Norton’s new novel

Chat show host Graham Norton
Chat show host Graham Norton

Graham Norton admits he’s a little worried about how his first novel, Holding, a dark tale about an Irish village whose community is thrown into disarray when a body is found, will be received.

It’s not racy, it’s not very funny and, well, he’s known for being a humorous chat show host rather than a literary figure, although he has written two previous memoirs, So Me and The Life And Loves Of A He Devil.

He’ll be going on a book tour to promote Holding, but laughs at the notion of now being on the literary circuit.

“With a memoir, you’re fine because I’m just a turn,” he says candidly.

“This will be a very different experience.

‘‘The worst that can happen is that nobody buys a copy of this book and the people who got it for free (reviewers) hate it.

‘‘And then I won’t write another one. But I’ve still got a job, I’m still fine.”

Holding is set in the remote Cork village of Duneen where the lives and secrets of three spinster sisters and their loved ones are unravelled as an investigation into the death progresses.

It’s a gentle read as the story meanders amid the characters and the setting. There’s hardly any swearing and very little sex.

“There’s a little bit of sex in it, but not a lot. There’s porn for that,” Norton jokes.

His fictional hero is an overweight, under-valued sergeant, PJ, who lives a lonely, uneventful life punctuated by the next meal, until a body is discovered.

Why did Norton make his hero an unattractive, fat character?

“In my head, that’s who I should be. Not a detective, but fat.

“Everyone’s got an eating disorder, a weird relationship with food. When you talk to people about food, you think, ‘Wow! You’re just as crazy as I am’. In my head, I’m fat, and in reality, I would be if I didn’t go to the gym and ate what I wanted to.

“I don’t know if I’d be Channel 5 documentary size, but I would be large.

“If you were living back in the day, you worked hard to get the food and all the food you got, you ate, because you needed that energy,” he continues.

“Today, we are on running machines, running nowhere to burn off calories we clearly didn’t need.

‘‘Everyone in modern society has a pretty odd relationship with food.”

He keeps himself trim with regular visits to the gym, even when he’s on holiday in Ireland, and remains busy with a new series of his chat show, which began on September 30, and he’ll be hosting Gary Barlow’s search-for-a-star show Let It Shine in the New Year.

He also manages to fit in his Radio 2 Saturday morning slot and his agony uncle column for the Daily Telegraph.

There are pros and cons to being a famous name before your first novel is published, he observes.

“The good thing about being ‘Graham Norton off the telly’ is that I get my novel published. The bad thing is, it’s like I’m looking over the shoulder of the person reading it, that I’m somehow coming between you and the book, so I wanted to make that less likely by not setting it in London and not having me in it.”

:: Holding by Graham Norton is published by Hodder & Stoughton on October 6, priced £20.

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