Perry In Seraglio (Part 1 of 2)


As my missing books get digitised this year, I’ll be posting some short stories from them. This is one of my very first tales, taken from ‘City Jitters’. I haven’t read it in decades and have no idea if it’s absolutely terrible or just slightly terrible. Read it by all means, but you have been […]

Dark-Adapted Eyes


With the death of Ruth Rendell, we have lost a giant of the literary crime world. Rendell got her first publishing deal with Hutchinson after after working as a journalist on a local paper, the Chigwell Times. She apparently left the job after writing up a local tennis club dinner  without attending the event; she’d missed […]

Cities Shaped By Hollywood

Bond London

If history is really just all the things you can remember (cf. ‘1066 And All That’), then our cities reflect an idealised Hollywood version in which the past is merged with fiction. In the 1950s London was still a direct reflection of its books and films (from Dickens to Ealing comedies), but was also shaped […]

Do Fascists Ever Think They’re Wrong?


I took this photograph in the headquarters of the secret police in Budapest. It makes you recall the Mitchell & Webb Nazi sketch; ‘Our caps have got skulls on them. Are we the baddies?’ Don’t Fascists ever wonder if they might be on the wrong side? Dictators come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing […]

London Gets A Test Case


It’s the same old story you’ve heard before, but this time there’s a twist; the Carlton Tavern in Kilburn was being considered for a listing at Grade II heritage status; Historic England said the pub was “remarkably well-preserved externally and internally”. So the owners, Tel Aviv-based development company CLTX, slipped in with the demolition after Westminster […]

My Treat


  Some writers have a fag and a brandy when they finish a book. To celebrate finishing my Christmas book ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’ on schedule I went out and spent the pitiful royalties it might possibly earn in advance, treating myself to something I’ve always wanted; a 1920 reporter’s typewriter. Each key shifts […]

A Great Eye & A Tin Ear


This is going to be a column about two Terry Gilliam movies; ‘Brazil’ VS ‘The Zero Theorem’. But don’t let the geekiness put you off – I’m trying to make a point about how we experience things. In my old job I saw a lot of films accompanied by artists. After, we’d compare notes. I’d […]

The European Country I Know Least


When I lived in America I at least got to travel a bit and see some cool places – not a lot because I was running my own company and the US legal holiday entitlement is among the lowest in the world (along with Chinese and Canadian). My regret is that I haven’t been to […]

A Disturbing Tale In Any Language


When it comes to translating titles, some distributors seem to go out of their way to wreck the films they’ve paid for. ‘The Witches of Zugarramurdi’ was always going to be a problem title, but changing it to ‘Witching & Bitching’ didn’t help. Likewise turned the twisted thriller ‘The Hidden Face’ into ‘The Xxxxxx’ (I […]

Short Life, Great Books


I’ve mentioned JG Farrell in passing before, but thought it might be good to look at the life of this interesting author. Even Booker prizewinners are not immune to the amnesia of passing time. James Farrell is a classic example of the novelist cut short in his prime. ‘There is no question that he would today […]