Why Oxford Street Is Doomed

Before Covid, the UK had 30% more shops than it needed. London’s Oxford Street is, I suppose, still one of the world’s most famous shopping streets. It was once filled with luxurious department stores housed in grand buildings visited by all, but economic downturns, the end of emporia like Bourne & Hollingsworth and Marshall & […]

Enough Facts; Let’s Have More Fiction

  The flavour of the moment is to ground fiction in ‘authenticity’. Whenever a book or film proves to be historically inaccurate, many people get exercised about the apparent falsehoods on display. My attitude is that there’s no such thing as historical accuracy. The past is by its nature unknowable. You may copy the argot and […]

Not The Worst Film Ever Made (Update)

What Happens When The Brand Wags The Dog? When director Christopher Nolan insisted that his 007-ish headscratcher ‘Tenet’ only open in cinemas he misunderstood how audiences think. Of course he wanted to put it on the biggest possible screen – it’s dazzling to look at, often audacious and enthralling. It also makes no sense whatsoever, […]

The Enemy Of The Comma

The Ending Soars into Very English Tragedy ‘A novel from the author of several previous books,’ said the Amazon logline about ‘Jubb’, one of Keith Waterhouse’s astonishing black comedies. Was there ever a less appealing biography? I’m not sure I want to live in a world where ‘bibulous hack’ Waterhouse is out of print. His […]

Everybody Was Talking: The Making Of ‘Midnight Cowboy’

In 1947 Anaïs Nin arrived at Black Mountain College, Eden Lake, North Carolina – this was years before her notorious diaries – and met the handsome 20 year-old writer James Leo Herlihy. The college was experimental (and sounds rather wonderful). Herlihy would go on to write ‘Midnight Cowboy’. He and Nin were instantly fascinated by […]

Bryant & May 20th Anniversary Novel – Cover Revealed

What can I tell you about the upcoming Bryant & May novel that doesn’t give the whole game away? Almost nothing, it turns out, except that it’s the longest, and the last. It’s long because I wanted to tell a bigger story, and the last because I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish […]

Deutschland, Deutschland…

The most enjoyable lockdown box-set binge I enjoyed this year was Deutschland ’83, ’86 and ’89, the three season trilogy of the era-defining German drama that started in the UK on All4’s ‘Walter Presents’ and has now moved to Sky. It’s been pointed out that the Deutschland series has surface similarities to another show, The Americans. […]

One Year On: Defiantly Yours

Illness is as boring as baby photos. March 23 is not a date I’ll easily forget. One year ago on that abnormally sunny day the UK entered its first lockdown and with immaculate timing I started chemo/radiotherapy for cancer. The experience of having to visit a hospital at the epicentre of London’s Covid pandemic every […]

Information, Please: We Are Bellingcat

A career in IT was once seen as cool; not anymore, apparently. Latest surveys indicate that there’s been a fall in interest among the young just when job opportunities in the sector are climbing again. That’s bad news for Eliot Higgins, but thankfully he has people with the passion, time and patience to uncover injustices […]

No End of Empire

Britain’s empire legacy has left behind a complex tangle of traces, and you can still be wrong-footed as a guilty liberal. I was recently reprimanded by an Indian festival organiser after I carefully used ‘Kolkata’ instead of ‘Calcutta’. I’d assumed the anglicised version was simply outdated, as India has been free from colonial rule for more […]