Books

Fiction Gets Woke

The idea of being ‘woke’ isn’t so much new jargon, but a way of rebottling old wine with new subtleties. The word, which is African-American in origin, concerns the perceived awareness of issues concerning social, feminist and racial identity but is expanding to include all consciousness-raising matters. One can trace the racial use back to the […]

Coming Attractions

‘Sunday For Seven Days’ – that’s what it used to say on cinema trailers. I’m aiming to spread the work over a rather lengthier time frame. First up this year will be the paperback version of ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ in October, and I believe it’s going to contain some extra material that wasn’t […]

The Best Way To Read Is On A Toaster

The first electric toaster in the world was Scottish; it was invented by Alan Macmasters in Edinburgh in 1893. General Electric swiped the idea in 1909 and the thing went global. It became ubiquitous in kitchens (and remains so) because it can only do one thing. It cooks bread. A child can use it safely, […]

Unsentimental Sentiments: The Work Of Lissa Evans

The British don’t do warm writing. We are allergic to excessive displays of sentiment, a wartime hangover from not making a fuss and just getting on with it. We play things down. When a deranged neighbour firebombed her front garden, my old agent dismissed the incident by waving her hand and saying, ‘It merely singed […]

When Wives Go Wild

‘No woman in 20th century American mystery writing is more important than Margaret Millar.’ So said HRF Keating (and he should know) in his overview of crime and mystery, ‘Whodunnit?’ Millar was born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1915, but moved to the US and married the crime writer Ross Macdonald (who wisely changed his name […]

Christopher & Peter

After I wrote the horror romp ‘Hell Train’ I never really went back to it. I don’t think it was a huge success (although there’s a nice German edition), partly because I went with a small publishing house, partly because it was a bit too clever for the market. The plot concerns a writer hired […]

This Year’s Hottest Novel Is [Untitled]

A book never sells on its title alone, but a good one can really help. The mass-market success of the rudimentary thriller The Girl on the Train is down to its perfect title, two nouns and a clear image, destined to be bought by every girl who ever caught a train. Titles are probably more […]

‘A Good Idea Has A Thousand Fathers’

How often have you read a book and become convinced that you’ve read it somewhere before? Sometimes a particular scene will resonate and I’ll go searching for another version of it. In his immense volume ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ Christopher Booker argued that  there are only seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of […]

What You’re Reading: Results

Well, yesterday’s exercise has proven to be a fascinating experience, both here and on Twitter. The heartening news is that we all seem to be reading far above the national average (perhaps it’s just readers on this site and similar book sites). But I’m more interested in the quite extraordinary range of reading. There’s very […]

How Much Are You Reading?

Are the British the only people who read walking along the street? I’m surrounded by people who do so, and indeed I’m one of them. The perils (lampposts, light bruising, other people thoughtlessly getting in the way, rude cyclists, buses, those low metal boxes randomly placed along the pavement by electrical companies) are outweighed by […]