Books

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 […]

What I’m Currently Reading

This month’s reads have to be fitted around research books, and I certainly won’t finish them quickly, especially not William Dalrymple’s epic examination of the East India Company in The Anarchy. I’ve read a lot about the plundering corporation who carried out the ultimate form of aggressive privatisation (and relished Jonathan Pryce’s foul-mouthed managing director […]

Where Were The BAME Authors? Part 2

How much confidence do BAME authors need to start writing? What chance was there that BAME authors were going to sell a book in the UK before the arrival of Monica Ali and the new wave? We now think that about 120 such writers were working in Britain. I knew of Francis Barber, the Jamaican […]

Where Were The BAME Authors?

The bigotry of 20th century writing was amiably thoughtless, sometimes vicious. The Enid Blyton cover above was toned down to make it less threatening, but shows how far removed sensibilities once were. When I started ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ I didn’t stop to consider ethnicity or gender, and concentrated on finding interesting writing. I […]

Out Of Context: The ‘American Dirt’ Row

Jeanine Cummins’ novel ‘American Dirt’ was always going to be controversial in these sensitive times but she really hit pay-dirt when the world of online chin-strokers took an interest. Her novel is an adventure – do we call books that anymore? – involving Mexican migrants, and the author is white. I haven’t read it yet, but if […]

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 […]

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 […]