‘Yes Man’ Danny Wallace is all for a beer to launch ‘Who is Tom Ditto?’
- Credit: Archant
It’s not every writer who launches his book with a character-themed ale and, indeed, Danny Wallace reckons he’s probably the first.
The accidental cult-starter has an eye for the unconventional and his second novel Who Is Tom Ditto? with its accompanying ale is just the latest eccentric endeavour of the man who said yes.
“With every book, I try to do something a bit different,” Islington-based Wallace says of the Tom Ditto IPA, which he designed himself in Stoke Newington’s Truman Brewery, “but this happened in a much bigger way than I could have anticipated.”
Set in New York and London (reflected in the IPA by a blend of British and American hops), the novel focuses on the fortunes – or misfortunes – of the eponymous Tom Ditto, whose girlfriend has inexplicably disappeared.
“So many books and films begin with a man left by his girlfriend, but what happens if you’ve haven’t been left – your girlfriend has just gone?” Wallace asks.
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“If she’s disappeared, you don’t know how to react or where to go. There’s no rule book for that situation. What do you do next? And so I started to explore that idea.”
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The what-happens-if trajectory of Tom Ditto is found throughout Wallace’s fiction and non-fiction works, whether in best-selling Charlotte Street (2012) (‘a heartwarming, everyday tale of boy stalks girl,’ quotes the book jacket), cult-status Join Me (2003) or Yes Man (2005), which spawned the 2008 Jim Carrey film and sees Wallace relate what happened when he decided to say yes to everything that came his way for six months.
The idea recalls Luke Rhinehart’s 70s cult novel, The Dice Man, where the protagonist decides one day to shake a dice – and starts to base his every decision on the chance of the die.
“Yes, and me and Luke Rhinehart have become good friends since my book,” says Wallace. “The feel and spirit of it is linked and I felt that as well when we hung out at his house. We would have been best friends if we lived in the same country and weren’t separated by nearly 4,000 miles and 50 years. But we certainly made progress towards that when we were hanging out – I just love him.”
Wallace says that, although he’s no longer playing the ‘yes’ game – a one-response philosophy which he distinguished sharply from Rhinehart’s any-option game – the philosophy espoused in Yes Man had profoundly impacted his life.
“Things will only happen if you let things happen and the easiest way to do that is to put a yes out there, rather than a no. If you say no to everything, nothing will ever change. My philosophy is really: go where the fun is, try to do the fun well, so that you then get asked to have more fun elsewhere.”
Wallace clearly relates this to his own life and work, having taken on and successfully completed a bewildering array of projects, from presenting a TV series to hosting radio shows. But writing remains his greatest passion.
“Everything stems from the writing, that’s what I’m most comfortable with. And that’s what I enjoy the most – I will try to keep doing that.
Wallace, who lives with his wife and four-year-old son in Highbury, has recently found out he is to be a father for the second time. Have his years as a father influenced his decision to write children’s books – his next project?
“I think you find yourself in tune with kids’ sense of humour more than you were. You find out what they find funny and how to create something special for them. So hanging out with my son and his mates has had an impact on me.”
In the meantime, a film script is being developed for Charlotte Street, where Wallace hopes to reprise his cameo role in Yes Man: “My very powerful performance that I undertook as Man At Bar – uncredited, of course, but a very important, central role… and become a sort of rubbish Hitchcock,” he adds.
n Who Is Tom Ditto? is published by Random House Group. Danny Wallace will be signing copies today (April 24) at Doggett’s Coat and Badge, 1 Blackfriars Bridge, SE1, from 5pm to 7pm. Tom Ditto IPA, a collaboration of Wallace, Nicholson’s Pubs and Truman’s Brewery, was showcased at the Spring Ales Festival and will be distributed at Nicholson’s 77 pubs nationwide.