Over one alcoholic weekend in Brighton, we watch the progress of Murray Gibbs, a ‘nearly man’ of the Swinging Sixties who is approaching his sixtieth birthday.
Back in 1963 Murray’s first novel sank without trace, and his second – and last – was rejected for being too much like Lucky Jim. His play was turned down by the Royal Court for being too much like Look Back in Anger, and his screenplay and television scripts were no more successful.
Now, forty years on, Murray is still fixated by the sixties and the famous people he claims to have known, and in between running his bric-a-brac stall and conducting a desultory affair with Pearl, the landlady of his basement flat, he still lives in hope of making his own name.
Then he discovers that Pearl has written a novel, and it’s undeniably good. Murray offers to edit it for her for a share of the royalties, but its unflattering portraits of her friends make her reluctant to publish – until Murray makes her the very generous offer of using his name instead. Naturally Murray’s dreams of fame go horribly wrong, and during this drink-sodden weekend we soon learn exactly why Murray’s life has been one lost opportunity.