When I Hated Being A Writer

  You might fill a church hall but you’re not Beyoncé I was once in a European bookshop when the bookseller asked; ‘Are you famous?’ I turned to my friend. ‘Am I famous?’ She considered the question for a moment. ‘Well,’ she told the bookseller, ‘he’s known.’ There was a time when I became known […]

Why I Tried To Hate JK Rowling

I was once on a tube train sitting opposite a young punk who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan; ‘Mother Theresa Is A C*nt’. I was shocked, but also had to stop myself from laughing. It had been a long time since I had been surprised by someone insulting an untouchable treasure. When […]

Finding A Way Through Fake News

Fake news. Massaged press releases. Omissions of fact. Inaccuracies. Hidden agendas. Prejudice. And in Trump’s case, outright, instantly disprovable lies. How do you negotiate your way through this minefield to get to what’s actually happening? There was an old tabloid trick that still stands today; print the lie, retract it tomorrow – because nobody reads […]

Hallowe’en Horror Is Going To Be A Problem This Year

In these newly extreme times, the one area in which extremism hasn’t triumphed is in the arts. As we approach Hallowe’en I wonder how long it will be before the spectre of horror censorship rises again, and art that shocks is banned. If any serious film dares to address, on any level, the problems of […]

Pleasing The Crowds

In 2015 Public Policy Polling asked voters in the US primary elections whether they favoured the bombing of Agrabah. A third of Republicans said they did, with 13% opposed, the figures reversing for Democrats. Agrabah is a fictional town from Disney’s ‘Aladdin’. It’s now known that people ignore science that doesn’t fit with their currently […]

Madness From Nowhere: ‘Killing Eve’

Autumn is a viewing-and-reading time for many people connected with media and the arts. October has ‘Super Thursday’, the day when over 500 books are published, more than on any other day of the year. The London Film Festival is on, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts is running all of its […]

Predicting The Future From The Past

The science fiction author JG Ballard predicted that writers would soon become obsolete. They would be like Victorian stock characters, with no discernible purpose in the world. He suggested that given external reality is now a fiction, you don’t need to invent it anymore. It’s an idea echoed by Adam Curtis, a Ballardian documentary-maker, here; […]

Could Box Sets Kill The Crime Novel?

At this time of the year crime books metaphorically hit my doormat in increased numbers, and a lot of them look the same; blocky white sans-serif typeface on moody landscape shot, a copy line that reads something like ‘She awoke from a coma to find her daughter dead…but what if she’s still alive?’ Inside the […]

The Mystery Of My ‘Uncle’

My mother came from an age when there were still unspoken family secrets. It took me years to realise that her mother was not her natural mother but a relative who had raised her. That was when I heard about my purported uncle Jeffrey. There were two many surnames floating around on my mother’s side […]

As Cassandra Was Saying…

Hardly anyone remembers his name now, but William Connor was once such a beloved figure and national treasure that he was knighted. He was a columnist for the Daily Mirror who wrote under a more familiar name: Cassandra. Known for concision and clarity, he wrote for the everyman. Famously his articles were cancelled during WWII, […]