Reading & Writing

The 5 Creepiest Agatha Christie Books

Being a contrarian, I probably wasn’t the first choice to be placed on a crime writers’ panel dedicated to Agatha Christie. I wasn’t prepared to sit there praising her uncritically, but I figured her audience was there to hear exactly that, so when official Christie doyenne Sophie Hannah declared that there was no other author […]

Modern Murder Mysteries Pt 2: The Butler Didn’t Do It

Yes, that’s Bryant & May in Lego, sent by superfan David Bond. Apart from anything else, the lighting is perfect. He tells me he’s working on another one. This sort of thing doesn’t usually happen in crime novels. ‘You can say whatever you like so long as you keep a straight face’ is an old […]

Is It Too Early To Mention Next Year?

I am a driven scribomaniac to the detriment of my personal life.   For many authors 2019 was another annus horribilis, as publishers exercised caution in a retrenched market. The competition grew fiercer but the books published (far too many of them) became tamer, and it often felt as if they failed to exist in […]

A Fairytale For Christmas

I promised to post a Christmas fairytale this season. It was written to commission, the brief being to twist a traditional story. There are certain styles you can adopt very easily, the Sherlock Holmes approach for example, and fairy tales have a rhythm all their own that dates back to their Victorian translators. And can […]

Writers’ Desert Island Tools

Let’s imagine you’re cast away on a tropic isle and are still consumed with a burning desire to write. What do you take with you when you leave that burning ship and strike out for the beach? OK, the island has broadband – yes, and shops, let’s not push the analogy too far. My real […]

Writing Week 5: All Change

It’s only been a short while that we’ve been woke to questions of gender and already the complaints have started from certain male critics. The BBC’s new version of ‘War of the Worlds’ has a pregnant female lead living sinfully in Woking as the Martians arrive. And why not? Wells was always a bit thin […]

Writing Week 4: The Rulebreakers

  In uncertain times we demand more rules, not fewer The history of fiction, by which I mean all fiction – I’m not interested in separating ‘literature’ from ‘genre’ – follows the growth pattern of all the arts; rules are established, traditional forms are developed, rules are broken. But something odd happened in fiction that […]

Writing Week 3: The Discipline Of Writing

Most writers can’t work consistently enough to fulfil a publisher’s needs. If you’ve ever wondered why some writers can’t get published and others can’t work fast enough, read on. Readers often tell writers how lucky they are, as if they accidentally become JK Rowling one day. There’s a generally circulated idea that writers waft about […]

Writing Week 2: A Writers’ Round Table

Me: Writing is like sex: Everyone has a different method. Raymond Carver: Get in. Get out. Don’t linger. Me: Writers are guarded and private. ‘Sharing’ is not a word I use around them. They don’t much engage in Socratic dialogue unless you count the testing-out of anecdotes. This is because the novel is always running in […]

Writing Week 1: Beware Of Public Opinion

It was not a time to be sexually frivolous. Let’s get the blog a little bit back on track this week by looking at writers and writing. In Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ the scene is set by the character of Public Opinion, and sometimes it seems as if this figure haunts all who dare to […]