The Arts

No More Classical Allusions?

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‘Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?’ Tony Hancock asks his fellow jurors. ‘Did she die in vain?’ In ‘The Producers’, nervous accountant Gene Wilder attempts to do the books of sleazy theatrical agent Zero Mostel, who terrifies him, inducing a hysterical fit in Wilder. ‘You’re going to jump on me!’ Wilder screams, ‘just like […]

Go With The Flo

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I spent a large part of my life working around delusional types who have ignored the key celebrity maxim; ‘Never believe your own publicity’. But it never stopped them from thinking they had talent where there was none. Actors who step outside their field to comment on subjects they’re not intellectually qualified to cover can […]

How Much Research Is Too Much?

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I remember reading Dorothy L Sayers’ ‘The Nine Tailors’ and thinking, ‘Ms Sayers has definitely fallen into the research trap.’ The murder mystery requires a knowledge of campanology (bell-ringing), and is crucial the plot (there’s a cypher connected to change-ringing, and someone is deafened to death by bells) and although it’s a great novel she […]

On Invisibility

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Writers tend to be prickly outsiders, because if they’re any good they work so many long hours alone that they often lose their social skills. But paradoxically we need to connect with our readers, and lose this connection at one peril. My old boss, a great mentor, told me, ‘If five million people are interested […]

Should We Revise The Arts?

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Arthur Ward seemed an ordinary working class fellow with an interesting middle name (Sarsfield). He was born in Birmingham in 1883, where he grew up to become a civil servant. Early photographs are unassuming, but compare them to his later pictures, when he appears in a silk dressing gown, puffing on what looks like an opium […]

Fireside Chat 1: Something You Haven’t Seen Before

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A new occasional series which aims to jump-start your ideas by commenting on the arts Clive Barker (remember him?) once gave a terrific speech about originality. He complained that genre fiction (crime, SF, fantasy, horror) was always accused by critics of being unoriginal but that general fiction never was. Nobody, he said, ever complains that […]

More Backlist Publications & A Film Student Offer

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  Although I’m currently at work on several new hardbacks, I haven’t neglected the electronic releases of my past books. I’ve been working with Penguin Random House to republish all the volumes which have been out of print for years, all with new introductions and covers, at low prices. So far available are Rune, Red […]

The Secrets Of Santa

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Christmas isn’t all sweetness and light. Some of the old yuletide imagery conjured in songs and stories and on cards is best left behind, especially with its uncomfortable ethnic connotations. Devils armed with whips and demons dragging off naughty children formed the basis of common yuletide stories in Northern Europe, while the Krampus, a horned […]

Writing 101: Are You A Thief?

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This is a new occasional column about the nuts and bolts of writing. Today we look at copying your work from others, or merely being influenced by them. First, listen to this. It’s Hans Zimmer’s music for the title sequence of the TV series ‘The Crown’, and if you think it sounds familiar, that’s because […]

The Friday Song: A Response To Evangelists

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Researching the previous piece depressed me so much I needed something a little more upbeat with which to end the week. Here, Jesus teaches Jimmy to give up marijuana, from the extraordinarily blasphemous (and hilarious) ‘Reefer Madness’, made for US TV!