Reading & Writing

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


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


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


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 […]

Invisible Ink: Richard Bach


There are certain books that only college students have the patience to read. In the seventies ‘Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask’ and ‘Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’ were romping up the book charts in university towns. Each generation of wide-eyed freshers promotes one of these […]

Should You Write Ideas Or Action?


You have a great idea for a novel. You want to explore a particular theme. As you develop your characters, who adopt alternative viewpoints and lay out their arguments that you have spent a long time researching, you start to worry if the tale is becoming too dry. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of putting […]

Invisible Ink 9: Stacy Aumonier


There’s something twinkling and Christmassy and resolutely English about Stacy Aumonier. His ‘Extremely Entertaining Short Stories’ feel as if they should be read aloud by a roaring fire. Why is he so little known? He was born near Regent’s Park into a family of craftsmen and artists in 1877, and reached 51 before dying of […]

Invisible Ink 8: Lady Cynthia Asquith

by Walter Benington, for  Elliott & Fry, chlorobromide print, mid 1930s

  I often think that female authors from the past excel at cruel stories with emotional and possibly supernatural tints, using apparitions, fears and forebodings to indicate heightened states of unspoken emotional distress. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (now a staple on every English student’s comparative literature list), a wife possibly suffering from […]