Best known as a chat show host, Graham Norton has turned his hand to writing and his debut novel Holding was published last week.

Norton, who appeared at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre on Saturday to talk about the book, drew on his own experiences to portray life in a rural Irish village.

The backwater of Duneen seems to hold few dramas except of the most petty kind (like keeping count of the wine bottles in Brid Riordan’s recycling)... until a body is found at the site of a former farm being developed for housing. It acts as a catalyst for long-buried secrets and lies to surface along with the remains.

It should probably be no surprise that Norton has a way with words: but writing a novel is a different matter to being pithy on TV. He pulls it off with aplomb: dry wit shines through from the very first. It begins: “It was widely accepted by the residents of Duneen that, should a crime be committed and Sergeant Collins managed to apprehend the culprit, it would be very unlikely that the arrest involved a pursuit on foot.”

And so we are introduced to the portly Garda officer.

People, places and incidents are described succinctly and evocatively.

In very few words he conjures up the image of the makeshift Garda barracks: “It was the sort of haphazard interior design that one might find in a run-down bed and breakfast or a retirement home. “

The plot doesn’t offer too many surprises: the twists in the tale are pretty well signposted and the reader is likely to arrive at the conclusion before the awkward but endearing Sergeant Collins.

But this is no vanity project – an attempt to cash in on the writer’s celebrity in a different field. It’s an entertaining read with real emotion along with plenty of black humour.

And that’s no idle chat.

Holding by Graham Norton is published by Hodder & Stoughton, hardback £20.