By Kyle | April 22, 2012
At the Martin Amis eulogy for Christopher Hitchens in New York City last week, Amis revealed that Hitchens confessed to being in “a world of pain” when the Iraq War, which he vigorously supported, was going badly, suggesting that Hitchens’ contrary nature was not as easy as it looked. Amis also said that Hitchens invariably referred to Amis as “my dear little Keith.” This is interesting; the central or most memorable characters of Amis’s novels “Dead Babies,” “London Fields,” “Yellow Dog” and “The Pregnant Widow” are named Keith, and in all but the last of these (which is fairly autobiographical) the character is hilariously reprehensible. I wonder if this must be a reference to “Dead Babies,” from 1975 (or whether Amis named the character in that book Little Keith to please Hitchens; the two had already been friends for a few years). Anyway, the Little Keith in that book is Amis-sized (I’d say Martin is about 5′ 4″), and a socially isolated, perpetually angry object of universal loathing (his last name is “Whitehead”) who wears gigantic cowboy boots to try to make up some of his size deficit. He’s one of Amis’s finest comic creations, as is the even more vivid Keith Talent, the pub-crawling burglar in thief in “London Fields.”
Update: I see the Wall Street Journal already reported that the “little Keith” sobriquet is indeed a reference to “Dead Babies.” Another interesting tidbit here (also alluded to in Amis’s eulogy) is that each friend thought of the other as the leader, the senior partner, and the one who was irresistible to women.