London Puzzles 2: Dr Johnson’s House

Dr Samuel Johnson once predicted the drawbacks of aviation. In his philosophical novel The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759) he thought about the advantages of flying and concluded; ‘What would be the security of the good if the bad could at leisure invade them from the sky?’ While he was working on his dictionary […]

Hooray For Wakaliwood!

I’m tired of seeing worthy, earnest dramas this awards season. Sometimes you just want to see stuff blown up. After Bollywood and Nollywood (Nigerian productions) we have Wakaliwood, Ugandan productions shot on half a shoestring, which somehow capture the free spirit of the 1970s cheapies from the Hollywood independents, the kind of films they used […]

London Puzzles 1: Bear-Faced London

My local area of King’s Cross was traditionally connected to hunting deer, and the psychogeographic connection remains when you walk around the neighbourhood and spot the number of either accidental or deliberate references to deer and stag horns – they adorn buildings and pubs, often tucked into decorative motifs. Having just read Dr Matthew Green’s […]

The 5 Creepiest Agatha Christie Books

Being a contrarian, I probably wasn’t the first choice to be placed on a crime writers’ panel dedicated to Agatha Christie. I wasn’t prepared to sit there praising her uncritically, but I figured her audience was there to hear exactly that, so when official Christie doyenne Sophie Hannah declared that there was no other author […]

Creating The Right Atmosphere

In the writing of any story, atmosphere plays a far larger part than most readers realise. It’s something you have to consciously select when setting out a scene. I often set London in the rain because it is emphatically not a sunny city. The ‘invisible rain’ which cannot be seen falling but makes the streets […]

The Old Boys On Audio

  Well, none of us saw that coming! The makers of ebooks, touted as the biggest thing since actual books, have discovered that they have a finite audience. They’re mostly purchased by readers who buy more than the average number of paper books. I love ebooks, especially if I’m travelling or the book I’m reading […]

Modern Murder Mysteries Pt.3: The Spy With Breathing Problems

As much as I love Golden Age mysteries and 1950s thrillers, they have to be considered in the zeitgeist of the times. The shocking secrets hidden by murderers and their victims are no longer shocking. The motives that women concealed from men and vice versa were once the stuff of great mysteries. Murderous impulses could […]

Modern Murder Mysteries Pt 2: The Butler Didn’t Do It

Yes, that’s Bryant & May in Lego, sent by superfan David Bond. Apart from anything else, the lighting is perfect. He tells me he’s working on another one. This sort of thing doesn’t usually happen in crime novels. ‘You can say whatever you like so long as you keep a straight face’ is an old […]

Modern Murder Mysteries Pt 1: Razors & Rozzers

Recently I wrote an article for US website CrimeReads, trimming it for space, so I thought I’d revisit the piece here with new information. Interviewed after ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, Leonardo DiCaprio complained that he’d seen a lot of his heroes disappear. He was not referring to his own role as a stock fraudster […]

Unconscionable Crimes & Unpardonable Sins

And so to the grand climax of the year’s movies, which I left until last for viewing partly from fear of disappointment. Martin Scorsese’s controversial remarks about the Marvelification of Hollywood conveniently avoided his own lifelong obsession with Italian-Americans arguing in bad restaurants. The initial unveiling of his long-gestating version of the Jimmy Hoffa story, […]