Insurance Covered Christmas special – A look at Armadillo (With William Boyd)

Published on 07 December 2020

Welcome to Insurance Covered! The podcast that looks at the inner workings of the insurance industry with the help of expert guests.

We are joined by Novelist and Director William Boyd and we will be discussing insurance in popular culture, more specifically through Armadillo, a novel William published in 1998 where the main protagonist is none other than an insurance loss adjustor.

We start by looking at William's career as a writer and how he got into novel writing. What started out as a hobby turned into more with William finding early success with his writing. At the age of 28 he had his first novel published 'A Good Man in Africa'. It was in 1998 that Armadillo was published, a book where the main character Lorimer Black was an insurance adjustor. William goes on to explain the plot (without spoilers).

"It's the story of a young man who because of events in his past has changed his name who kind of disguises himself and he is a brilliant loss adjuster. Whatever job he is doing he changes his accent, his identity, his clothing, in order to make himself more amenable to the person he is adjusting and he is incredibly successful and he works for this small firm with a tyrannical boss and they are very successful but Lorimer's life is in a way a kind of lie, he's created this carapace around himself and slowly but surely in the course of the novel it begins to fall apart and reveal the man beneath."

William explains prior to writing the novel he spent time talking to people at Lloyd's and meeting people from the insurance world, listening to their stories and experiences. He also drew inspiration from the experiences of his friends and family who had interactions with the insurance world. It was these experiences that allowed his imagination to run and create Armadillo. He goes on to say that to his knowledge this is the only novel that takes insurance as its core theme, which is interesting because insurance has so many stories to tell, every claim is a mini story.

William explains the meaning behind the title of the book. The Spanish word armadillo means 'little armed man' they saw these strange creatures running around and they look like they are wearing armour, so the name stuck. On the cover of the book there is a picture of a man with a cardboard box over his head as if he is somehow wearing a helmet and is protected but that way it’s a visual analogue of what the book is trying to say and the idea that insurance is a form of armour.

We finish by talking about William's experiences working with multiple James Bond's and the surreal experience of introducing future James Bond Daniel Craig to former James Bond Sean Connery. He goes on to say it may be the only time the two met but a truly iconic moment in British film history.

We hope you enjoyed this special edition of insurance Covered. Massive thanks to William for taking the time to talk to us. If you enjoyed the episode, please subscribe.

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