“In those days I was an optimist.”
Paul Ewen on the impecunious writer from Books Do Furnish a Room:
It was Paul Willetts’ exceptional biography of JMR, Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia, published in 2003, which encouraged me to take up the fiction of MacLaren-Ross himself. In the past six years, JMR and his work have thankfully had a resurgence of interest, thanks in no small part to Paul Willetts, who has also edited these Selected Letters, the Collected Memoirs, the Selected Stories, and JMR’s collection Bitten By The Tarantula & Other Writing. A couple of years back, I attended a fundraiser evening at the Wheatsheaf pub, where a gathering of JMR supporters (including his son) had come out to raise money for a headstone for his unmarked north London grave, offering further proof that he has garnered a whole new generation of admirers. (Despite this, MacLaren-Ross still doesn’t get a mention on the walls of the Wheatsheaf pub today, where photos, articles and book passages pertaining to some of the pub’s other literary names (Dylan Thomas, George Orwell, Anthony Burgess and Anthony Powell) are prominently on display.)
Gathering a reputation as a difficult writer amongst many potentially influential sources, Julian MacLaren-Ross was uncompromising to say the least, and was quick to set out his own terms with prospective employers. While his manner may have appeared to be rude and rather tiresome, on closer inspection it is possible to see that he was exceptionally passionate about what he wrote, and would protect his carefully considered work from slap-dashers at all costs. In his reviews and articles, he was also quick to praise others he deemed worthy, while not being afraid to voice his criticisms at those he did not.
More: Unofficial website / ‘A Soho stalwart’, Francis King in the Spectator / ‘Bohemians, farewell’, Harry Mount in New Statesman / ‘The sage of Soho’, Nicholas Royle on the Selected Stories & Collected Memoirs / ‘He’ll have another one’, Robert McCrum pays tribute / Stewart Home on MacLaren-Ross / John Self on Of Love and Hunger / “Julian Maclaren-Ross wrote brilliant stories between his binges,” Chris Power / Lee Rourke reviews Bitten by the Tarantula
First posted: Wednesday, April 21st, 2010.