Longhand by Andy Hamilton – the story of Malcolm in a handwritten narrative

Long Hand by Andy Hamilton 


An unusual book in many ways, this book is a fictional autobiography of a remarkable man in a difficult situation. He has had an extraordinary and extremely long life, the penalty or bonus of being demi god. What makes it really enjoyable is the fact that it is effectively hand written by the author who is frequently seen on television and has been responsible for several highly successful comedy series. Apparently he wrote it by using no less than forty three italic pens. The writing is clear (at least I could read it) and it lends immediacy to the story, especially as mistakes are scribbled out and some words do not appear as being almost too painful. While it is mainly about events several thousands of years ago, the contemporary threat of what is happening as Malcolm  writes his extended letter definitely affects the style of the writing. Managing to cover classical tales and historic events, this story borders on fantasy, comedy and harsh reality, as fantastic stories and references abound and seem convincing. Malcolm becomes a convincing story teller, and the urgently of his plight so telling that this book lingers in the memory. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual book.  


The book begins with a letter to the publisher explaining that this is the hand written manuscript written by Malcolm Galbraith to Elizabeth Dalglish when he disappeared from their joint home. Noting his evident distress as revealed in the letter, the reason for publishing the manuscript is to help in the search for him, and to allow the reader to make up their own mind. For what is written, literally, is a powerful tale of a life which embraces an apparent series of events of a dramatic nature from childhood onwards, through troubled teenage years, and a traumatic youth. Stories of armies, earthquakes and mass death abound in this tale of life across the ancient world. 


The reason for writing the manuscript by hand is given as the fact that Malcolm has realised from current events in their lives that he is under threat, and is determined to save Elizabeth or “Bessie” from the danger. He writes it as his computer was broken in an unfortunate moment, and it does seem that he does have extraordinary strength and abilities. He is writing to explain why he must leave so mysteriously, some of the reasons for his behaviour over the years, and how much he loves Bessie and regrets the necessity of leaving her forever. 


I found this a vibrant and sometimes moving story, though certainly not without humour, as Malcolm’s plight and honesty shine through his carefully written narrative. It shows a huge appreciation of the subject matter and the human side of a tale which is well known. I enjoyed its confidence and exuberance, as Hamilton seeks to justify questions that have disturbed readers for generations, while also telling a story of contemporary life. This is a strange and powerful novel which stands outside the norm as a very readable book on lots of levels. This is a really good read in many ways, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good novel which works on several levels.