I've long been a fan of Michael Frayn. I read and enjoyed his novel Headlong a few years back, I loved his play Copenhagen when it was in the West End and was amused by the film version of his classic farce, Noises Off. The least said about Clockwise the better. Towards the End of the Morning is Frayn's Fleet Street novel. It's set in a nameless national newspaper where John Dyson, Bob Bell and old Eddy Moulton toil away, though not very hard, compiling crosswords, nature notes and the In Years Gone By column.
Eddy is serving out his last years snoozing at his desk and reminiscing about former colleagues. Bob is in a rut and content to stay there, despite his apparent talent as a writer. It is John who is driven to change. As middle age approaches he is determined to make his mark as a television pundit but seems to be thwarted at every turn.
Frayn's satire is a little too cosy to be truly effective. It's not Frayn's fault but in the forty years since the book was published, satire has come a long way. A modern day version of Towards the End... would be far more biting and far less comfortable.
It has its moments though, particularly Bob's summary of sub-editing: "It's just a matter of checking the facts and the spelling, crossing out the first sentence and removing any attempts at jokes."
Towards the End... is amusing and even insightful in places but overall it reads like the work of a talent not yet working at its best.