What’s On The Other Side?

'Blue Peter' presenter John Noakes with the show's new puppy, a border collie named Shep, UK, 14th September 1971.  (Photo by D. Morrison/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  If you are of a certain age, the lineup of Peter Purves, John Noakes and Valerie Singleton will mean only one thing – Blue Peter, the impossibly wholesome Make ‘n’ Do children’s TV show – the longest-running in the world (it started in 1958 and is still going.) These are the only things anyone […]

Why ‘1984’ Got It All Wrong


At school I became obsessed with US politics, and now the obsession has returned. As someone who grew up with the relatively fair-play concepts behind soft-spoken British manoeuvrings, the idea that a leader entrusted with the nation’s voice could be impeached for burglary and lying about it seemed surreal. Nixon proved the tip of an […]

From Bristol With Love


I’m at Bristol Crimefest, talking with authors and publishers about books and what’s ahead. Bits of Bristol like the Christmas Steps are charming, although the city seems to have endless building works. The Crimefest writers and guests are erudite and great fun to hang out with, and there are some terrific US writers I hadn’t discovered […]

The Rise Of Comfort Entertainment


Noel Coward once said; ‘Television is not for watching. It is for appearing on.’ He may have been right, because that’s what a lot of British teenagers seem obsessed with trying to do. Yet TV viewing is up – so what’s the explanation? A media friend recently spent a day getting data results from a […]

By The Backwaters Of Amazon


When I’ve read myself out and still need to spark ideas, sometimes I watch the weirdest footage I can find on YouTube (thereby red-flagging myself to some FBI outpost, no doubt), but lately Amazon has also become something of a curio corner for collectors of the obscure. Try their collections of cartoons for kids, and […]

I’m Moving To A Five-Post Week


Thanks to those who offered me advice about social media, and the time it eats up in my job. I think the best way to deal with this is by making a small change. Due to Brexit and rising prices, I shall be switching to a five-post working week online. (Well, that’s what everybody else […]

How Much Time Do You Spend On Social Media?


Last night I spoke with a writer who does no social media at all. Every morning I start my day by doing two hours of social media work. I love writing this site, hate Facebook because there’s simply too much on it to cope with, and enjoy Twitter because I like reading the articles people […]

The Return Of The Political Dispatch


While I was at school I became obsessed with Watergate. I bought every book on the subject and tried to understand how the President of the United States could fall to the level of a common criminal, using the language and behaviour of a criminal. By the time I got around to G Gordon Liddy […]

The Friday Song Returns!


As I was researching the swinging sixties,  I recalled this snippet from the film ‘Head’ directed by Bob Rafaelson. The Monkees copied everything the Beatles did, so when the Beatles made ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, a self-indulgent farrago that nevertheless spawned a staggering number of timeless hits, the Monkees made ‘Head’, which didn’t. Bits of it […]

Where Will An Anti-Trump Film Come From?


Rebuilding Satire Who will be the first to satirise this almost-unsatirisable change in America before Trump – who has already started banning reporters from briefings, so far CNN, the Guardian and the New York Times – starts the kind of censorship that always accompanies rising warmongers? So far Hollywood appears toothless, although they require a […]