up with low sales for his excellently worked novels and, on the other, he was tempted by the better money he would have been offered by TV. I suspect many other writers of that generation were similarly tempted and many of them probably succumbed. But the result is that today we still talk about Graham Greene (for example) but nobody talks about David Karp. I thought I was alone with this reflection until I did a Google and came up with this fellow blogger’s very similar view. The reflection was timely because my writers’ group met this evening minus one of its number (now there’s a good title for a radio play; One of Our Writers is Missing), who has decided that he’s going to concentrate on playwriting and video work, having got fed up with waiting for the publishing world to renew its interest in him (he has an excellent published novel under his belt already). I’m not making any sort of critical point here, especially not because I think our fellow writer is very talented and that something is going to have to break for him soon. But I can’t help but suspect that success as a novelist is more ubiquitous than success as a scriptwriter of any sort. After all, which is better known; Dashiell Hammet or David Simon? Is that, I wonder, why one of Karp’s characters remarks that ‘Fiction is the frosting to the cake of publishing’?