Scotsman Obituaries: Martin Amis, British novelist behind such modern classics as Money and London Fields

Martin Amis, novelist. Born: 25 August 1949 in Oxford. Died: 19 May 2023 in Lake Worth, Florida, aged 73
Martin Amis with his Writer of The Year Award at the 2010 GQ Men of the Year Awards in London (Picture: Ian West/PA Wire)Martin Amis with his Writer of The Year Award at the 2010 GQ Men of the Year Awards in London (Picture: Ian West/PA Wire)
Martin Amis with his Writer of The Year Award at the 2010 GQ Men of the Year Awards in London (Picture: Ian West/PA Wire)

Martin Amis, whose novels Money and London Fields made him one of the most renowned literary figures of his generation, has died aged 73.

The British author published 14 novels, a memoir, two collections of stories and eight collections of non-fiction works over his lifetime.

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In a statement to the PA news agency, Vintage Books said: “We are devastated at the death of our author and friend, Martin Amis: novelist, essayist, memoirist, critic, stylist supreme.

“It has been a profound privilege and pleasure to be his publisher; first as Jonathan Cape in 1973, with his explosive debut, The Rachel Papers; then as part of Penguin Random House and Vintage, up to and including his most recent book, 2020’s Inside Story.”

Amis died from cancer of the oesophagus at his home in Florida, his agent Andrew Wylie told the AP news agency.

Born in Oxford in 1949, he was the son of the late Booker Prize-winning writer, Sir Kingsley Amis – author of Lucky Jim, Jake’s Thing and The Old Devils – who also died age 73 in 1995, and Hilary Ann Bardwell.

He was educated at schools in the UK, Spain and the US before later graduating from Exeter College at Oxford University, where he read English.

In 1973, aged 24, he published his first novel The Rachel Papers, while working as an editorial assistant at the Times Literary Supplement.

He joined the New Statesman as their literary editor at age 27 and was appointed a professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester in 2007, before stepping down in 2011.

In his work he explored current events and the contemporary world as well as key periods in history, notably the Holocaust, which he wrote about in novels such as Time’s Arrow and The Zone Of Interest.

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Time’s Arrow was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while his 2003 novel Yellow Dog was also longlisted.

He was also awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his memoir Experience.

Following the news of Amis’s death, the official Twitter account of the Booker Prize said: “We are saddened to hear that Martin Amis, one of the most acclaimed and discussed novelists of the past 50 years, has died”, they tweeted.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Amis’s UK editor, Michal Shavit, said: “It’s hard to imagine a world without Martin Amis in it.

“He was the king – a stylist extraordinaire, super cool, a brilliantly witty, erudite and fearless writer, and a truly wonderful man.

“He has been so important and formative for so many readers and writers over the last half century. Every time he published a new book it was an event.

“He will be remembered as one of the greatest writers of his time and his books will stand the test of time alongside some of his favourite writers: Saul Bellow, John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov.”

Fellow authors and famous faces also paid tribute to Amis following the news, with broadcaster the Rev Richard Coles saying: “I don’t think there’s a better Eighties novel than Money but I absolutely adored his essays.”

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Novelist Jonathan Coe said he met Amis on a few occasions, recalling: “I was the younger writer, much less well-known.

“He was very kind, very generous, and brilliant company. Now gone much too soon. RIP.”

Professor Brian Cox also paid tribute by sharing a paragraph of Amis’s writing, while Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin revealed that his favourite book by the late author was Money.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “shocked and sad” to hear of Amis’s death, describing him as “the greatest, darkest, funniest satirist since Evelyn Waugh”.

“If you want cheering up, re-read the tennis match in Money. RIP”, he added.

And Booker Prize-winning novelist Ian McEwan said there was a “great tenderness” to Amis – who was seen as “the Mick Jagger of literature”.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, McEwan said he has lost a 49-year-old friendship, describing Amis as “very tender, very sweet and very generous”.

The 74-year-old said: “He was very funny. From my very first meeting I encountered a kind of conversational wit and liveliness that I had never known in my life.”

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Asked if Amis was “fearsome” in real life, McEwan said: “Martin had the knack, often in a crowded room, [of] making for the most vulnerable person because he had heard of some misfortune.

"He was wonderful with my own family. He made marvellous relationships with them as children.

“There is a great tenderness about Martin that never really reached public press. He was always the Mick Jagger of literature, which was just foolish.

“Martin ranged with even more rifts than Keith Richards and Mick Jagger put together.

"Of course he was in another world, a world of meanings and a world, too, of comic misunderstandings.”

Amis is survived by his wife, writer Isabel Fonseca, and his children Louis, Jacob, Fernanda, Clio and Delilah.


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