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Burgess was a titan of literature and I believe that his divers canon of work will one day be recognised for what it is – the unique outpourings of an erudite and catholic writer who annoyed the literary mafia by the sheer fecundity of his mind. They could not slot him into a particular pigeon hole – was he a novelist, a musician, a historian, critic, or just a poacher on their sacred territories? – and so he was often unfairly dismissed as being a too-prolific journeyman author.
I cannot claim to have been a close friend, but we met and had great conversation and the odd jar or two on several occasions, often corresponded and tried to keep in touch. At one time I was to have directed a film from one of his early novels – Tremor of Intent, if my memory is not completely addled – but the producer proved to be a man of straw and the project never got off the ground. I remember Anthony once told me that he felt that all he would be remembered for was A Clockwork Orange – and that he did not consider this his best novel but just what Graham Greene would have called an ‘entertainment’. He also expressed regret that he and Graham had fallen out over something and that their relationship had not prospered.
My own favourite is Earthly Powers, but he was always worth reading, always capable of surprise, and brought to his fiction and non-fiction a mind that never stood still. The fact is he was too good, and this provoked envy and malice in certain quarters of the perennially bitchy literary world. As a critic he did not scratch the right backs. I liked him as a person, for he was funny, witty and bloody fearless and you can’t do better than that.
Bryan Forbes was a film director, screenwriter, film producer, actor and novelist. He directed Whistle Down the Wind (1961), The Stepford Wives (1975) and International Velvet (1978). In 1992, he wrote the screenplay for Chaplin. Forbes died in 2013. This memory is from 2001.