The Arts

Movie Locations No.2: ‘Wake In Fright’

Kenneth Cook’s book ‘Wake In Fright’ is a reminder that a short sharp shock of a novel can be infinitely more memorable than a 400-page thriller. Also known as ‘Outback’, it presents the Australian wilderness as a Dantean cauldron where men’s worst instincts surface. It’s a deeply uncomfortable but highly vivid read. Kenneth Cook is […]

Sharp Tongued English

Sir John Gielgud made so many horrendous gaffes that there’s a book about them called ‘Gielgoodies’ – the Shakespearian actor was forever insulting friends by mistake. He was blunt and thoughtless, but it must have been difficult to take offence when he’d say, ‘I don’t think Pemberton’s a good designer. You want someone who will […]

What Happened Next?

I often write about ideas that occur because I’m thinking about current events, but I don’t follow up with what happened next. Here’s a quick round-up of what DID happen next after certain recent articles.. 1. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was still at work on a historical epic called ‘The Foot […]

The Trouble With Anthologies

The BBC created a tradition of filming a classic ghost story for Christmas (the best of their choices is now out in a collectors’ Blu-Ray edition) and the same problem that bedevils written anthologies is magnified on film. Some stories simply fail to create the intended effect, leaving weak spots in the overall series or […]

Goodbye G&S

The writer Ray Galton has died at 88, following his writing partner Alan Simpson by just a year, and their passing marks the end of one of the great comedy partnerships. The writing team regularly voted the funniest in sitcom history created ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ and ‘Steptoe & Son’. The success of the Hancock show, […]

Perfect Company

In 1970, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim had a show called ‘Company’ open on Broadway which, unusually for him, caught the tone of the times. The hippy era was ending, the swingers had swung and commitment loomed. ‘Company’ was a musical comedy presented in a fugue state, taking place between an intake of breath and its exhalation […]

Writers, Why Don’t You Write More?

I I have a new hero. It’s the terrifyingly prolific British playwright James Graham, theatre’s Boy Wonder (at 36) who tends to have multiple plays running at once. I was astounding by ‘Ink’, his play about Rupert Murdoch and The Sun newspaper, not just because it was intelligent but because it was a smash hit […]

Southern Forgotten

When we trimmed down authors for ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’, two thirds were back-burnered because of information overload; there was a general feeling that we’d have turned off readers. I reluctantly removed Terry Southern even though he was such an interesting candidate. Few people now recall the name of Terry Southern, but he was […]

Wish I Was There: Why We Love Exotic Fiction

The first time I went to Greece, I was in my early twenties and working insane hours. We covered four islands a day via ferries and cargo planes, and everywhere we went the locals would come out of their houses and give us flowers or offer coffee. As most islands had no hotels we were […]

Serious Music To Amuse

For some peculiar reason the British are very fond of being silly around classical music. This dates back to the artist and musician Gerard Hoffnung (I posted a little about him four years ago). In 1956 Hoffnung mounted the first of his Hoffnung Festivals in London, during which classical music was spoofed for comic effect, with […]