Monthly Archives: May 2017

London – City Of Excess

When you think about excessive or decadent cities you tend to think of Berlin, but either I’m doing Berlin wrong or it’s nowhere near as excessive as London, a city which Frank Harris described as like a bedraggled woman you turn from in disgust, only to discover she has undreamed-of depths. London’s allure is paradoxically […]

Why ‘1984’ Got It All Wrong

At school I became obsessed with US politics, and now the obsession has returned. As someone who grew up with the relatively fair-play concepts behind soft-spoken British manoeuvrings, the idea that a leader entrusted with the nation’s voice could be impeached for burglary and lying about it seemed surreal. Nixon proved the tip of an […]

How A Pulp Writer Helped Win The War

I’m still researching, peering into the years following the Second World War (it may lead nowhere, but that’s the peril of finding a subject to write about). National defence was very different then. Stories emerge that still defy belief, of fake villages being built as bomb targets and fishermen’s wives knitting sea-mine nets. Coupled with […]

49 Bankside: A Place In History

It often seems to me that despite its great age, London has few old ‘ordinary’ houses; only the grand mansions survive. We want history to be about paupers and prostitutes,  or kings and crowns. What about those in the middle? The London author and historian Gillian Tindall is concerned with ordinary people, and their lives […]

If You Don’t Trust Shakespeare, Don’t Do It

Emma Rice, a fine, innovative director, became the Globe director who started the rumpus – she famously stated that Shakespeare was like medicine, and wanted to modernise a theatre most famous for being a replica of the original. It was a bad fit; she went on to direct a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that did indeed […]

The Disreputable W1!

So, you’re at a grand party in a Park Lane mansion and get a bit tipsy. Seducing a beautiful woman, you tiptoe to a bedroom with her. In the morning, by way of thanks, you send her a diamond. Unfortunately it turns out to be one of the German Crown Jewels, which are not yours […]

What Publishers Get Up To Behind Closed Doors

They hold meetings, of course – but usually they don’t include the people who drive their business, the authors. Not so Quercus, whose annual sales conference I’ve just attended at London’s Cafe de Paris – they believe in involving their authors heavily throughout the publishing process, and in doing so seem to be quietly revolutionising […]

When Movies Reflect Politics

Are American films really any worse now than they used to be? Is the idea of ‘Transformers 7’ being nominated for an Oscar any crazier than ‘Dr Dolittle’ making the Best Picture list four decades earlier? It’s tempting to name a year and suggest that before such-and-such a point movies were better. There have been […]

A Guide To The Bryant & May Characters

By now I assume you know quite a lot about my aged detectives Arthur Bryant & John May, and a little about their team at the Peculiar Crimes Unit, Janice Longbright, Raymond Land, Colin Bimsley, Meera Mangeshkar, Jack Renfield, Dan Banbury and Giles Kershaw. But there are many, many others who help or obstruct their […]

Choosing What To Read Next

It’s a question I get asked a lot; how do you wade through all the book covers and titles to find something you really want to read, especially when it might possibly mean laying out cash on something you don’t enjoy? First, I set myself a book budget. I pick a subject I’d like to […]