They (you know, them) say to write about what you know. That’s why you’ll mostly find me writing about books, gay men that don’t have a clue and cups of tea.
The Last Romeo is about James a journalist who, following a break-up with his long-term boyfriend, starts chronicling his new dating adventures through an anonymous blog. The details are changed to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent), and the blog soon becomes an online sensation.
Does any of that sound familiar? If so, it could be because you’re familiar with The Guyliner’s history – a blogger who did largely the same for a period back at the beginning of the decade. When he stopped the blog (presumably when he met his own Romeo), he turned to reviewing the weekly ‘Blind Dates’ column in the Guardian.
If you’ve not read them, go and take a look here – it’s very funny and definitely worth waking up on a Saturday morning for.
BUT I’m not here to review that, I’m here to review The Last Romeo and you might be wondering what the connection is (side bar: if you ARE still wondering what the connection is, then I think you need to go and have a long talk with yourself).
In the middle of last year The Guyliner, famous for being just an eye, unmasked himself as Justin Myers – journalist and soon-to-be author of – yep, you’ve got it – The Last Romeo.
Before we talk any more about the book, I’d like to use this opportunity to talk about myself (it’s my blog, I’ll do what I want, and THEY do say write about what you know).
I’ve been writing – or at least attempting to – for my whole adult life. The only time I ever have any real success (I’m not talking commercial or critical success here, I’ve had none of that – I just mean when I don’t stall after five-thousand words) was when I’ve written about things I know.
Stories based on things that have happened to me, characters based at least in part on people I know.
The worry for me when I write those, is what if people think it’s real? What if my friends recognise people they know, or even themselves? What if my family think that this actually happened, or that I actually share the thoughts of the characters I write?
What if it’s too real?
I’m mentioning this, because when I first went into reading The Last Romeo I started to assume it was all true – which I had to keep reminding myself not to do.
Part of the reason for that is that – unsurprisingly, given the fact that Myers was writing for a living before publishing a book – it’s really well written. The tone of the book matches the tone of his column, so if you’re a regular reader, you might just think you’re reading an extended essay rather than fiction.
It’s also that rare form of funny.
A lot humour, relies on context, on body language. In books it relies on the imagination of the reader. Even the most hilarious of one-liners can be lost on a reader who hasn’t aligned their inner monologue with the tone of the book.
It’s why there isn’t a whole genre of funny books out there. That makes this even more special. It’s a good story, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the character grows and learns. Myers tells the story, with a smirk and a knowing wink.
For fans of the The Guyliner’s blog, the good news is this is everything and more you’d expect from his novel.
For fans of good fiction in general, the good news is that he has a two book contract, so we’ll get more! Hurrah!
The Last Romeo will be published by Little, Brown in ebook from 1st February and in paperback on 31st May.