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Better off Greg
His first book was a scandalous tell-all chronicling his stint as a Dublin medical journalist (albeit with the odd conflation). For the follow-up, Irish-based Texan Greg Baxter has served up a haunting rumination on American foreign policy, as told through the eyes of an ex-marine unmoored in Eastern Europe.
Olaf Tyaransen, 18 May 2012
Some books should come with health warnings attached. When Greg Baxter’s incendiary memoir, A Preparation For Death, was published in 2010, the Dublin-based Texan writer knew that his days as a staff journalist with the Irish Medical Times were over. It wasn’t just that he’d written about his Bacchanalian sex and drugs lifestyle, or how mind-numbingly boring he’d found the job. His description of a failed attempt at masturbation in the office toilets more or less guaranteed his P45.
Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want to talk too much about this aspect of his life (though he’s hilariously candid once the recorder is off). “It was a mutual decision that it was best that I moved on,” Baxter explains with a wry smile. “I’d been in that job for six years and I made sure the book was gonna make me quit. I was surprised at some of the people who were suggesting that I hadn’t seen it coming. There was a little bit of stuff in the newspapers about it. In fact I knew exactly what I was doing.”
We’re meeting in a bar in Dublin. Although his memoir detailed a fairly prodigious drinking habit, he’s on mineral water until after he’s recorded an interview with Matt Cooper for The Last Word. “I’d love a pint, but best to do this kind of stuff with a clear head.”
A tall, handsome and quietly intense 37-year-old, with a trimmed goatee and owlish horn-rimmed glasses, Baxter bears a slight resemblance to a young Salman Rushdie. Currently based in Berlin, where he lives with his partner and young son, he’s back in Ireland to promote his second book, The Apartment. Although billed as his debut novel, he now says of his memoir that it was largely a work of literary fiction. Preparation was also remarkably candid about his enviably busy sex life. However, while based on real people and events, so many names and details were changed that it might as well have been fiction.
“It was a cautious book,” he explains. “I asked for people’s permission. If I didn’t know them anymore, or they were reluctant to be named, often I changed them so they weren’t recognisable. Some of them I turned into fictional characters. And I created fictional events that were akin to events that actually happened.
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