From The Slush Pile II


A few more gems from the stack of unsolicited manuscripts that reach publishers, giving an insight into how the minds of some would-be writers work… ‘You didn’t have to be an in-law to hate her guts,’ said Chester, ‘no pun intended.’ His pen poised, John hesitated over the white breast of the page. Immediately after […]

From The Slush Pile…


At this time of the year agents and editorial assistants heave a sigh and turn to the great stack of manuscripts that have been emailed to them over Christmas. The truth about the slush pile is that actually agents quite like them, but discard 95% of all submissions within a page or two because the […]

Cruel, Surreal, Disturbing: The Oddities Of British Humour


Two British things are especially hard to explain and often impossible to understand; cricket and comedy. My mantra on the subject is that slapstick travels across cultural barriers but wit does not. Reading Norman Collins’ ‘The Three Friends’, published in 1935, I find myself noting certain phrases he uses because they are funny while being […]

The Year I Finally Lost Faith In British Politics


There had been times before; notably, when Edward Heath’s electability as Prime Minister hung on his ability to win a yacht race for the electorate, and again when the grey accountant John Major filled the country with red tape-bound middle managers. And who could forget Gordon Brown, fine as a best supporting actor but useless […]

The Perfect Cocktail: Words, Music & Images


I play music while I work, to the point where I suspect I can’t work without it. First, its cadences seem to help the rhythm of language. Second, it masks my tinnitus. Lyrics tend to interfere, and I’ve often found them an annoyance. So, it seems, do other people; the lyricists of ‘La La Land’ […]

How Authors Were Shaped By Their Readers


I still search for reasons why men aren’t reading fiction, and wonder if the time-consuming habit of box set bingeing has made a difference. Apart from the vast difference between enjoying prose and watching images, is watching the whole of ‘The Night Manager’ different to reading the novel in one sitting? How does anyone find […]

My iPhone X Review


I know, it’s just a phone. But in the same way that Lyra, the heroine of ‘His Dark Materials’ has a daemon always at her side, phones have become our inseparable equivalent.  I have a very few bits of tech I keep up to date, but this is one. It’s already a cliche, but the […]

End Of Year Q&A


It feels like I did a million Q&As this year, but I realised I hadn’t done one for you. So today you’re the guest editor. You can ask me anything you ever wanted to ask about writers and writing, or any aspect of the arts, and I’ll try to give you some concise answers. Imagine […]

Advice From A Snapper


This post was inspired by a very good BBC article about David Hurn, a dyslexic Welsh schoolboy who through luck and good judgement became one of the world’s few elite Magnum photographers, taking some of the 20th century’s most iconic photographs. In the article Hurn, now 83, asks himself how he managed to reach this […]

Into The Future: What’s Coming Up


At this time of the year newspapers are full of predictions; Nitrate-free bacon is coming! And highways of driverless cars! And miraculous medical advances! Sadly, most of them not in my lifetime but maybe in yours. When technology geared up for the next great leap forward none of us realised that its two biggest manifestations, […]