Monthly Archives: January 2020

My Best Picture Prediction

In a way all awards ceremonies are the same from the Annual Meat Supplier of the Year to the British and American Academy Awards (although the latter always had a certain arrogance – for years the media wasn’t allowed to refer to them as ‘The Oscars’). They’re not about rewarding excellence but being seen to […]

The Way We Speak

Today’s oddity thrown up by my current research involves the native tongue. English speakers rarely notice the rules hidden inside their speech. For example, when we describe something to others, we use a pre-ordained system known as the Royal Order of adjectives. This dictates that certain words must precede others. They usually fit in the […]

What A Cracker!

In 1969, John Julius Norwich, the popular historian, gathered together the favourite snippets he’d come across in the last 365 days and turned it into a Christmas greeting, a short charming pamphlet filled with oddities and felicities. Initially just a treat for his friends, his Christmas Crackers rapidly turned into a huge word-of-mouth success. When […]

Robert Zemeckis: The Stranger The Better

These are  certain left-field mid-budget movies which are slightly too clever to ever reach wider audiences. I suspect that in years to come ‘Jojo Rabbit’ will live on in this ‘Brilliant Singular Vision’ category. It’s often possible to find terrific scenes in the most wrong-headed films. I worked on the ghastly ‘Howard The Duck’, which […]

London’s 2nd Most Famous Landmark Vanishes

This vast edifice once came after Big Ben in the list of London’s most visited landmarks. Everyone in the city knew it, and it was much loved. Its history has been almost entirely wiped away, except in the logbook of the London Fire Brigade. I cobbled together this photo from shots taken during its devastating […]

London Puzzles No.3: The Church Of Surprises

What’s this all about, then? A boat sticking out of a wall? That’s the first puzzle you encounter on entering St Magnus the Martyr. It’s just another research day in London. I was heading to a specific London location to see something few people bother checking out. Who, I wonder, is still interested in the city’s […]

20 Years Of Bryant & May!

I’m sitting before the blank screen about to type the title of the 20th Bryant & May book. It’s a good time to reflect on what I’m doing and whether I should even be doing it at all. My mystery series is deliberately, perversely esoteric. Does that make it elitist? It also features a pair of […]

The Square Mile’s Other Sky Garden

Another research day, and this one takes me to Fen Court, where a new rooftop garden, better than the glorified food court at the top of the Walkie Talkie, is open to any and all, and affords terrific views of the city. And unlike the Walkie Talkie it doesn’t need to be booked for a […]

Alfred Hitchcock And The Suspenseful Word

In ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ I wrote about discovering just how many of Alfred Hitchcock’s films and TV shows were based on stories he had optioned, but there was another side to him that I did not have space to touch upon in that book. After numerous successful films Hitchcock’s career switched tracks in […]

The Lie That Will Be On Your Tombstone

Reading today that Emilio Estevez says ‘Brat Pack’ will be carved on his tombstone, I’m reminded of Bette Midler’s line that ‘She started at the Continental Baths’ will be stamped on hers. Everyone is cursed to have the origin of their success marked on their grave because people don’t realise that when they’re starting out […]