The Curse Of The Curse

There are a couple of books that have entirely vanished in my occasionally ropey oeuvre. One is ‘Breathe’, a small press thriller I knocked out at great speed, and the other was a YA novel updating a Greek legend. ‘The Curse of Snakes’ was truly cursed. Timing is everything, and everything conspired against me in its writing. […]

What Makes A Perfect Book Club Choice?

The photo at the top is how book clubs like to see themselves. Flowers, wine and at least one lady who has come dressed for a cocktail party. Book clubs and reading groups are a global phenomenon more enjoyed by women than men, and the UK reading list tends to be aimed at women. It […]

The Novel That Started A Shameful Movement

Occasionally a novel can have an unexpected influence that extends beyond its publication; such was the fate of AEW Mason’s most famous work. Alfred Edward Woodley Mason was the creator of Inspector Hanaud, described as the first major fictional police detective of the 20th century. Hanaud was based on two real-life heads of the Sûreté […]

Who Killed The Classic Murder Mystery? Verdict

The story so far: Critic Edmund Wilson damned the classic mystery writers, but it turned out that his verdict was biased against the British proponents. Discussion ensued here and in one mighty bound, courtesy of Snowy in the Comments of yesterday’s article, we went from bookbinding to foot fetishism, thus beautifully proving the point about […]

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. […]