Search

A safe job gives way to sex, drugs and decadence in Tom Campbell’s The Planner

PUBLISHED: 06:55 10 July 2014

Tom Campbell

Tom Campbell

Archant

Having grown up in the quiet suburbs of Oxford, 42-year-old Tom Campbell hasn’t always been familiar with the grand metropolitan opportunities that London provides.

After graduating in history at Edinburgh University, he moved to the English capital in the early 90s and quickly began to feel the distinct division of fortunes between his circles of friends.

Some had swiftly risen as high-flying bankers; others became journalists who were able to enjoy book launches and art gallery openings.

He, meanwhile, was spending much of his 20s and early 30s going through a series of jobs that – while certainly worthy – weren’t nearly facilitating comparatively glamorous lifestyles.

By the time it came to write his second novel, The Planner, this experience proved the perfect back-story for a “love letter to London”.

Drawing from his experience working in economic development for the Mayor of London’s Office, Campbell tells the story of James: a promising young town planner who, after seeking a way to escape his underwhelming social life, is drawn into a world of drugs, dates and danger when he meets the cynical but charismatic Felix.

‘Profession’

Campbell says: “For me, there’s an interesting juxtaposition in responsibility, in that you have these guys at work who during the day have to plan London in terms of transport, housing and education, yet they can’t actually plan what they’re going to have for lunch.

“It’s that sense of having to plan for a profession and then their own – or certainly my own – inability to plan in a personal capacity.

“It’s like the mafia boss who can terrorise New Jersey but can’t manage his teenage children.”

While he is still involved in city planning to some degree, Campbell’s circumstances have changed since the publication of his first novel, Fold, in 2011.

Married and with three boys under the age of 10, the novelist previously lived in Kentish Town and Islington, but settled in Stoke Newington as his family grew.

Indeed, even now as we talk, he is sitting outside on his doorstep to avoid the inner chaos of cartoons and loud noises.

The Planner has been described as “Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity for a new generation”, and Campbell admits he has looked towards the writer and people like Martin Amis, Zadie Smith and Will Self as writers who have shaped the image of London within the literary canon.

“If you write a book about London, there’s a sense in which London itself is very much another character.

“It infuses everything and you can do more in the city than anywhere else, which in turn means you can get in a f***load more trouble than anywhere else.

“You can write a book in London that’s very compressed, with just a small number of characters over a short period of time, and get into some very different scenarios and experiences – from the wealthy and comfortable to the lowlife – all within 250 pages.”

Restless

Overcoming the frustrations of his younger years, Campbell is enjoying his new life as a writer, but admits it can often make him a “nightmare to live with”.

Describing himself as restless and often irritable, he adds that his process is usually aided by a mixture of late nights and avoiding television.

As we finish our phone call it appears his children have taken this to heart; they have stopped watching cartoons to move to the hallway and lock their poor father out of the house.

The Planner, published by Bloomsbury, is available from July 17 for £12.99.

Latest Hackney Stories

Yesterday, 17:24

A late strike from Lily Owsley saw England come from behind to grab a point in their Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup opener with India.

Pre-season friendly: Concord Rangers 2 Leyton Orient 3

Yesterday, 11:30

London Lions have announced that guard Jordan Spencer will begin his professional career in the capital next season.

Yesterday, 11:30

Middlesex all-rounder James Fuller had mixed feelings after his stunning 6-28 haul proved in vain in a Vitality Blast T20 defeat at Hampshire.

Yesterday, 10:00

James Fuller’s six-wicket haul proved in vain as Middlesex lost to Hampshire in their latest Vitality Blast T20 match on Friday night.

Yesterday, 09:00

Lunchtime gardening by office workers has turned a littered patch near London Fields into a blooming community project.

Yesterday, 08:30

Hackney’s streets are not used to being scorched two weeks running and the aromas being revealed make for an intense running experience, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Yesterday, 08:00

NBA Crossover runs from August 10-12

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.



Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists