For Will Benson, life on Theatre World has its compensations, although they are mostly to be found in the nicely rounded shape of Kim, the chief sub-editor. But there are drawbacks, too: the Wednesday morning hangovers after the Tuesday night sessions at the typesetters; stroppy Martha, receptionist from hell; Colin the odious star reporter; having to review fat-headed avant-garde productions of Romeo and Juliet in smelly Cambden Town basements. And, of course, the death threats.
Somewhere out there is Will's own personal psychotic, who is really very displeased with him, and pretty handy with a crossbow into the bargain. It's not all that easy to work out who it is, either, as the list of candidates starts to grow alarmingly. Does getting drunk and handing your girlfriend a few home truths really warrant this kind of reaction? Or stumbling on a loudmouth comic's dirty little secret?
In his amateurish attempts to stay alive Will lumbers from posh West End crush bars to suburban roadhouses, where they hold Talent Nites and wet T-shirt contests, from the antiseptic pleasures of the Docklands Light Railway to the wild thrills of the Big Dipper, while Kim turns out to be helpful in all sorts of amusing and stimulating ways.
Fast-paced and funny, with a vivid sense of place and sharply drawn characters, I Nearly Died is Charles Spencer's vastly entertaining debut novel.
Charles Spencer was on the staff of the Daily Telegraph for 25 years, for most of that time serving as its theatre critic. He was named Critic of the Year in the British Press Awards in 1999 and 2008. For ten years he also wrote a column about pop music for the Spectator and remains an unrepentant fan of the Grateful Dead to this day.
After graduating with a degree in English from Oxford he began his career as a journalist on the Surrey Advertiser in 1976 and subsequently worked for the Evening Standard as a notably inefficient arts reporter, the theatrical trade paper The Stage, as a sub-editor and reviewer, and the late Robert Maxwell's London Daily News which went down with the loss of all hands in less than a year. After that debacle the Telegraph provided him with a welcome berth from which he retired in October 2014. During his 38 years as a journalist he reckons he wrote some 6000 reviews, ranging from Shakespeare to strip shows and everything in between.
His three comic crime novels, I Nearly Died, Full Personal Service, and Under the Influence were partly inspired by his happy and often inebriated days on The Stage newspaper and first published between 1994 and 2000.