The Arts

Why Don’t Undead Tales Die?

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There were only ever a handful of monsters in movies and books. In the 1930s Universal Pictures cemented the main ones into place, although mummies and werewolves proved harder to make scary than vampires and hand-stitched creations. Zombies were left out on a limb after ‘White Zombie’ and ‘I Walked With A Zombie’, until George […]

Ambler & The Pink Thief

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The talents of many 20th century writers were tempered in the heat of conflict. Aldiss, Asimov, Ballard, Heinlein, Heller, Vonnegut, Mailer and Nevil Shute were just a few of the novelists shaped by wartime experiences. Many were not adversely affected and produced fiction that was almost nostalgic for combat. Eric Ambler came from a London […]

Goodbye, Big Screen

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Remember when Hollywood kept trying to turn video games into films and the results were nearly always horrible?Once again the press is crying out that Hollywood is about to collapse – there are no new ideas left, digital spectacles have replaced all other kinds of film, leading to a top ten that consists of nothing but […]

Fighting The Curse Of Sentiment

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I’ve always believed in maintaining a healthy level of cynicism, but worry that sentiment may creep into my books with age. With a couple of exceptions I’ve managed to keep it low in the Bryant & May novels (and am actually raising my cynicism level in the next one) but sentiment has been the ruin […]

Script Ends: Goodbye Alan, And Thank You

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It’s pretty clear to me now that without Alan Simpson and his writing partner Ray Galton I would not have started writing. I first found them listed on the back of an LP (that’s cool vinyl, kids – oh, you’re interested now aren’t you?). It was Tony Hancock’s first album, ‘This Is Hancock’ (I should […]

Your Questions Answered: Taking It Apart

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In ‘Sunday In The Park With George’ we see an artist gradually assembling the component parts for what will become his most famous painting, ‘Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte’, by Georges Seurat. We’re fascinated by how things are created. Yesterday, reader Anchovee says it’s a shame that I should pick apart a successful film […]

A Greylisted Writer

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Much is now known about the blacklisting of writers in the 1950s and how many were forced into exile in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. But there was also ‘greylisting’, the strong-arming of writers to deny their pasts under threat of prosecution. With President Trump’s current tactics with journalists in mind, here’s the story […]

Black Humour Is A Sign Of Intelligence

  That’s what a new study in the journal Cognitive Processing has found; intelligence plays a key role in the appreciation of black humour. A team of Viennese researchers discovered that a group with the highest sick humour appreciation and comprehension scored top marks in verbal and non-verbal IQ tests. They were better educated, and scored lower for aggression and […]

Stretching Credibility

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A comment from Robin yesterday prompts this consideration; when does a book stretch credibility too far for you? On TV that moment is known as Jumping the Shark, after the Fonz in ‘Happy Days’. On film it’s called Nuking the Fridge, after the fourth Indiana Jones film. What is it in books? Personally, I find […]

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 […]