Monthly Archives: September 2014

Conversations With My Agent

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In 1963 Mel Brooks’ comedy partner Carl Reiner wrote the autobiographical ‘Enter Laughing’, about being a young TV scriptwriter working on live TV comedy for a showrunner described as ‘the Ulcer That Walks Like A Man’. Forced to write up his ideas just minutes ahead of the performers going in front of the cameras, he […]

All Writers Have Their Off Days

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I’ve been running a column about missing and forgotten writers for a number of years now, and I’ve been steadily pushing for the reprinting of lost books from deserving authors. But are there some who don’t deserve resuscitation? The archetypal rubbish poet is of course William Topaz McGonagall, whose epic doggerel ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ offers […]

Where Ideas For Creepy Plots Start…

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So, on Saturday night I go to a party in Brussels with my partner and good friends. A mutual friend is having a big birthday in the parental home, where almost everyone in attendance is united by a common factor – a life or a background in multiple countries. There is a Brazilian film producer […]

Divided By A Common Language

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Back in 1951, Powell & Pressburger didn’t make a film called ‘Pandora & The Flying Dutchman’, but everyone thought they did. The film has the odd ethereal feel of one of their miraculous lightning-in-a-bottle movies, as Ava Gardner and James Mason find redemption from their respective mythologies in the present-day Riviera. The interesting thing is […]

The Beer And Chocolate Diet

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The medieval town of Bruges has approved plans to install an underground beer pipeline under its streets. The project has been approved by Bruges City Council and will see a 3km underground pipe connecting the five-century-old De Halve Maan brewery to a nearby bottling factory carrying 6,000 litres of beer every hour. Said to be […]

Music That Makes Me Laugh

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There are very few musically funny pieces, but Hoffnung was there master, although most required knowledge of classical music to get what he was doing. The first funny piece of music I ever heard was Hoffnung’s drum-roll at the start of his Albert Hall concert, which made everyone in the auditorium stand up, only to […]

Is This Really Britain After Dark?

The nightlife in Cardiff, UK.

João Magueijo has lived in Britain for 25 years. The Portuguese author’s comic take on the country, ‘Undercooked Beef’, about how awful the British are, seems to have ruffled a lot of feathers. But literature is peppered with writers criticising the countries they’ve either adopted or left. Most famously, John Osbourne’s vitriolic letter back to […]

What Do You Collect?

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Writers. We’re hunter-gatherers, filling up our homes with vintage violin strings and stuffed mice. My personal poisoned chalice is books and films, and film soundtracks, of which I have millions. Really, test me, see if I have the one soundtrack you’ve been searching for forever; ‘Harold & Maude’, ‘Krakatoa East Of Java’? Got ’em. This […]

Grumbler’s Corner: Tesco Pizza

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To quote Jack Lemmon in ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue’, ‘If I’d have known food was going to get this bad, I’d have saved some rolls when I was a kid.’ Which brings us, as bad food so often does, to Tesco, the shop once owned by Westminster arch-crim ‘Lady’ Porter. When their employees manage […]

London: More To Discover?

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I’ve always joked that London is an onion; break through one layer and there’s another beneath, and another. It’s provided a rich seam for me with the Bryant & May books, but also with other volumes from ‘Soho Black’ to ‘Disturbia’. One of the problems you face when researching London is that books are not […]