My English Is Not Your English


As proof that the English language is always changing, in the British Library, the Evolving English WordBank now contains 1,500 contributions to date, many of which are dialect words. This is a system that records new words or old dialect ones from the public, but it turns out that some in current use have a […]

The Elle Word


No Spoilers In a week where a judge who asked a woman in a rape trial why she couldn’t just keep her knees together has resigned from the Federal Court of Canada, and in a time when America has a president who routinely degrades women for fun, it seems that ‘Elle’ could not be more […]

The Return Of The Political Dispatch


While I was at school I became obsessed with Watergate. I bought every book on the subject and tried to understand how the President of the United States could fall to the level of a common criminal, using the language and behaviour of a criminal. By the time I got around to G Gordon Liddy […]

Splashing Out In London


It’s easy to forget that England is a temperate zone, and so London, at its centre, gets no real extremes of weather. You can get sunburnt in Devon and see snow in Scotland but most of us are within a steady range of temperature. None of which explains our passion for open-air swimming. London has […]

Seeing London Through Someone Else’s Eyes


I have European guests staying with me at the moment, and each day they set off across the city to experience it before returning and describing what they saw. Of course it’s spring so they’re getting four seasons in one day, which is driving them mad, but it’s interesting to note what else they love […]

Fighting The Curse Of Sentiment


I’ve always believed in maintaining a healthy level of cynicism, but worry that sentiment may creep into my books with age. With a couple of exceptions I’ve managed to keep it low in the Bryant & May novels (and am actually raising my cynicism level in the next one) but sentiment has been the ruin […]

What I’ve Been Reading


Usually I’d post this on GoodReads but I find their interface a bit messy and frustrating, so I’m running it here this week. First off, I loved ‘Larchfield’ by Polly Clark, about a mother-to-be in a remote past of Scotland, fighting with the neighbours, trying to stay sane and write poetry, and finding a surprising […]

What’s The First Book You See In A Bookshop?


I grew up surrounded by strange experimental books from the likes of Brigid Brophy and BS Johnson. These were my touchstones, not Austen and Brontë. Being able to read great literature as well as other types of books doesn’t mean you have to prefer it. As more books than ever before are published, it’s interesting to […]

A Warning Against Originality

plastic cover art mockup v2

Somebody asked me the other day if ‘Plastic’ was ever published. I explained that it was a few years ago and is now an e-book too, so this piece is about the effort that went into the attempt to create a short, unclassifiable novel. I had grown up in the sixties surrounded by strange experimental […]

Living In ‘The London Bubble’ Means…

A giant soap bubble floats past the Houses of Parliament in central London October 29, 2012.  REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS CITYSPACE)

*uses West Country accent* ‘So what’s this ‘London Bubble’ we’ve been reading so much about then?’ It’s a state of mind that clouds us in the capital and stops us from thinking properly. It’s the thing we enter when we open the Evening Standard property pages, look at an article praising a stack of minuscule […]