Reading & Writing

Toward Linguistic Grace


For most of us in the West, English, whether you like it or not, has become the universal language. But because so many others are at different stages of learning it you find yourself simplifying your speech in order to communicate more easily. I don’t mind this at all; it’s good to be reminded on […]

Does Anyone Re-read Old Books?

Tower of books

Regular readers will have noticed a dearth of London articles here of late. This is not due to any antipathy I have for my city; for the past eight months we’ve been living out of suitcases, waiting to move home to our renovated flat, and all my reference books were in storage. Now that I’m […]

Hurrah For Wodehouse!


Comic novels and stories traditionally occupy a low place on the literary totem pole, even when they make serious points. Arguably the most regarded American comic novel in Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’, followed by Updike, Irving and Dunne. In the UK the sprawling comic epic – the type American authors construct so well – is […]

Writing 101: What A Good Editor Will Do

Read a good book lately?

Hardcover book on plate with dinner setting. A slice has been cut out and is ready to eat.

Sometimes I get bugged when people say they ‘haven’t got around to writing a book’ as if it’s a whiffly-whaffly hobby you pick up, like doing some knitting. Writing is a real challenge, I’m still learning, and the process is long. What’s more, it doesn’t end when you think it does. Next comes editing. Editing […]

Writing 101: The Year We Went Dumb


“The love of the painter standing alone and staring, staring at the great coloured surface he is making. Standing with him in the room the rearing canvas stares back with tentative shapes halted in their growth, moving in a new rhythm from floor to ceiling. The twisted tubes, the fresh paint squeezed and smeared across […]

The Marvellous Ms Marsh


Of the big four ‘Queens of Crime’, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers reside in the nation’s collective memory of Golden Age crime while the other two, Margery Allingham and Edith Ngaio Marsh, have become specialist questions in a trivia game. Allingham is now enjoying a major revival, and now – finally – Ngaio Marsh’s books […]

Writing Lessons: Playing With Reality


A couple of weeks ago a lady in an audience asked me; ‘Why haven’t your detectives died yet?’ To which I replied; ‘It is fiction, Madam!’ One of the great benefits of writing for yourself (as opposed to writing by commission) is that you follow no-one else’s style guide. You don’t have to fit into […]

The Writer’s Essential Toolkit


I’m often asked exactly what you need to write. The last in this list should really come first, by the way. There’s never been an easier time to write or a harder time to be a writer. The tools have simplified, but the publishing landscape has become cutthroat. Of course that won’t stop you, so let’s […]

How To Be An Impoverished Writer


Believe it or not, dear reader, I was not always the louche glamorous flaneur you see before you, strolling between international soirees (last two engagements; Methodist Hall Archway Road and derelict arts centre outside Leeds) with no need to work again for at least, oh, a fortnight. Once all I aspired to be was an […]

The Case Of The Author Who Won’t Stay Dead

Death on the Nile

In 1953 Britain entered the New Elizabethan age, but in many ways it was – and continues to be – an extension of the Victorian era. Most of us still live in Victorian houses, with the same social and religious principals, the same class and value system. At the outbreak of the First World War […]