Books

This Is Not A Test: Questions About Crime Novels

While I cleared all of the second-rate crime novels from the shelves that I have hung onto for sentimental reasons, I was thinking about what crime novels could or should be. Here are a few questions I have about crime fiction in general. Crime accounts for over a third of all fiction published in the […]

If There Was Ever A Time To Fall In Love With Books It’s Now

Readers wouldn’t dream of standing near each other. Lockdown began on March 23rd. It is now May 20th. We have learned a lot by staying at home and pressing the reset button. We can connect instead of avoiding each other and more focussed thinking can replace replace speed-skimming through our days. We’re reprioritising who is […]

Total Midnight

My monster in a box was meant to have been locked away with the lid nailed down by now. What seemed like a grand idea may become (to mix metaphors) my albatross. The box contains just about every published story I’ve ever written, some revised into definitive versions, minus a handful I didn’t deem good […]

Thought-Provoking Lockdown Reads: ‘The Anarchy’

Each day I’ll be looking at one of the five books featured above. Today: ‘The Anarchy’ by William Dalrymple. I’ve enjoyed the Mr William Dalrymple’s insightful books on India since I read ‘City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi’, and once used it as a practical guide. ‘The Anarchy’ feels like a subject he was […]

10 Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Literary laughs for the lockdown era I’m always wary of authors who write about the rich; it convinces me they secretly salivate about being part of the fast set, like Richard Curtis and Julian Fellowes. Charles Jennings is genuinely hilarious on the subject of the ghastly rich, but in ‘Up North: Travels Beyond the Watford […]

The Marvellous Mr Moore

Brian Moore is my kind of writer, unplaceable, thoughtful, readable, moving. The Irish-Canadian novelist and scriptwriter wrote a number of haunting short novels (some 20 in all) often concerning life in Northern Ireland, exploring the Troubles and the Blitz. Born into a family of nine children in Belfast, 1921, he rejected Catholicism and explained his […]

The Really, Really Big Book Of Short Stories

When I decided to stop writing short fiction, it was for a number of reasons. I was overloaded with contracted novels. Short genre fiction was fun to do but financially worthless and too many anthologies were edited without any sort of critical judgement. A good editor can lift an anthology head and shoulders above the rest […]

The Long And The Short Of It

Stuck indoors? Feeling cooped up? Day 4 of my self-incarceration found me asking what exactly it is I did when I went out so much. It couldn’t just have been shopping and meeting friends, could it? Admittedly I’m in an unusual situation; my home is half-inside, half-outside because everything inside faces out, so I am […]

Hilaire-ious

The discussion of nonsense poetry and in particular cruel Victorian verse brings us – as noted in the Comments section of yesterday’s blog  – to the master, Hilaire Belloc. The stern-looking Anglo-French historian and writer Hilaire Belloc was also a poet, satirist, soldier and political activist. Among the most versatile English writers of the first […]

Ruthlessly Funny

The Victorians were a callous lot, really. A gentleman named Harry Graham started writing very Victorian fiction, light verse, journalism and history in his twenties. His memoir ‘Across Canada To The Klondike’ was published after his death and is mercifully lost, but in 1898 he published a volume under the pseudonym Col. D Streamer called […]