Read the full tribute at The Guardian website.
My job interview with Anthony Howard at the New Statesman in 1977 did not go as expected. I was summoned to his office prepared for interrogation on my literary and editorial skills, not to mention my political tendencies. The job as number two on the arts and books pages was the one I most wanted in Fleet Street and would have done or said almost anything to get. I certainly planned to suppress the fact that I had voted Liberal in the previous election.
But instead of being grilled, I found an editor in a resigned, almost melancholic mood. "Well," he said, "it appears that you're coming to work for us." Then, before I could reply or thank him, Tony suddenly cheered up. "Of course," he chortled, "I can't pay you very much." He mentioned a figure. I would have worked for half. I subsequently learned that later in the day, Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens had gone in to see Tony and asked how much he had agreed to pay me. On hearing the modest figure, they looked at one another and – entirely prearranged – shook their heads and said: "Oh, you could have got him for much less", thus ruining Tony's day.
Photograph by Murdo Macleod.