Reading & Writing

My Favourite Books About Dickens

Writing about Charles Dickens is almost as big an industry as books venerating the Brontë sisters. Every age takes an appropriate critical view that chimes with current obsessions, but where, say, Jane Austen unites critics in worship, Dickens divides for the simple reason that he is so profligate with contrary opinions that it’s possible to […]

Wherever You Can, Whenever You Can

A dear friend tells me he is writing a cycle of seven books. He has never written longform before and shows no inclination to do so. He’s decided to start his career with a world-and-ages-spanning epic that has a vast cast of intergalactic characters. He says he’s just waiting for the right time to start, […]

The Thread Of The Tapestry

In every magazine about writing the question comes up with dispiriting regularity; where do you get your ideas from? And every answer must be different. For me it’s not a spark, an image or a snippet of dialogue that sets me off on the trail of a new story. It’s a twist of thread with […]

Trouble At The Home Office

  This week’s challenge is to create two separate offices in one open-plan flat without damaging the way either of us work. We don’t want to wreck the design integrity or leave cables and peripherals all over the place. The first idea was to fit a desk where those two sofa units at the front […]

Back In The Jug Agane

The healing process is not quite as linear as I’d hoped it would be. Not to sound too Blanche Dubois, but there are good days and ones where the mirrors must be turned… So let’s look at the good news. I’ve been nominated for several awards. The Last Laugh for Best Comic Novel, for ‘The […]

The Voice Behind The Prose

I finally understand what I like about her most. She was cruelly funny. Cynical. Erudite. Surreal. Succinct. A blunt-spoken woman with a chaotic love life, two suicide attempts, twenty novels and a love of Liverpool pubs, and she wrote less like an angel than a demon. There were plenty of attempts to nail down Beryl Bainbridge’s writing […]

London In The Tropics

The brutality of tropical life shocked the unprepared British I’m not sure I can sustain the image of a rainswept London for much longer in my fiction. It’s rapidly ceasing to exist. This year London has been hotter than Ibiza; nearly three months of blazing sun so far, crystal skies, birdsong and emerald fecundity. The […]

Hidden On The Top Shelf…

My parents owned a forbidden book. I could see it from where I sat in the little reading chair they had bought me for my seventh birthday. On the top shelf of the bookcase was a massive brick with a heavy-looking matt-black canvas cover. The title was printed in silver and was too small to […]

Mr Fowler’s London Writing Talk Part 2

This is the conclusion of my little talk on London writing. Let’s move on 250 years. At the start of ‘Bleak House’, Charles Dickens famously points out that there is so much mud in the streets that it would not be surprising to meet a forty-foot Megalosaurus ‘waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn-Hill’, and […]

Re-Reading In Lockdown: Jack Finney

As a kid I spent a lot of time sick in my a kind of personal lockdown, where you could see other kids outside through the closed window, so reading became nourishment and conversation. There were certain authors who spoke to me, and I later realised that many of them wrote tales tinged with fantastical […]