The Secrets Of A Pseudonym


One of the first questions you get asked as a writer is ‘Do you write under your own name? Considering I know a great many writers and none of them has a pseudonym it’s an odd thing to ask. I had certainly never considered adopting a pen name, because you spend years building a reputation […]

Corners Of London: Blackfriars


When I visit my new publishers, Quercus, at Blackfriars, I find myself in a massively changed landscape, partly because after decades of dithering the road layout has finally been settled, and partly because of the huge tube/train station foyer that now stands opposite the old Blackfriar pub. Blackfriars was named after the black habits worn […]

London In The Background


  I love to watch old London-set films as much for what’s going on in the background as the story, from ‘The Ladykillers’ (1955), which features my neighbourhood back when it was a sooty industrial wasteland bisected by railway lines (all still there), to the delightful ‘Genevieve’ (1953), which shows the tramlines still set in […]

Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Twerp

Old author article

Your first novel sticks to you forever. I thought I’d go to my grave being described as ‘The author of ‘Roofworld’. In fact, it was the fourth book I wrote but the first that came with expectations and a decent publicity budget. The book was about gangs on rooftops, but if I was rewriting it […]

Cafe Society, London Style


They always say you don’t know what makes a city special until it’s not there anymore, and in London, cafe society has a very different meaning. There’s one on every high street, and they all have the same menu. I’m not talking about funky cafes like the J&A, Apres Food or the Modern Society, or […]

Shooting The Bridge


Once there was a problem with London Bridge. By the time of the Tudors there were over 200 buildings on it. Some stood seven storeys high. They overhung the river by seven feet while others dangled over the road, forming a dark tunnel through which all traffic had to pass. The roadway was just 12 feet […]

How I Came To Do This


My father once told me ‘We are a nation of creators. What we fail to do is raise enough money to develop and distribute our creations. The Americans do that part brilliantly. They’re very clever at buying talent. They succeed by taking ideas to people.’ It stuck with me when I read about the histories […]

The Good, The Bad And The Censored


I regularly wrote the ‘Cinema Book Roundup’ column for the Independent on Sunday and can’t break myself of the habit, which clearly comes from spending so much time working in the industry. These days tell-all biographies have fallen from fashion, to be replaced by studio-sanctioned coffee-table volumes of photographs, but there are plenty of other […]

Wise Words About The Blog…


Crikey, I’m glad I checked with you lot, as I was hitting despair-level workload yesterday and was very serious about binning the blog. I’m still meeting publishers to see what they think, but I learned a lot from your feedback. First, lack of response never bothers me – some subjects don’t really require a response. […]

To Blog Or Not To Blog?


When I first thought about starting a blog, there was much that didn’t appeal about the idea. I didn’t want to create great swathes of type about the Brontë sisters or Pushkin. There are too many academics and historical non-fiction writers who are doing a far, far better job than I ever could, and my personal reading […]