You know how it is. You're in the newsagents, and some careless sod has knocked a copy of a magazine off the top shelf, and so you pick it up and put it back, and as you do so your eye, quite inadvertently, falls upon a page featuring some quite remarkable pictures.
And that is how, if memory serves, I come to know that one UK men's magazine used to have a page headed 'one for the ladies'. This page featured a picture of a nude man, and in the (wholly isolated, as I mentioned) case that I saw, his physique was far from impressive.
How did we get into all this? Oh yes. I heard about a novel which, by the look of it, is likely to appeal to women more than to men, and it comes from a publisher who is in the business of providing 'great books for grown women.' Well, I don't suppose that either author or publisher will thank me for so vulgar an introduction, but a graceless plug is better than none.
The book in question is Slippery When Wet, by Martin Goodman, and it's published by an Oxford-based firm called Transita. In brief, this novel concerns a 60-year-old English woman whose husband dies in the wrong bed, and who then goes off to Bangladesh, where she meets a beautiful young man called Seppen. And so forth.
Martin Goodman has a good track record. His first novel, On Bended Knee, was shortlisted for the Whitbread best first novel award, and he also has a great deal to say about the writing life. (Try his piece on Writing for Money.) He recently launched Slippery When Wet in Harare, where he was running a British Council workshop for writers. Martin believes, by the way, that the book has much wider appeal than might be thought from the publisher's mission statement: it is a cross-generational tale which hits lots of cross-cultural and religious buttons.
As for that dying in the wrong bed business, well, I once knew a very important man... But we won't go into that now. Suffice it to say that I wrote a heavily disguised version of the events, as a short story, in King Albert's Words of Advice.
And I also, now that I come to think about it, wrote a novel about a woman having an affair with a man much younger than herself: Passionate Affairs, written under the pen-name Anne Moore. It is my belief that books about 'relationships' of that sort have far more appeal for women readers than for men. But us blokes who venture into that territory don't need to worry too much, because there are lots of women readers out there. It's just a question, as ever, of finding them.