From The Slush Pile…


At this time of the year agents and editorial assistants heave a sigh and turn to the great stack of manuscripts that have been emailed to them over Christmas. The truth about the slush pile is that actually agents quite like them, but discard 95% of all submissions within a page or two because the […]

Three Taboos 1


1. The Missing Males   This is the first of three short pieces on new taboo subjects. And it’s something I first noticed on the last tour – an almost total absence of male readers in the audiences. The only men who turn up now are students or retirees. Anyone else is an anomaly. A […]

When Is A Bookshop Not A Bookshop?


…When it’s my home. And only one of many bookcases, I’m afraid. It’s a minor compulsion and nearly under control; I can deal with it. The habit starts young. My mother had a cavalier disregard for books; she’d plough through them, bending corners, filling them with crumbs, dropping them  in the bath, using a fag-end […]

Shelf Interest: Books About Books


‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ isn’t the only book about books around at this time of the year. I’ve picked up a few already and I’m sure there are more to come. Here’s what I’ve got so far… Bookshops – they look like the cosiest places in the world to work, don’t they? Apparently not, […]

The New British Devil’s Dictionary


In 1867 Ambrose Bierce, American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer, began a satirical dictionary consisting of darkly humorous definitions. The lexicon was written over three decades as a series of installments for magazines and newspapers. Bierce’s observations were imitated for years before he gathered them into books, first as The Cynic’s Word Book in 1906, and […]

The Forgotten Christmas Authors


The yuletide season must already be upon us because the Christmas decorations have been up in Oxford Street for ages. It’s a season full of lost pleasures. John Grossman is the owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Victorian and Edwardian artifacts and ephemera, and wrote ‘Christmas Curiosities: Odd, Dark, and Forgotten Christmas’ […]

Bringing An End To Bibliophobia


Blame the information age; I have a tendency to overshare. Flicking through Amazon Books I stumbled upon (yes, honestly, I really wasn’t looking for them) the comments section for some of my more experimental novels. If you’ve only read the Bryant & May series you have no idea how perverse my mind can be. And […]

Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Twerp

Old author article

Your first novel sticks to you forever. I thought I’d go to my grave being described as ‘The author of ‘Roofworld’. In fact, it was the fourth book I wrote but the first that came with expectations and a decent publicity budget. The book was about gangs on rooftops, but if I was rewriting it […]

The Good, The Bad And The Censored


I regularly wrote the ‘Cinema Book Roundup’ column for the Independent on Sunday and can’t break myself of the habit, which clearly comes from spending so much time working in the industry. These days tell-all biographies have fallen from fashion, to be replaced by studio-sanctioned coffee-table volumes of photographs, but there are plenty of other […]

‘Stay, The Night Is Young And You Are Enormous!’


(This column is an updated version of one that first ran 5 years ago – I’m away for the weekend) As ‘The book of Forgotten Authors wends its way toward the general public, yesterday I looked back over my chaotic files, getting ready to bung a feather duster over them and put them in neat […]