The Arts

What You Always Suspected About Opera Is True

When it comes to sung classics I’m relentlessly middlebrow. Give me Offenbach or Donizetti over Wagner any day, or Gilbert & Sullivan, although I have a soft spot for most Verdi except ‘Aida’. Despite all efforts to democratise it, opera remains relentlessly upper class, and therefore periodically deserves to be mocked. There are past pieces […]

The Return Of The Friday Song

Why? Because I’m hard at work on the next Bryant & May novel, and can’t spend 3 hours on the blog this morning! Besides, the glorious weather has returned to its dismal grey state and we might need something to cheer us up. So there’s that. And this. Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee not only […]

The Writing Books That Will Actually Help You

When it comes to self-help books, there’s no category trickier than the creative writing category. There’s no quick fix for bad writing other than to keep on until it gets less bad. Similarly, idea-creation cannot be taught, so all those boxes of flashcards can be thrown out of the window. There’s no single system that […]

Does Brexit Belong In Murder Mysteries?

‘Don’t get too political,’ is a classic writing rule. Readers are also voters of every hue, and you risk offending them. But if you’re going to write a crime novel set in modern-day Britain, you have to at least touch on ordinary life around you to set the story in context. If you overdo it, […]

Not So Stupid

When Mad magazine grew too tame for me I ended up reading National Lampoon, which grew out of the Harvard Lampoon and became a powerhouse of intelligent satire at a time when the USA needed an opposing voice. NatLamp parodied the presidencies through Vietnam, Kent State, Spiro Agnew, Watergate and every other social/ political disaster […]

The ‘Tragedy’ Of Marjorie Bowen

We look back on authors’ lives and judge them according to popularity and success, but the picture is of course more complicated than that. Bowen is an author whose life was as fascinating as her output. She was born Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long in 1885 on Hayling Island, Hampshire (that picture above looks surprisingly […]

The Writer Who Fell Happily Out Of Favour

Some authors are chameleons; they’ll write for decades and never produce a piece of work that defines them to a readership. Others create something so much from the heart that the work takes on a larger life and defines an era. Martino Crowley is from Vicksburg, Mississippi. Born in 1935, he grew up to love […]

Kafkaesque

It’s interesting that in all of the Brexit arguments no-one has brought up the word ‘Kafkaesque’. ‘Byzantine’, ‘paradoxical’, ‘labyrinthine’, yes. But Brexit is Kafkaesque in every way – populated by perverse people, based on impossibilities, an insoluble knot filled with barely glimpsed mysteries. The poor little Prague clerk-turned-writer Franz Kafka, in death as in life, has […]

Writers’ Advice: Go Niche Or Go Home

‘Nobody likes a good all-rounder.’ My English teacher once told that. It’s advice I’ve taken to heart. Over the years, my tastes have become ever more abstruse. Maybe yours have too. Perhaps I’m not the only author who has Gilbert & Sullivan, Steve Reichs, hi-BPM hard house and Count Arthur Strong on his playlist, but […]

The Best Cures For Sickness

A few years ago I was very ill indeed and spent a lot of time in hospitals, so I always kept a book with me for those ‘surprise’ waiting times when you think you’re about to be seen by a doctor but are sent to sit in another corridor instead. I do remember what I […]