Last night marked the publication of Alexander Newley’s memoir Unaccompanied Minor at Daunt Books Marylebone, London to an enthusiastic audience who came to wish the author well.
Here is what I said in my short address on this occasion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, lend me your ears.
Alexander Newley’s manuscript came to my knowledge through my good friend Basia Briggs, who recommended I should read it. She was sure I would love it. Indeed I did. As a result, we are here today to celebrate its publication.
Alexander has definitely a story to tell. Exquisitely written about his upbringing in a household where parental strife unwittingly robbed him of a more structured life, which to a young man mattered a great deal.
Born with a famous name, to an ill-fated marriage, he had to suffer the insecurity of a life of great privilege which, beneath the glossy veneer, harboured infidelity and emotional turmoil. Growing up, he felt that his parents’ focus was elsewhere as their lives alternated between failure and success in the highly deceptive world of show-business.
This unique, unflinching memoir reveals a bleak chronicle of his nomadic early life, the disintegration of his parents’ marriage and his battle to make sense of his past. It is also a meditation on art, identity and inheritance and a portrait of London and Hollywood during the swinging 60s and 70s, bringing to life his encounters with everyone from the Beatles to Evil Knievel. Complementing his vivid prose and engrossing recollections are 28 of Alexander’s own art works, depicting many of the people who played a pivotal role in his early years, making this the definitive account of an extraordinary childhood.
It also a memoir that keeps you gripped to the very end. In the words of William Boyd: ‘Written with a great style and assurance, candid, heart-felt and fascinating.’
The author himself sums it all up by saying: ‘When I look back at the broken storyline of my childhood, I see that the chief culprit was an ogre called Show-Business. It yanked my helpless father, Antony Newley – of blessed memory – and my mother, Joan Collins – of amazing fortitude – back and forth between England and America, Broadway, Hollywood and the West End. My parents were both enslaved by the monster’s demands. It gave them no security, no safe haven of self, but kept them in the precarious state of wanting and needing the phone call from the agent with the next big gig – the only thing between them and oblivion.’
You must read this book for it is a true and moving insight of a young man who has overcome many a dilemma to rise above his own circumstances and shine brightly, as you can see now.
I must end this address for fear of losing your indulgence by asking you to honour Alexander in the best and practical way I know, and that is to rush and buy a few copies of his book as an acknowledgement of what he has so far achieved.
You will certainly make this evening a memorable one for both author and publisher.