Monthly Archives: February 2020

Childhood’s End?

I have a history of being massively disappointed with revisits to museums of my childhood – especially the tarted-up National Maritime Museum, where a century of serious, intelligently curated art was largely replaced by too many toddler-friendly ‘experiences’ (sample exhibition: ‘Pirate Girlz!’). One of the only museums to escape this blight has been the revamped […]

Sentenced: Why Writers Need To Be Brief

Our default Prime Minister has called for all documents under submission to be no longer than two pages. While some have called this the ‘first ADHD government’ (the condition is now being linked to maternal obesity) I think it’s probably a good idea. The sheer volume of docketed briefs must require the initial application of […]

A 3-Part Guide To Airport Thrillers (3)

The airport thriller was transmuted, first by the supernatural, through Stephen King’s immense and seemingly unedited doorstops, then by one other global phenomenon.¬†There’s a simple clarity to the No.1 airport thriller writer’s storytelling, too, but that’s because Dan Brown can’t write any other way. Mr Brown is entirely beyond parody, as demonstrated by numerous club-footed […]

A 3-Part Guide To Airport Thrillers (2)

The British-Canadian author Arthur Hailey was so generic in his choice of airport thrillers that he called one ‘Airport’ and another ‘Hotel’, and wrote a detective novel called, you guessed it, ‘Detective’. If your gate was closing and you needed something to read fast, at least you knew what you were getting. Airport thriller writers […]

A 3-Part Guide To Airport Thrillers (1)

My flight is delayed. I’m in Gatwick Airport, where newsagent-souk WH Smith have attempted to take themselves a tad more upmarket by separating out their curated books from the main shop. The upmarket book part is called ‘BOOKS’. The other part should be called ‘INFLATABLE NECK BRACES, CRAYON SETS AND TOBLERONES’, the idea being that […]

Writing That’s So Bad It’s Good

There’s a healthy market for bad books. Game of Thrones fans were so upset by the final series of the epic show that they started trolling the two scriptwriters. When you Googled ‘bad writers’ that month, the first thing that came up was a photograph of the pair. Viewers were upset that their invested time […]

Inside Writing 4: You Never Escape Yourself

They say it’s always too late to jump on a bandwagon; by the time you see it coming it has passed. But for the writer, originality comes with its own problems. If your book presents something too fresh it can’t be slotted into a category, nor can it be summed up in a line, so […]

Films With Surprise Endings

It’s not enough for the twists in mystery novels to be unguessable – after all, there’s a frisson that accompanies the feeling that you may be able to name the murderer – the solutions to mysteries need to feel natural and unforced. Left-field answers are fun, but organically arrived-at solutions are more satisfying. This rules […]

When The Characters Take Charge

It took me years to realise that books are made by characters, not plots. Yet sometimes characters are so overpoweringly real that they go in search of the author – beware of creating fictional figures that might spring to life when you least expect it… In The Land of Laughs Jonathan Carroll’s hero is an […]

I’m Not There, I’m Here

It’s been a long winter so far; a combination of workload, never-ending flu and not enough down time left me feeling wiped out, so I’ve gone away for one week. I’m in Hispaniola for a few days of whale-watching, rum drinking and tropical doodadery, back Saturday, unforch. As someone who saw Barbados transform itself from […]