December 3, 2019
UK comedian and writer Andy Hamilton announces handwritten novel
by Tom Clayton
Even if you don’t know who Andy Hamilton is, it’s almost certain you’ll have come across his work. Over nearly five decades of tireless contributions to UK arts he has been—and in some cases, still is—a comedian, game show panellist, screenwriter, dramatist and novelist. Way to make us all feel bad, Andy.
Best known as part of the team of writers on the legendary satirical sketch show Drop the Dead Donkey, which ran between 1990 and 2008, he was also the lead writer on the much-loved BBC sitcom Outnumbered and the cult ITV classic Trevor’s World of Sport. (If you haven’t seen the latter, go and have a watch now, I’ll wait.) He is also a regular guest on Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie to You? and QI. Most importantly, he is also the voice of Dr. Elephant in Peppa Pig. Don’t pretend like you don’t know it.
Anyway, this week the UK-based indie publisher Unbound announced that Hamilton was releasing his second novel, Longhand, via their pioneering crowdfunding system. Pending reaching their funding target, Longhand will be the follow-up to Hamilton’s 2016 novel The Star Witness (also published by Unbound). Except this one is a bit special.
Describing the book in an introductory video on the Unbound website, Hamilton revealed that the title has a double meaning: it is both the protagonist’s nickname, and the medium in which the story is delivered. Yes, in “what we think is a first” for the publishing industry, the epistolary novel will consist of several hundred pages of handwritten text (in a chunky italics marker, no less). The action-packed adventure, according to Hamilton, includes:
“…several murders and one massacre, two great romances, a courtroom drama, a corrupt lawyer, a naughty music teacher, a landslide, a fire, an insane tyrant, a sane tyrant, a fight with a lion, a race with a horse, a talking fish, a fantastically old tree, ritual sacrifices, and absolutely no mention of Brexit whatsoever.”
Longhand is clearly a unique project, made all the more impressive by the fact that Hamilton is missing his right thumb, meaning he uses both hands to write. Truly, this is a labour of love, and one which deserves attention, not least for highlighting a dying art: as Hamilton says, “we’re at a moment in history when perhaps we’re waving goodbye to handwriting, and to the intimacy of personal letters.” With works like Hamilton’s finding their way into bookshops, perhaps that goodbye will be, happily, postponed a little.
Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.