X 20, A Novel of Not Smoking follows the first 20 days of Gregory Simpson’s attempt to give up cigarettes after smoking 20-a-day for ten years. Every time he craves a cigarette, he occupies his hands by writing something down instead.

Because he only writes when he wants a cigarette, everything Gregory writes down has something to do with smoking. The novel therefore recounts the story of his smoking life, and cigarettes turn out to have featured centrally at every significant moment.

‘A great idea, and almost flawlessly executed … beautifully achieved. One thinks, fancifully, of the construction of a cigarette itself, a unity composed of thousands of different strands.’
– Guardian

‘Loaded with encyclopaedic detail on the history and iconography of smoking, this comic novel nevertheless aims at deep seriousness, and Beard’s writing can be breathtaking.’
– Daily Telegraph

‘A play of wit and pain, a novel of ideas as a succession of comic and touching skits … contemplates the nature of human frontiers and the boundaries between ego and intimacy.’
– Los Angeles Times

‘Delightful and strange, on one level a sardonic detective piece, on other levels an inquiry into the addictions and obsessions of love and life.’
– Australia Bulletin

‘Unusually intelligent, funny and readable’
– Sunday Times

‘Wonderful … an intelligent look at a prevalent dilemma and an engrossing story of the classic search for truth and meaning.’
– San Diego Tribune

Richard Beard, writer, author, novelist, Sad Little Men, The Day That Went Missing, Acts of the Assassins, Becoming Drusilla, Manly Pursuits, UK