The Arts

Bryant & May: World-Building For Beginners Part 2

As we saw yesterday, world-building comes in all shapes and sizes, from the epic to the miniaturised. Which brings me to the Bryant & May novels. There was a little controversy in this site’s comments about proofing which has a direct connection to world-building. I base everything on known historical facts – often there are direct […]

Bryant & May: World-Building For Beginners Part 1

  Which books have created a world for you? It’s not just for fantasy writers. The creator of every story has to make his or her world convincing. The most extreme examples are practiced by authors like John Crowley, Ursula LeGuin  and Paul McAuley, but we all have to do it to different degrees. The […]

Finding The Rhythm Of Words

Words can fall so perfectly on notes that you can’t tell which came first. Whenever I’m stuck on a chapter, particularly one that demands an amusing situation, I read about other writers discussing their craft, from Noel Coward or the Simpsons/Seinfeld writers to stand-ups. Recently I returned to the older end of British comedy writing. A […]

The Joke’s On Us: Where Does Comedy Go Now?

I wrote this a decade ago: ‘The English sense of humour really takes a lot of explaining. It’s a mixture of coarseness, camp, surreality, amateurishness, cruelty, subtlety, wordplay and dark dry wit. We don’t do puns – they’re loved by the French. We do like the strangeness of language (why else would we find the […]


After reading yesterday’s comments, I quickly researched the PSB films recut from COI and GPO shorts. They seem to have started out with many musicians, who eventually boiled down to two, who became the band Public Service Broadcasting. They’re appear to be British, thoughtful, low-key backroom boys who have discovered a niche and give live […]

Magic Moments

Magic is having a bit of a moment. A new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection on London’s Euston Road is called ‘Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic’, and looks into the neural connections between the mind and the wand. Why do magic tricks, many of which hinge on a ludicrously simple premise, still fool people […]

Stowing Thrones

(No spoilers) With the end just a stone’s throw away, it was time to stow the thrones. Watched in 170 countries, winner of the most American awards, it wasn’t the biggest US TV show ever (that honour belongs to M*A*S*H), but Game of Thrones acquitted itself well in the audience stakes. It concluded tidily after […]

What You Always Suspected About Opera Is True

When it comes to sung classics I’m relentlessly middlebrow. Give me Offenbach or Donizetti over Wagner any day, or Gilbert & Sullivan, although I have a soft spot for most Verdi except ‘Aida’. Despite all efforts to democratise it, opera remains relentlessly upper class, and therefore periodically deserves to be mocked. There are past pieces […]

The Return Of The Friday Song

Why? Because I’m hard at work on the next Bryant & May novel, and can’t spend 3 hours on the blog this morning! Besides, the glorious weather has returned to its dismal grey state and we might need something to cheer us up. So there’s that. And this. Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee not only […]

The Writing Books That Will Actually Help You

When it comes to self-help books, there’s no category trickier than the creative writing category. There’s no quick fix for bad writing other than to keep on until it gets less bad. Similarly, idea-creation cannot be taught, so all those boxes of flashcards can be thrown out of the window. There’s no single system that […]