Reading & Writing

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 6

In Richard Hughes’s ‘A High Wind In Jamaica’, some British children living in the Caribbean survive a hurricane and are sent back to England, but are captured by pirates. It’s an adventure about children, but certainly not aimed at them. Because in a turnabout, it’s the pirates who have to be afraid…it’s a haunting book […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 5

  The project of unearthing these writers became a labour of love that made me new friends around the world, as I tracked them down and heard their stories. I discovered how Walt Disney saved banned European writers, how a bestselling Tibetan monk turned out to be a plumber from Devon and how Alfred Hitchcock […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 4

The comedy writers Galton & Simpson once told me, ‘happiness is boring. It’s tragedy that’s funny.’ I’ve always admired David Nobbs, John Braine, Winifred Holtby, Alan Sillitoe, Stan Barstow and Keith Waterhouse, who mixed dark and light together almost without thinking. Their lessons were well learned and I find myself peppering my Bryant & May […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 3

Every book lover has a favourite forgotten author. But for everyone who loves an Agatha Christie, there’s another who adores a good Margaret Millar. For every Sherlock Holmes, there was another great detective. I decided to investigate further and was deluged with suggestions from readers. I uncovered a wealth of stories about why writers vanished. […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 2

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead. Changing tastes, shrinking budgets, fads, fashions and poor cataloguing all conspire against the budding author. Authors often kill their own careers by refusing to do publicity, getting bored, being difficult or getting fed up with punishing delivery schedules. The more original and […]

Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 1

Over the next six days I’m doing something different here; I’m going to publish a version of the talk I gave around the country on the subject of authors we have loved and misplaced. I started from a template and tended to spring off in different directions for each talk, depending on the mood of […]

Weirdly Forgotten: The Eventful Life Of Algernon Blackwood

In the league table of lately obscure British writers, the name of Algernon Blackwood ranks pretty highly. When you try to remember him, images from a handful of strange short stories might come to mind, and such memories may only have stayed with you at a subconscious level because his tales were collected in the […]

The Secret Life Of Objects

Objects. You only have to use them. We writers have to describe them, over and over again. After a while you start to run out of ways to describe a table or a coat or a drink or rain. Weather conditions crop up in every book, and colours are so frequently required that you end […]

Think You’ve Mastered English? Read This.

  This is not a piece designed to show off clever long words, but to reveal that English is more complex than you’d imagine. In the process we’ll go from Virginia Woolf to Tom Jones. Follow me there. An article republished from a US journal appeared in the Guardian this morning. Researchers have been trying […]

On Tour With The Author

There was a time when authors were regularly packed off around the UK and the USA to talk to the grand matrons of the book clubs. There are authors who still get the star-treatment world tours, but they’re the famous ones, the centres of the Venn diagrams, the movers and shakers who have their own […]