Observatory

A Postcard From: Lisbon

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Ah, the steep hills and winding gardens, the trolley-buses, the great spanning bridge, the earthquake. I must be in Lisbon. I could have added ‘the Fado’ and given the game away – that mellifluous, doom-laden guitar is never far from any street corner. But the first thing you notice is how Lisbon glitters. Its streets […]

Crime: When Bad Thoughts Cross The Line

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As writing novels in the crime genre is a big part of what I do, I thought I should start an occasional column about crime. I’m particularly interested in unconventional incidents. Following on from Jon Ronson’s book about public shaming, I started looking up more unusual cases in which someone has ended up in court […]

Silence & Boredom

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Last year, the author Dame Marina Warner resigned her professorship from the once-co-operative University of Essex in protest of the government changes made to grants, fees and the rewarding of ‘impact’ over quality of thought. Out went dreaming, imagining and challenging, and in came getting results. Since the end of WWII Britain has had a […]

The Greek Debt Explained

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 It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating  down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling […]

You’re Never Too Old For A Silly Shirt

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Over the years I seem to have collected an unfeasibly large pile of weird T-shirts with slogans from Xana-Don’t! to What Can’t You Do With A Drunken Sailor? My neighbour Dan came up with the one above for us locals, and no, it doesn’t make much sense (although there are crayfish in the canals of […]

Sorry We Ate It All, The Crumbs Are For You

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Young people aren’t having a moan for nothing: It seems there really has been a 10% drop in their prospects compared to the opportunities their parents had when they were young. The 2015 Intergenerational Fairness index reported a year-on-year decline in prospects for Generation Y across a range of indices including housing, education, health, income, debt and […]

Why Does America Value The Printed Word More?

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Recently I had a row (well, an argument in a pub) with a friend complaining about US publishers and the type of fiction that gets published. His point seemed to be that during the Thatcher years UK universities had to sell off manuscripts, and these were bought by the US colleges who then retained the […]

America, You Did Good.

Your Father

  During the first terrifying upsurge in the AIDS crisis in 1982, two of my best friends had their lives torn apart. They had been happily living together and running their own business in Los Angeles for many years when one became ill. His furious family stole their company, ostracised their stricken son and threw […]

Nostalgia Corner: Fun Banned Stuff

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Sitting inside on a beautiful sunny day of around 28 degrees, seeing everyone from my window heading to the beach, I momentarily hate my job and set research aside to get briefly lost in internet dreams. Today’s question; do modern Youngs have more fun and would I want to be a kid now. A resounding […]

Do Creative People Have To Be Liberals?

Rick Jones

I once wrote a story about bigoted Christians, based on a fairly deranged husband and wife I knew in Los Angeles. I wrote it as an inverse of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ because now it’s too easy making the villains Satanists, so I had the threat coming from the supposedly good side. Fifteen years later I’m contemplating […]