Reading & Writing

‘Don’t Try Anything Funny’

‘Having a pronounced sense of humour is not a job qualification,’ a teacher once told me. I could have replied that having a low droning voice like a distant lawnmower was not a teacher’s job qualification, but I fear that would have proved his point.   Problem is, my desire for high learning is tempered […]

Another Thriller? I Must Be Mad

Of the many different genres in which I’ve dabbled, thrillers are the trickiest. From the mid-nineteenth century novels of Alexandre Dumas onwards there have been thriller rules established that remain in place today. The genre enjoyed a postwar heyday through Ian Fleming, but largely fell out of fashion (kept alive by Lee Child) until the […]

More On The Trouble With Anthologies

To be clear, a written anthology is a set of stories by different authors, often on a common theme. A collection is a set of stories by one author. Some publishers still get the distinction wrong on their covers. The advantage of producing a collection is obvious; the reader gets a kaleidoscopic view of the author’s […]

How Writers Handle Success

In rom-coms, all the effort is put into finding a mate and falling in love. The film usually stops at the altar, as if this is where life ends instead of being where it begins. So with writing; all the effort is concentrated on finding inspiration, writing and getting something published, not on what happens after, […]

How To Exercise Without Leaving The House

So I was wandering about on Amazon, cruising for a casual pick-up in the world of literature, and stumbled across (then purchased) Christopher Hart’s ‘Lost Children’, a novel which has one of those chapters destined to be forever engraved in your mind – this one involves a terrified, unqualified British doctor and a very angry […]

Incoming!

Sally, my PA, says it’s now officially autumn in London. I’m not buying this, as I’ve yet to have my summer holiday (I go next week, off to try some refreshing wines in the delightful vineyards of the Spanish countryside). London is glorious at the moment, fecund and lush and warm, but soon will come […]

The Ideas That Didn’t Make It

For every plot I come up with that makes it into a book, there are twenty that don’t make the cut. Because I’ve paced technology throughout my career, I’ve changed systems with each new technological development and have no hard copies or online files from the past, so I’ve not been able to save these […]

Writing For The Few, Not The Many

  I once wrote a book I couldn’t sell (not once actually – about a quarter of all my novels go through this ‘nobody-in-their-right-mind-will-publish-this’ phase). ‘Calabash’ was a coming-of-age novel about a clever, lonely teenager who accidentally falls between a rundown British seaside town in the 1970s and a fantastical version of ancient Persia, where […]

Where To Set Your Story

So I’m sitting in a seafront restaurant and friends explain why we’re here at this awkward location; a scene from John Le Carré’s ‘The Night Manager’ was set here. It never occurred to me to set books anywhere other than London. I remembered the opening chapters of John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’, in […]

Clerihews And Clues

Books are often dedicated to other writers. GK Chesteron’s strange novel about anarchist terrorism, ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’, is dedicated to EC Bentley, born in 1875. The pair had met as schoolboys at St Paul’s and became fast friends. Bentley went to Oxford, but left law studies to become a journalist, in which profession he […]