The Arts

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 […]

Cruel, Surreal, Disturbing: The Oddities Of British Humour

Two British things are especially hard to explain and often impossible to understand; cricket and comedy. My mantra on the subject is that slapstick travels across cultural barriers but wit does not. Reading Norman Collins’ ‘The Three Friends’, published in 1935, I find myself noting certain phrases he uses because they are funny while being […]

The Best & Worst Of 2017

For everyone it was an astonishing year in politics; bizarre, divisive and absurd by turns, Trump and Brexit occupying far too much of our energy and attention. Most have come to the realisation that leaving Europe has already damaged our finances and our international standing. Will Brexit have an upside? Perhaps, if it makes us […]

The Third Taboo: Self-Censorship

This is one for which writers themselves (me included) are culpable. Writers have often been outsiders, and have had a tendency to write without boundaries. The great censorship battles of the past are well documented, from ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and ‘Main Kampf’ to ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (oh, the irony). ¬†Naturally many banned books have sexual content, […]

Three Taboos 2

Our next taboo concerns ghettoised writing. As someone who prefers inclusivity at any cost, I now feel impatient with the ghettoisation of certain types of literature; women’s writing, gay writing and to a lesser extent black writing, only because I find it hard to read about any section of the population in isolation from any […]

Raquel!

As I’m now only a short distance from the Mayan complex of Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan it occasions me to forget the astonishing history of this lost civilisation and recall instead the truly hideous 1970 TV special ‘Raquel!’ which featured Ms Welch singing and posing her way through different world locations with Tom Jones […]

The Eleven Minute Rule

I’ve been looking for patterns in reader satisfaction. Working on the Forgotten Authors project for so long has given me a sense of what proves popular, and it seems to me that readers are both open to originality and experimentation, and a good, simple idea well executed. What I think readers don’t like is over-complexity […]