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Charles Sprawson wrote a celebrated book. Then he vanished

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“I WRITE slowly,” Charles Sprawson said last summer, explaining why the sequel to his celebrated debut was not yet finished, “so my books take a long time…Of course, then I got ill.” He was smartly dressed, his hair a wing of white above his broad forehead. “It’s desperate, really. I expected to be here for a few days. It’s been…” He screwed up his face, then continued: “…months.” Now and then he raised his deep, patrician voice to drown the shouts of a patient in the next room.

Mr Sprawson, who is now 76, was in a secure hospital ward in west London for elderly people with mental-health problems. Most of his fellow patients were wheelchair-bound and speechless. The television in the communal room was always on, the volume high. Mr Sprawson longed to be back in his nearby flat, among his books. His memory was smudged around the edges, but he recalled his years of literary glory, a quarter of a century ago, with sparkling clarity. “The problem is,” he said, “all the…Continue reading

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