The Arts

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 […]

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 […]