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Issue 96 - Amateur Habits

Whisky Magazine Issue 96
June 2011


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Amateur Habits

Jefferson Chase review another whisky sodden novel

Of all the tasks I've faced in more than a decade of writing this column, none has ever been tougher than writing about John Niven's 2010 novel The Amateurs.

The problem is simple: how to do justice to an absolute cracker of a book whose every page is full of the sort of hilarious-to-the-extreme obscenity that a genteel publication like Whisky Magazine tries to spare its more sensitive readers?

But I'm always up for a challenge, so here goes. The hero, Gary Irvine, is an affable 30-something from Ayrshire whose life would be a dream, were he not married to an unfaithful, materialistic shrew. But what's even worse: he plays golf.

Scotland's great sporting invention is like whisky in that it's wonderfully habit-forming. Unfortunately, for people like Gary, it also requires a modicum of ability: Golf, it has often been pointed out, is like sex. You don't have to be good at it to enjoy it. But when you were as bad at it as Gary was…then why? Why keep coming back? The truth was that Gary – like millions of other unfortunates around the globe – hit just enough good golf shots to facilitate a lifelong, soul-destroying addiction.

In another respect, too, golf and sex are similar. Paid lessons don't necessarily help you improve.

After carding a 117 in one round, the 18-handicapper reverts to that part of the game that never lets him down – destroying his clubs in the parking lot. There, an old boy at his club, the holder of the course record, takes pity on him and c...

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