Lucy Vickery

Authors making sneaky appearances in their own novels

‘He, Cromwell, expertly appraises this Hilary, Taleteller of Glossop…’ Credit: Sutton Hibbert/Shutterstock

In Competition No. 3148 you were asked to imagine what the result might have been had a well-known writer slipped a self-portrait into a scene from one of their works.

The challenge was inspired by artists who insert a sneaky selfie into their paintings, a well-known example of which is Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’. But authors have done it too: Douglas Coupland made an appearance in his 2006 novel jPod and Barry Baldwin tells me that Malcolm Bradbury smuggled himself into The History Man.

There were creditable Hemingway cameos courtesy of Christopher Linforth, J.E. Tomlin, and The Parson, and I enjoyed J.C.H. Mounsey’s sketch of self-confessed misanthrope Evelyn Waugh, and Martyn Hurst’s of the rather less self-aware Jeffrey Archer. The brightest and the best appear below and earn themselves £30 each.

He, Cromwell, expertly appraises this Hilary, Taleteller of Glossop. Throughout the interview, she squints at one document, etches another, the latter doubtless a tale to distract England from this season of plague. In conversation she exhibits the enthusiasm men often dismiss as eccentricity but he, Cromwell, commits no such error. If she gives excessive credence to supernatural subjects, it is only the mark of her calling. Yet her knowledge of court intrigue unsettles, rich in detail as the account books of the Great Wardrobe and salacious as Austin Friars gossip. She must, he reasons, commune with a network of spies astute as his own. Her more fanciful stories, of rebellions in France or the assassination of some Grantham thatcher unknown even to him, he dismisses. He is here on Henry’s orders. ‘Put a stop to her slanderous wuffle.’ He does, though not before hearing all and slyly appropriating her papers. Adrian Fry/Hilary Mantel

Bobbi and I were discussing whether monogamy was a prefabricated cultural dynamic designed to perpetuate patriarchal hegemony, when Sally appeared.

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