The Arts

Why We Need Hidden Heroes

  By winning the Oscar for Best Picture, Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape Of Water shifted the status of outsiders to the inside. Its liberal credentials are revealed in a variety of ways, from the fully fleshed out key roles taken by a voiceless woman, a middle-aged gay man and a black cleaning woman to the […]

Happy Birthday Frankenstein

He’s a sprightly 200 years old. Mary Shelley was only 20 when she conceived of a monster created from parts of animals and humans, galvanised to life. Her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley had attended anatomy classes and was fascinated by electrical experiments, which suggests that his ideas may have fed into hers. On that infamous […]

Melodrama: The Unloved Genre

There are only a few categories of film that can be guaranteed to draw fire from critics. Satires, westerns, musicals – and melodramas. This last one has long been out of favour. Historically, a melodrama was a serious play interspersed with  music accompanying the action. Now it means a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events […]

Nymphs Begone!

One of my favourite art galleries is the Manchester Art Gallery, with its astonishing collection of Pre-Raphaelites and figurative paintings displayed at ideal heights for close study. It has always amazed me that you could walk in there on a Saturday morning and have the place virtually to yourself while everyone else is creeping around […]

Sublime Moments: Films To Catch

When watching stories on film. I live for the moments when everything comes together in a sublime meld of imagery, language and sound. Watching God’s Own Country, one of the year’s best British films, it seemed at first to be another BFI-funded test of patience, especially as it began with a monosyllabic farmer putting his […]

Why James Bond May Be Over

We currently live in a world of virtue signalling, safe spaces and trigger warnings, in which jargon in the new illiteracy. While I applaud the more practical elements, like the long-overdue attempts to redress the gender balance and the dumping of racism and sexism in the US creative industries, many people fail to understand that […]

When Characters Annoy

As I embark upon the 17th Bryant & May adventure, I have to ask myself; am I still making the characters interesting? I ask because on the US Amazon website, a reader described Arthur Bryant as annoying. He is of course, but in the UK we treasure annoying characters, from Harry Worth, Charlie Drake and […]

When Authors Hide Secrets Part 2

Many authors were only known by what they wrote and a postage-stamp sized photo on a dust jacket. In that sense, at least, they had more freedom than most, for it was all the public knew about them. Now that social media has provided us with too much information, we can find out pretty much […]

Read The Book Or Wait For The Film?

I recently saw ‘The Limehouse Golem’, the film based on Peter Ackroyd’s ‘Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem’. I’d loved the book – Ackroyd in a more whimsical vein, playing with history, but was unprepared for the sheer awfulness of the adaptation. Despite its sumptuous trappings you can instantly spot the fault; it lay with […]

Finding A Balance

Some of my, ahem, more mature readers might recall that I began writing in places of extreme darkness. I’ve never worked out which of my short stories is the bleakest because a good dozen would tie for first place. Over the coming weeks I may try to reproduce a couple of them here in a […]