Adrian Ludlow was "the white hope of the English novel once", his first effort, Hideaway, a searing exposÚ of adolescent angst. But now Hideaway is an A-level set text, and Adrian "stagnates", compiling the Paragon Book of Whatever's Been Commissioned, in unromantic seclusion with wife Eleanor in a cottage under a Gatwick flightpath. Their quiet life is cruelly disturbed when college friend Sam Sharp re-enters their life. A prolific and successful scriptwriter ("three BAFTAs, two Royal Television Society Awards, one Emmy, one Silver Nymph, one Golden Turd from Luxembourg"), Sam is now reeling from being "shat on from a great height by a bilious bird of prey", his treatment at the hands of The Sentinel on Sunday's celebrity interviewer Fanny Tarrant. It's not long before Sam and Adrian have invented a scheme to get even with Fanny, but in executing it, they only end up revealing more than anyone wants about the college threesome's complex history.
Based on his 1998 play, Lodge's novella is, in truth, little more than a slim script with some rather full stage directions. It's mildly diverting trying to pin down "educated estuary" Fanny to aspects of Lynn Barber and Julie Burchill, and there are a few thoughtful observations on the art of interview and "the culture of gossip", but what makes this of more than passing interest is its early treatment of the real news story of summer 1997--Diana and Dodi. That inevitably makes Home Truths impossibly dated, but it also provides its most telling statement on the fleeting phantom that is celebrity. --Alan Stewart