Who Killed The Classic Murder Mystery? Pt 2

Edmund Wilson had upset the apple cart with his comments on the perceived illiteracy of the mystery writers, but he wasn’t done yet. He followed his accusing article with another one after receiving outraged mail. This time he cast his net wider, but what he found gave him even greater cause for alarm. Published under […]

Who Killed The Classic Murder Mystery? Pt 1

In 1945 the clear-eyed and cynical Freudian/Marxist Edmund Wilson published an article in The New Yorker magazine entitled ‘Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?’ in which he excoriated murder mysteries for their poor literary qualities. It was not the first time he had done so; in October 1944 he had attacked them and started a […]

War And Pax

Jan Morris’s prose changed my life, probably because I read her at just the right moment. This retired author’s most powerful work is still not easily available, although it exists in a magnificent Folio Society set and is now online. Let’s dispense with the most sensational aspect of her life first. A gender change, from […]

First Degree Burn

More books today. Gordon Burn was a Newcastle writer whose four postwar novels deal with issues of modern fame and faded celebrity as lived through the media spotlight. There was a fashion after 1950 for writing in a clean, spare style, partly because publishers were looking for shorter works that wouldn’t require so much paper in […]

Creating Arthur Bryant

Rosa Lysandrou thrashed the duster at Bryant. ‘Why must you always be like this? Why?’ ‘Oh, because the world is a dark and lonely place and it’s fun. Cast your mind back, Rosa. You remember fun. That night on the fairground waltzer in 1983 when the handsome young lad with the gypsy eyes rode the back […]

The Complete Short Stories – Update

When I wrote 25 new stories to celebrate a quarter century of writing such tales, I called the resulting double volume Red Gloves Volumes 1 and 2. They were divided into London tales and world tales. Hardly anyone saw the books because they were printed in the small press, but PS Publishing created editions that were very beautiful. […]

The Perils Of Creating A Long-Running Series

  I first noticed it when I went back to check on a character’s name in ‘The Memory of Blood’, Book 9 in what looks like becoming a 20-volume series. One of the characters was using a Blackberry. As far as I know they’re long gone; nothing dates faster than technology. Then a Fax machine […]

People Are Strange

Victoria Wood once wrote; ‘You don’t know how strange other people’s families are until you’ve spent Christmas with one.’ If we seem a lot less individual in these homogenous times than, say, the average Dickens character, it doesn’t mean we’re more rational. There was a time – say, in the eighties – when it felt […]

What Is It About Wodehouse?

Time and again I’m drawn back to PG Wodehouse when I feel a little low. In that spirit, this column is an amalgam of previous articles together with new observations on an eternally amusing author. ‘Isn’t it all just upper class stuff?’ asked a friend. ‘Who needs that now?’ No, it’s not, I told him. […]

Burke’s Law

Good popular writers are hired to be chameleons. The downside is that they go unnoticed. They write short films, books and stage plays sponsored by products, or performance pieces to show off actors’ ranges. One such fellow was John Burke, who had the oddest of all writers’ jobs – he’d take an original film and return […]