The Man & The Boat

A Night to Remember (10)

As the publication of ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ gets nearer (it’s still not until October), I’m reminded that I had to leave out of it as much as I put in. Here’s one little story that I was forced to set aside, although if the book is a success perhaps it will enter a […]

London’s Best Joke


That joke, in the words of the immortal Ian Nairn, chronicler of London buildings good and bad, is architectural, and is in the East End. Once there were large department stores built all over the capital in imitation of Selfridges, Debenham & Freebody, Bourne & Hollingsworth and the like in Oxford Street. Unfortunately, few of […]

London, Underground Part 2


  Collecting books on London is a lethal habit; you start with a couple of photographic albums and end up building extra-strong shelves for large-format esoteric handbooks on vanished railway stations. So many volumes have been written that one would think every possible area and subject had been covered – some while back I made […]

London, Underground, Part 1


  The touchstone volume for collectors of books about what’s under our capital city is the lavishly illustrated and somewhat mechanically obsessed ‘London Under London’ (1984), but Stephen Smith’s book ‘Underground London’ has become a classic on the subject. It goes several stages deeper by broadening the brief, taking in rivers, conduits, sepulchres, subways, arches, […]

The Return Of London Books


Having just had the in-laws to stay, one of the questions that always comes up is where to send them in London. Having narrowly missed packing them off to Borough on the night of the latest attack, one has to think about this carefully. Many friends have children who only want to go to M&M […]

The State Of My Nation


I’m at a crossroads in writing. I’ve delivered books for 2018 and have a clean slate for 2019. Usually I have three or four slowly gestating ideas in different stages of development. Everything I write reflects something of the times. I make sure there’s themes, parallels, touches of zeitgeist. But after the last couple of […]

Don’t Envy Inner City Dwellers


Apologies in advance for today’s downbeat post – we’ve woken to a hung parliament, an un-negotiable Brexit and appalling economic figures that place our growth at Europe’s lowest level (the highest is that of Romania). ‘You’re so lucky living in the centre of town,’ say friends. ‘Well, I was born there and never moved further […]

Five Hidden London Spaces


Southwood Garden There’s a secret garden right behind Piccadilly Circus. For over 200 years, this plot to the West of St James’s Church was used as a burial ground for the parish. After the war of 1939–45 Viscount Southwood provided money for the ‘green’ churchyard to be made into a garden of remembrance ‘to commemorate the […]

How Should Writers Respond To Terror Attacks?


At an early point in their careers, writers have to respond to a series of unspoken questions. What is our best format for communication? (performance, TV, literature – the disciplines are very different). What style suits us best? (fiction, non-fiction, genre, mainstream, small press) and if we choose fiction, do we reflect the present state […]

Update: Another Night, Another Horror

You start to think that each day when nothing bad happens is a good day. Last night I was talking to my partner and friends who had been out for meals, and it had been a lovely early summer evening, partly because nothing bad had happened. That was before 10pm, when three men rampaged through […]