The Arts

Yeah, But Apart From Shakespeare…

Every now and again someone asks, ‘Why is all the attention on Shakespeare?’ And it’s true that the canonical Shakespeare tragedies and comedies are endlessly revived ahead of his contemporaries. The Bard’s pre-eminent glory tends to eclipse the splendour of his fellow dramatists, who don’t get much of a look-in. When you’ve a mountain in […]

Inside Writing 4: You Never Escape Yourself

They say it’s always too late to jump on a bandwagon; by the time you see it coming it has passed. But for the writer, originality comes with its own problems. If your book presents something too fresh it can’t be slotted into a category, nor can it be summed up in a line, so […]

When The Characters Take Charge

It took me years to realise that books are made by characters, not plots. Yet sometimes characters are so overpoweringly real that they go in search of the author – beware of creating fictional figures that might spring to life when you least expect it… In The Land of Laughs Jonathan Carroll’s hero is an […]

Review: The Visit

Olivier, National Theatre, London ‘The Visit, or The Old Lady Comes To Call’ has the feeling of a timeless fable that has always existed. That’s why Swiss-German playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play gets revised and globally performed – adaptors have seen in it a vehicle for different messages. Songwriters Kander & Ebb had the audacity […]

No, No Nigel!

I canot beleev it. Nigel Molesworth, the curse of St Custards, is to becom the star of a feetur film! How can Peason, Grabber and Fotherington-Thomas make the jump to the big screen? Will Headmaster Grimes (BA, Stoke-on-Trent) still be feersum? The producers behind the animated feature ‘Ethel & Ernest’ are teaming up with Uli […]

Musical Sentences

Last year I wrote about the shaping of words, and how we can learn from music and the spoken word when writing books. Scriptwriters Galton & Simpson explained how long they argued over the word ‘very’ in the sentence, ‘Why, that’s very nearly an armful!’ in their famous radio/TV episode ‘The Blood Donor’. The trick […]

He Was No Saint

Everyone of a certain age can remember the theme music to ‘The Saint’. The creator of the quintessentially English stiff-upper-lipped hero was Leslie Charteris, born in Singapore in 1907. His experiences working on a rubber plantation, in a tin mine, as a gold prospector, fairground carnie, bus driver, pearl fisher, bartender and professional bridge player […]

20 Years Of Bryant & May!

I’m sitting before the blank screen about to type the title of the 20th Bryant & May book. It’s a good time to reflect on what I’m doing and whether I should even be doing it at all. My mystery series is deliberately, perversely esoteric. Does that make it elitist? It also features a pair of […]

Dracula AD.2020

Dracula and I have a long history. I had read the book at an early age – it was the sort of novel my mother preferred to keep over say, ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I was not old enough to see the definitive Hammer Dracula – I’d watched the Bela Lugosi version on TV and found […]

Modern Murder Mysteries Pt.3: The Spy With Breathing Problems

As much as I love Golden Age mysteries and 1950s thrillers, they have to be considered in the zeitgeist of the times. The shocking secrets hidden by murderers and their victims are no longer shocking. The motives that women concealed from men and vice versa were once the stuff of great mysteries. Murderous impulses could […]