Reading & Writing

So You’re Going To Write A Book…

Dinner talk

No wonder they describe plays as having ‘a run’; actors often compare performing eight shows a week to training for a marathon; they exercise, diet, stop socialising and commit themselves to continual practice. Writers do it as well. A book you care about writing consumes you. It’s the job you bring home from work and […]

A Little Summer Reading

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It’s a beautiful sunny day in August, just before London turns overbaked and blowsy in the protracted death of summer. I’ve been wandering in Regent’s Park, and am now sitting in a chest-high lavender field in King’s Cross, London, where armchairs have thoughtfully been provided for passers-by. I’m reading another book by Jim Shepard. I […]

An Adventure Into The Fantastic

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  It goes without saying that writing fantasy is very different to writing a crime novel. But I didn’t realise just how different it was until I attempted one. It not only doesn’t read like any other kind of literature; it doesn’t write like one either. My favourites in this genre would include ‘Gormenghast’, ‘The […]

Want To Be A Writer? Prepare To Be Lonely

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‘This has given me friends all over the world’, says Tony Hancock, patting his radio transmitter. ‘None in this country, just all over the world.’ Social media gives you a false sense of what friends is all about. But consider the writer; you work alone, at home or in a quiet place, and your head […]

Plugging Into The Public

Wood Green Fest

Church hall. Rainy Sunday. Hardly any audience. We’ve all been there (luckily the very funny Lloyd Shepherd was there). Every author will tell you the same thing; in general, meeting the public is a fantastic experience, but every now and again you get someone who makes you question why you bother. I once had a […]

Banning ‘Experience’: Words That Annoy

I’ve finally become my parents; they were sticklers for grammatical exactitude. I knew it would happen, but I think it’s largely because I read so much. Books, posters – this poster. As noted in the previous post, there’s a Sherlock Holmes ‘experience’ currently at Madame Tussauds. It’s a word routinely added to any activity which […]

Invisible Ink: Horace McCoy

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One of Malcolm Gladwell’s rules states that the key to success in any field is partly a matter of practicing a specific task for around 10,000 hours. This seems especially true of writers; it usually takes a great deal of experience to become a debut novelist. Horace McCoy clocked up a lot of experience before […]

Wonderful Books, Awful Books

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Now that ‘Invisible Ink’ is finally wending its way toward us in a definitive form (publishers being met, deals being studied etc) I find myself with a dilemma. The weekly column, which ran for almost ten years in the Independent on Sunday, perfectly suits expansion into a longform format, but I’d like to sift the […]

Invisible Ink: T Lobsang Rampa

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W H Auden was wrong; there are some books which are best forgotten. By the time the memoir of a Tibetan monk entitled ‘The Third Eye’ turned up on the desk of Secker & Warburg, it had been turned down by most leading houses. S&W took a punt and published it in 1956, and the […]

Apparently I Have A New Book Out

Reconciliation Day

Otto Penzler is a legend in the US book world. His store, The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC is a counterpart to the late, lamented Murder One in London. He has his own imprint, the Mysterious Press, and has edited a great many fine award-winning anthologies. To help his store along, he periodically asks authors to […]