Longhand by Andy Hamilton


The new novel from comedy legend Andy Hamilton, whose writing credits include Outnumbered and Drop the Dead Donkey

Longhand reimagines the life of immortal Greek hero Heracles, who is currently residing in contemporary Scotland with his girlfriend Bess

Written entirely in Andy’s own longhand, complete with crossings out and edits

Malcolm George Galbraith is a large, somewhat clumsy, Scotsman. He’s being forced to leave the woman he loves behind and needs to explain why.

So he leaves her a handwritten note on the kitchen table (well, more a 300-page letter than a note). In it, Malcolm decides to start from the beginning and tell the whole story of his long life, something he’s never dared do before.

Because Malcolm isn’t what he seems: he’s had other names and lived in other places. A lot of other places. As it gathers pace, Malcolm’s story combines tragedy, comedy, mystery, a touch of leprosy, several murders, a massacre, a ritual sacrifice, an insane tyrant, two great romances, a landslide, a fire, and a talking fish.


My review

I think ‘unexpected’ is the best word to sum up the novel because it’s delightfully different in every respect.

For example, most people don’t have husbands who are Greek immortals. To say that Bessie will be surprised when she reads this long explanatory letter is most definitely an understatement.

Not many authors handwrite their books anymore. However, Andy Hamilton does – and in very neat writing, it must be said. Is this just a gimmick? No. It emphasises that this is a letter, written in fits and starts rather than chapters, and the sometimes uneven spacing and the crossings out reflect the emotion of the writer at the time. It adds even more interest to what’s already a very interesting book. It also fits well with our rather old hero.

Also unexpected is the life story that unfolds. Some elements we know about from legend, but there’s plenty more to discover.

I really enjoyed the book. To be honest, I thought I would as I’ve long admired this multi-talented author’s wit and humour. Longhand, for me, has the most similarities to Mr Hamilton’s wonderful ‘Harry’s Game’ in that both feature immortal figures, including a particularly petulant and capricious major deity. Zeus really is terribly selfish and spiteful, with no regard for the consequences of his irresponsible, spoilt behaviour. He’d go far as a Cabinet Member these days…

There’s so much to relish in the book – a wonderful imagination, beautiful and bizarre imagery, cleverly crafted characters, sharp wit, ingenuity, the unexpected (that word again) and ultimately great entertainment value.

Definitely one to read, the old fashioned way!


About the author – although I’m sure you don’t need to be told!

Andy Hamilton is a comedy writer, performer and director. He regularly appears on the BBC TV panel shows Have I Got News for You and on Radio 4’s News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. His television writing credits include Outnumbered, Drop the Dead Donkey, Not the Nine O’Clock News, Trevor’s World of Sport, Ballot Monkeys, Power Monkeys and many others. He also cocreated the movie What We Did On Our Holiday. For twenty years he has played Satan in the Radio 4 comedy Old Harry’s Game, which he also writes.


The book is published by Unbound Press, hardback   £16.99