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Jane Says

LONDON — She was the stunning, fair-haired stepmother who turned the young Martin Amis on to books — and who later left his father, Kingsley, when he refused to quit drinking. Her many lovers included writers like Arthur Koestler, Cecil...

By the late Sixties, according to "Slipstream," the elder Amis had begun to drink heavily, and Howard realized that "not only didn’t he love me, but he actually disliked me." In the end, she concluded that her third husband had little use for women. "He regarded them as intellectually inferior, and often as ‘pests,’ hanging about, getting in the way and interrupting men," she writes of Amis, renowned when alive for being a bon vivant and for his waspish tongue and pen.

In 1980, when Amis refused to give up alcohol, Howard left him. She didn’t remarry, but continued to write —turning out "Getting It Right," "Mr. Wrong" and "The Cazalet Chronicles." And she has not doubt that her next novel, about late 19th- and early 20th-century British society, will be easier to write than "Slipstream." "It was a painful process," Howard says. "You have to look back on all of that shoddy, old, bad behavior and inadequacies and mistakes, and one would rather not remember those things.

"But it was useful," she adds with a smile. "At least, I felt I am marginally nicer than I was when I was 20."
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