The Millions

50 Years Ago, Kingsley Amis Had a Midlife Crisis and Turned to James Bond for Help

Kingsley Amis is best remembered today as the author of comic novels—perhaps even the pre-eminent writer in that genre during the second half of the 20th century. But you would hardly guess it if you looked just at his output from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. This was Kingsley Amis’s midlife crisis, and it showed up in the strangest sort of way.

Most comedians have a secret hankering for tragedy. But not Kingsley Amis. He was now determined to aim low, not high. His new plan involved a full-fledged assault on genre fiction in every one of its manifestations. In The Anti-Death League (1966) he embraced science fiction, and in The Green Man (1969) he delivered a horror story about ghosts haunting a country inn. The Riverside Villas Murder (1973) is an old-school British detective story, while The Alteration (1976) is an alternative history about England in a world that had never experienced the Reformation.

All this happened in after more than 15 years of marriage. Amis was trying to make a new start with second wife , a marriage also destined for acrimony and eventual divorce. He was under severe financial pressure and gaining weight during this period—while also gaining a reputation as a very heavy drinker.

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