"London Fields" is a 1989 novel by Martin Amis, a piece of literary fiction that includes elements of near-future science-fiction, social realism and black comedy. It was widely critically acclaimed, and after a 25 year delay, is in production as a motion picture.
I bought this book at a library book sale over a year ago, and I admit that it sat on my shelf, staring down at me for all of that time. I think it took half of that time for me to realize that it was written by Martin Amis, not Kingsley Amis, and that these were in fact separate people. My copy was hardbound, making it seem intimidatingly long. It even smelt long. I put off reading it because I knew it was literary fiction and thought it would be hundreds of pages of titled English people talking in drawing rooms. Fortunately, as I soon found out, it was not that.
The novel is basically a love triangle: precognitive femme fatale Nicola Six knows the date of her murder, and wonders whether low life conman Keith Talent or slumming high class Guy Clinch is going to be the one to do it. These three characters make up the core of the novel, with other characters mostly being their hangers-on and victims. Another character is a semi-authorial-insertion character, novelist Samson Young, who appears in interludes between the chapters. Keith Talent's sole ambition (other than surviving the blowbacks from his various criminal schemes) is to appear on television playing darts. Guy Clinch's somewhat more amorphous desire is to escape his wife and insufferable toddler son. Nicola Six manipulates them against each other as the novel progresses, while mentions are made of a rare solar eclipse, climate change and impending nuclear war.
At the very least, I will say this book is not dull or stuffy. I don't know enough about literature in 20th century England to exactly categorize it, and many of its thematic references are already dated (it will be interesting to see if the movie updates the setting and changes the threat of superpower nuclear war to the threat of nuclear terrorism, for example). I don't know quite what agenda this book has as far as England's class system, and whether its portrayal of Nicola Six is sexist, or is rather a parody of writers like Norman Mailer. I have no idea why this book taught me as much about darts as Infinite Jest taught me about tennis. What I can say about this book is it lets you in on the ground floor. The first sentence of the story proper is "Keith Talent was a bad guy". We know what we are dealing with here: a minor criminal whose misadventures are easily graspable, even if all the connotations of them are not. Nicola Six and Guy Clinch are likewise introduced. Although there is quite a bit about the interactions between the three that I am not understanding, at the literal level, the book moves along, its action involving and clear. And after that has been delivered, it is up to the reader to find what they want from the book.