Looking Back At 2018: Part 2

Great Britain

To answer a reader’s question, this blog is different to usual writers’ blogs because I planned it to resemble a mash-up between John Julius Norwich’s ‘Miscellany’ books, which he assembled from snippets of interest, and ‘Picture Book’, the old children’s TV show, the idea being that you’d never know what you were going to get. Here are a few more glances back at the year we’re leaving.


From ‘An Interesting Question’:

‘At the event someone came up and asked me: What is it actually like being a full-time writer? I had to stop and think. I didn’t want to give a glib reply or make a joke, but sought to answer properly. I remember seeing an interview with Alfred Hitchcock in which he was asked what happiness meant to him. He said it was a clear sky with nothing ahead, knowing that you could start to make something from scratch. That’s how I feel on many days, that I have an open road and a head full of ideas.’


From ‘The Best Way To Read Is On A Toaster’:

‘The first electric toaster in the world was Scottish; it was invented by Alan Macmasters in Edinburgh in 1893. General Electric swiped the idea in 1909 and the thing went global. It became ubiquitous in kitchens (and remains so) because it can only do one thing. It cooks bread. A child can use it safely, it’s fast and cheap. In this century the Kindle is a toaster. While tablets and phones can be used to read books while working, surfing or chatting to friends the e-reader remains stubbornly welded to the reading experience. This has resulted in plunging sales, but may ultimately be the reason why it sticks around.’


From: ‘The Swan (& Edgar) Song Of The Department Store’:

‘In Japan I bought a stereo speaker and the staff brought out their boss to personally thank me for my purchase. This art of being made to feel special can be made unique to the department store. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t become relevant and essential again. It depends on whether the next generation rediscovers the delights of talking to experts about purchases or prefers to click through online. I suspect they’d rather the latter, as it does not involve human contact.’


From ‘Revisiting Mr Grimaldi’:

‘The other day I returned to the memorial on Pentonville Road, at the gravesite of Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837). He’s commemorated in the park where he is buried, which is also a general graveyard, a basketball court and a local public park. I wanted to see if the park still hid a little-known feature. In one corner it contains a memorial to the clown; a pair of coffin-shaped graves that ring out in different tones when you dance on them. A perfect memorial for a man who would have loved the idea of you dancing on his grave.’


From ‘The Museum Experience’:

‘The Pink Floyd exhibition at London’s V&A showcases their interest in wedding long-form musical pieces to surreal art, film, stage and photography, exploring their influences on other artists and how avowedly non-commercial art reaches the mainstream. You would have to know nothing at all about them to disagree with their inclusion in a museum. I remember being strongly influenced by their work in art classes. If we ask ourselves where Bowie stood on the line between art and commerce, it’s worth remembering that his producer refused to release ‘Space Oddity’ because it was too commercial.’


From ‘Could Box Sets Kill The Crime Novel?’

‘At this time of the year crime books metaphorically hit my doormat in increased numbers, and a lot of them look the same; blocky white sans-serif typeface on moody landscape shot, a copy line that reads something like ‘She awoke from a coma to find her daughter dead…but what if she’s still alive?’ Inside the text is present tense and inelegantly written. I ask myself, why would anyone read this?

Then I look at box-set TV. Firstly I notice the difference in quality; only the books with original characters and settings have been selected by producers. The raised budgets make everything look good. Top movie directors are being hired to bring stories to life. Big stars are turning up in key roles. The new eight or ten part format (like the BBC’s old serial format from the 1970s) perfectly matches the shape and experience of reading a book, and doesn’t get squeezed into multiple series anymore.’

But enough of the past. Let’s look to the year ahead. We’re all still here, largely sound in mind and limb, and there’s much to explore. Often these blog entries are developed from ideas I’m exploring during the research phase of a book. As I’m currently writing a thriller I’m past that phase, but as soon as I start prepping the next Bryant & May novel there’ll be a spate of fresh articles about London’s secrets…Onward!

5 comments on “Looking Back At 2018: Part 2”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    I just finished re-reading Hall of Mirrors and note that there are at least two points where I’ve made reference to blog dates. Thank you for the wide margins, by the way, lots of space to make notes. Yours are the only books I annotate and to read my notes it’s as if this conversation has carried on into the final book. How strange!
    I have now to phone a neighbour to see when I can pick up their 8 year old daughter to choose her birthday book. She was born three days before Christmas so it’s important to make her birthday special. Her sister’s birthday is three days before Canada Day, so the same applies. I used to choose their books but I figure they’re old enough to make their own choices now. I may go back to choosing for them if they settle for boring. (How good is it when a Grandmother says that “You always find such wonderful books for the girls.”)

  2. Karen says:

    Hi Helen

    You must have a lot of time on your hands?

  3. Wayne Mook says:

    Without the books there would be fewer shows, and to be honest there are a lot of average shows around. Some of the long running ones need to be put to bed.

    Looking forward, sometime next year Leo Baxendale’s Sweeney Toddler is out, I may buy it for my daughter, after all she has my Ken Reid Faceache book.

    Have a splendid new year.


  4. Lee Remedios says:

    I wish I was as clever and literate as those whose posts I really enjoy – but I am not. I couldn’t let another year pass without posting that the Bryant and May books have brought me hours of true joy! When my husband hears me laughing he says I must be reading Fowler. He’s right. Thank you for being yourself and letting us share that.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Karen, I have more time than I used to. Knee problems make me unwilling to patter around and books make such a great excuse.

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