Great Britain

Should Crime Novels Reflect The Times?

How much of the times can you reflect? For most of the twentieth century the crime novel has been timeless, a place you could go where nothing much ever changed. Crime novels do reveal when they were written, of course. I instinctively place a pre- or post-war bracket on the older books I read. And […]

Back To The Seventies!

There’s a good reason why everyone keeps comparing our present situation with that of the seventies. The Sunday Times recently reminded me about the 1973 oil shock, when the Opec nations turned off the oil supply in response to Israel’s Yom Kippur war. Already reeling from economy-crippling battles with the unions, governed by a high […]

Suitable For All Ages

Acceptance is such a small step for anyone to take A while ago I went to dinner with a publisher who brought along his 85 year-old mother without even thinking to mention it. She proved to be sharp and funny and enhanced the table considerably, preventing it from descending into an endless discussion about book […]

The Moment My Country Left Me

My mother once gave me her explanation of the Union Jack. ‘It represents unity. We are four countries, not one, although we should be three.’ She never told me which one she would take out, but I assumed it was Ireland. As a child I formed a very clear idea of what my country was. […]

Schrödinger’s Virus

Summer, distinguishable from spring by nomenclature only, gave us a better manifestation of philosophical pessimism than Schopenhauer ever came up with. And as it shrivelled and dribbled away it seemingly took with it Covid, which has largely vanished from British front pages even though the infection rates on our overcrowded little island are higher than almost […]

Clouds In My Head

Winter Is Icumen In After last year’s glorious summer there was a hope that this year Britain would enjoy the same, but to gamble on the weather is to have your hopes smashed. Here’s the Met office on why it felt like the British summer was flushed down the drain; ‘The perception of a summer […]

This Topic Is Dangerous

If you can shut out the world you can keep your prejudices intact. Thinking about my memoir ‘Paperboy’ there was a topic I meant to cover and did not include. It relates to the use of language and explains why any book or film depicting the past will always be wrong. It goes without saying […]

Slap Them, They’re French

    Last year an American academic accused me (very politely) of being racist. As someone forged in the multi-cultural stewpot of Central London you can imagine how this went down with me. But – sigh of relief – it turned out that she was talking about Arthur Bryant’s attitude to the French, so that’s […]

London Diary: None Of Us Are Going Quietly

Well, it’s been a pretty downbeat month, especially when I was informed a couple of weeks ago that my chemo didn’t take at all. Oddly the one part of the poisoning process that seemed to work perfectly well was the development of nasty side-effects, which have crippled me. The sole remaining option is a possible […]

No End of Empire

Britain’s empire legacy has left behind a complex tangle of traces, and you can still be wrong-footed as a guilty liberal. I was recently reprimanded by an Indian festival organiser after I carefully used ‘Kolkata’ instead of ‘Calcutta’. I’d assumed the anglicised version was simply outdated, as India has been free from colonial rule for more […]