Where In London Can You Buy…?


…a stuffed owl?  in ‘Get Stuffed’ on Essex Road, Islington. …unlimited lattes, fresh fruits, yoghurt, croissants, a pain au raisin and a pan au chocolate, in smart surroundings, all for a fiver? In ‘The Hub’, King’s Cross. …a ship’s bell and an anchor? In Arthur Beale’s, of course. …cult novels in a floating bookshop while […]

London’s Last Lamplighter


The collecting of London books is an art in itself. On one side you have densely factual volumes such as Richardson’s ‘London & Its People’, photographic essays like Grant’s ‘Village London’ and Christopher Booker’s devastating ‘Goodbye London’, which catalogues the treachery of developers in the seventies. There are wonderfully mad endeavours like Hessenberg’s attempt to […]

Blowing Up The Planet


The deranged despots of North Korea and a mentally disturbed American president aren’t all we have to worry about; last week another Icelandic volcano threatened to detonate, surrendering us to a further three months of no-fly zones – luckily, it didn’t happen. But it reminded me about an earlier cataclysmic event in world history. In […]

The Second Time Around


Sometimes you just have to stop buying books and seeing new films and reassess what you already own. This month I’ve been going back to books, movies and shows I didn’t give enough time to first time around. I’ve rediscovered a love for Florida-based crime noir, especially John Dupresne’s series about a therapist dealing with […]

Where Are The Stories For Our Times?


What a decade! How do you encapsulate it? Murmurings and mutterings; the rejection of global economics, the rejection of free movement. As more parts of the world become unstable, the pressure on those areas which are relatively calm increases. They’re safe havens for cash and companies, property and tourism. With the reduction of popularity in […]

I’m Still Writing About ‘Forgotten Authors’


I delivered ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ to my editor at Quercus about nine months ago. Normally at this point one empties out the attic of the mind and refills it with the research for the next book. But the forgotten authors just wouldn’t go away. Admittedly, I worked on it for ten years and […]

Can Supernatural Mysteries Ever Play Fair?


In real life, crimes are frightening; they upset and disorient and rob you of faith in your fellow humans. There’s an element of fatality and strangeness and ‘Why me?’-ism that encourages superstitious thinking. We don’t tell ourselves that in say, London, which is nudging 9 million, it’s statistically amazing that there are 90 gun crimes […]

Why Readers Know Best (And Writers Should Listen)


  After I’ve created something new, it faces two tests; what the critics think and what the public thinks. In the old days, the second was reliant on the first. I thought of this today, because in the US two movies crowned the box office at 26 and 24 million dollars respectively. One garnered almost […]

Next Door? Mind Your Own Business!


‘UK neighbourhoods are dying!’ cried this morning’s headline. Research in a new report commissioned by the social network Nextdoor, which aims to link people living in the same area, found that ’60 per cent of UK residents would not feel able to borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbours’. First, why would anyone borrow […]

London Locations: Thamesmead Reinvented


This is an update on an article I ran seven years ago (I’m on holiday but yes, still providing content. A duty, I feel). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s it was all but impossible to film in London because of the ludicrous bureaucracy surrounding the buildings. Now, it’s becoming difficult again because of a different […]