Simon reaches his century of books

Simon
Simon

Author Simon Brett is celebrating a remarkable milestone in his publishing career – his 100th book.

Simon, who lives at Burpham, near Arundel, reaches his century with the publication of Seriously Funny… and Other Oxymorons, which is released on September 13.

He managed to get his 50th book published on his 50th birthday, but not wanting to take for granted reaching his 100th birthday, he has sped up in the years since, with book number 100 coming 42 years after his first.

The landmark puts him in exalted company alongside celebrated crime writer John Creasey, Billy Bunter author Frank Richards… and the queen of romance, Barbara Cartland. P G Wodehouse managed just the 94.

Simon confesses that some of the books have been “tiny oeuvres”, humorous books, but they certainly still count – alongside his more major works including a number of series of crime novels featuring Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering and Blotto & Twinks Simon isn’t expecting a telegram from the Queen on his reaching his century, but he was honoured with an OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours for services to literature, around the same time he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His writing also includes comedy in radio and television series such as No Commitments and After Henry.

Simon confesses he didn’t write his 100th book with the landmark in mind: “I thought I must be getting close to 100 and worked it out retrospectively. Seriously Funny… and Other Oxymorons was just an idea that I had floating around. I have always loved oxymorons, and once you start looking, you find them all around.”

The oxymoron is one of the great beauties of the English language - ‘a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory’.

Simon counts among his favourites ‘alcohol-free wine’ and ‘compassionate Conservatism’. As he says, some are so common that they are part of everyday language, such as when we speak of acting naturally or of a victimless crime or buy a one-size-fits-all garment.

“The oxymoron is there, hiding in plain sight.”

Another favourite came when Boris Johnson promised that Brexit would be a “Titanic success”; “Trump diplomacy” is another political gem. The ghastly “friendly fire” is also included, he says.

Simon’s first book was his first Charles Paris, actually his fourth completed book, but his first to be published.

“I finished the first one when I was 17, and it showed me that I could go the distance of writing 60,000 words, and then the challenge was to write 60,000 words that might interest someone else! I was disappointed with the rejections of course, but by the time I was rejected, I had moved on, but also I am a great believer that no writing is ever wasted. You always learn something from your disappointments, and I used a plot element from one of the rejected books in the first one that was published.”

Looking back, there are one or two books that Simon feels he perhaps “got away with” – particularly his first book after taking the plunge and starting to write full time. He discovered he had written in just one day what it would usually take him four or five days to write when he was snatching time before or after work. But he also discovered he hadn’t fully thought through the plotting… and in his haste, pretty much all the characters were the names of publishers he had spotted on his book shelves...

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