The hugely-popular novelist Marcus Goddard and the avant-garde poet and performance artist Lilian Bracegirdle are running a writing workshop at Gagebrooke, an idyllic country retreat. Marcus’s secretary Lester, having discovered that Marcus’ famous first book was in fact written by a young girl who died in mysterious circumstances, is blackmailing him, and Lilian has seriously offended her indispensable secretary Marjorie. Without Marjorie’s guidance, stout, lazy Lilian falls into the clutches of the fitness fanatic John Brow, who is determined to make her the subject of his book Superhuman fitness in 26 days. Preoccupied with their own problems, neither Marcus nor Lilian can be bothered with their students, who are wrestling with novels ranging from the Raymond Chandleresque to the sadomasochistic punk. Marcus’ plans to murder Lester go wrong, but he thinks he is invincible when Lester is killed in a car accident. Not so: the apparently-insignificant Marjorie has discovered his secret and proves a redoubtable foe. She saves Lilian from John Brow’s clutches by forcing Marcus to replace her as John’s subject. The gods seem to be with Marcus yet again when John falls ill, but after a too-enthusiastic celebration with the renowned Gagebrooke food and wine, the simmering ill-feeling between Marcus and the neglected students leads to Marcus’ arrest on charges of assaulting police and attempted murder of one of the students. The once-arrogant Marcus is a shambling ruin until Marjorie takes charge, employing John Brow as his trainer and minder. When the students gather a year later to celebrate the launch of John Brow’s book, Marcus seems a reformed character. But, as Marjorie ruefully realizes, like Toad of Toad Hall, Marcus is unstoppable.
Gert Loveday is the pen name of sisters Joan Kerr and Gabrielle Daly. Gabrielle’s background is in nursing, medical research and music, while Joan is a widely-published poet and short fiction writer. Since 2006 they have written several comic novels together. Writing is Easy, which was shortlisted for a Varuna Publisher Fellowship in 2011, is the first to be published. Gert Loveday writes with authority on peculiar diets, exercise regimes, body makeovers, extreme fashion, gurus, pigeons, religion, poetry, politics, the health bureaucracy, gourmet cooking, reality TV and literature from the Norse Sagas to Jeffrey Archer, with a sharp eye for character foibles and the pricking of pomposity.