Talk in the Villa Rothsay Hotel was of an impending authors’ rebellion against free appearances. One director of a British Literary Festival, so the story goes, recently offered an American novelist £20,000 to appear, plus a first class air ticket. And yet we are supposed to be on a level playing field.
The last time I was on the Isle of Wight was 29 years ago, when I addressed a small audience of convicted murderers at Parkhurst prison on the subject of exiled royalty. Among the attentive group was Reggie Kray who told me, as he must have told others: “I wouldn’t like to live in London today, Nick. You can’t walk down the street without being mugged.” An old friend and colleague, the late Serena Allott, seduced me back. The sight of her parents sitting in the front row brought back memories of their beautiful daughter, who died in May and whose legacy is this festival.