By MICHAEL CAINES
It's practical criticism time again (when is it not? I hear you say). Here’s the opening of a novel. Who wrote it? No shouting at the back if you already know:
"Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son.
They crossed the country on a rambling southwest line in an old Citroën sedan, keeping mostly to secondary roads, traveling in fits and starts. They stopped in three places along the way before reaching their final destination: first in Rhode Island, where the tall man with the black hair worked in a textile mill; then in Youngstown, Ohio, where he worked for three months on a tractor assembly line; and finally in a small California town near the Mexican border, where he pumped gas and worked at repairing small foreign cars with an amount of success that was, to him, surprising and gratifying."
The novelist and regular TLS contributor Jonathan Barnes recently showed this passage to a group of creative writing students and challenged them to name the author. Any ideas?