Reading & Writing

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 […]

Why You Should Write For Nothing


We’ve just had the Frankfurt Book Fair, where rights are sold, and new trends emerge. I am now a long way into my career, with dozens of published books and an uncountable number of unmade film scripts, and selling each novel is a new challenge. Writers complain that the market is hard, genre is disrespected, […]

A Writer’s Life: Why You Need A Good Editor


In today’s world has everywhere been written about? I’ve read novels set in North Korea and among ancient tribes. What about the modern state of how we live now in the UK, our relationships and confusions, and the way in which ‘career portfolios’ replace traditional jobs? US novelists write state-of-the-nation books very well, but we […]

The Mystery of George Langelaan scene from the 20th Century-Fox Production "THE FLY". Vincent Price (R) Herbert Marshall (L) and Charles Herbert.

Although he was born in Paris in 1908, Langelaan was British, and lived a life far stranger than almost any of his fictions. By my reckoning, he didn’t get published until he was approaching fifty – so what was he doing in the intervening years? Well, he began as a newspaper writer until the start […]

English As Sheer Spoke


Tip of the hat to the BBC’s Matthew Anderson for finding this tip on the unspoken rules of English grammar. All contrary examples accepted!

Capital Crimes


The British Library has been unearthing forgotten murder mysteries from its stacks for a while now, all with delicious matching covers that look like the old paintings you used to get in separate railway carriages (Anyone remember? Bueller? Anyone?) To be honest they’ve been a mixed bunch, with some dated stinkers mixed in with the […]

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


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


  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 […]