Nick Hornby returns with a single and immensely satisfying short story, released through the Byliner Originals digital imprint, which was responsible for creating such a stir last year with John Krakaeur’s Three Cups of Deceit.
Hornby’s set-up is delicious: after years of pretending that all is well at home, middle-class smug marrieds Elaine and Charlie decide to seek a divorce. Charlie moves out of the family pile but at least gets to see the kids at the weekend. Meanwhile, Elaine, who works for a prominent Sunday newspaper, begins to write a weekly column about Charlie’s worst habits. “Life with an Ex” screams the paper, “He’s Gone But Not Forgotten”.
Week by week, Charlie’s misdemeanours are writ large in newsprint and his life becomes a source of easy ridicule, until finally Elaine oversteps the mark and her readers turn against her. Or at least they do until she reveals one last dirty secret about Charlie. Discretion prevents one from revealing all, although Charlie’s crime is less to do with deviancy and more with the discredited profession that crosses his palm with silver each month.