Thinking Slightly Too Hard About A Disney Classic

  Writers don’t sit down to enjoy films in quite the same way as civilians. We get distracted by mis-en-scene, subtext, plot holes and red herrings. We watch out for foreshadowing, signalling and dialogue that’s too on-the-nose. As a result, we tend to prefer ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ over ‘The Lion King’ because the former […]

A Model For British Bookshops

The Mysterious Bookshop, now on Warren Street in New York, has been going since 1979 and is run by the avuncular Otto Penzler. This makes it the oldest mystery specialist book store in America. It’s a treasure trove of mysteries old and new – a niche market that’s run buy experts in the field, and isn’t […]

There’s More Than One Way To Read A Book

Back in 2009 I interviewed my editor at Penguin Random House on the confusing subject of book sizes and shapes. Simon Taylor told me: ‘In the UK, the large size is generally referred to as B format. Trade paperbacks tend to be larger still – Royal octavo or Demy formats. But in the US they […]

Sharp Tongued English

Sir John Gielgud made so many horrendous gaffes that there’s a book about them called ‘Gielgoodies’ – the Shakespearian actor was forever insulting friends by mistake. He was blunt and thoughtless, but it must have been difficult to take offence when he’d say, ‘I don’t think Pemberton’s a good designer. You want someone who will […]

Finding A Way Through Fake News

Fake news. Massaged press releases. Omissions of fact. Inaccuracies. Hidden agendas. Prejudice. And in Trump’s case, outright, instantly disprovable lies. How do you negotiate your way through this minefield to get to what’s actually happening? There was an old tabloid trick that still stands today; print the lie, retract it tomorrow – because nobody reads […]

Stealing From Libraries

Have you ever stolen a book from a library? Is there any circumstance where this is acceptable? We’ll get to that in a moment. First, some background. Libraries figured hugely in my childhood and teenage years, but I don’t suppose they feel as necessary in young lives now, certainly not in time-poor London. Taking two […]

What The Forgotten Authors Did Next

When ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ was heading to paperback, the editor and I realised that some changes would have to be made from the hardback; a year would have passed, and some of the authors were starting to get republished. Occasionally this was a direct consequence of the new attention the author was receiving, […]

Halloween Special: Haunting Images

Hallowe’en has reached a point where Americans might celebrate their holiday by dressing as Post Malone. Clearly we’ve come a long way from bedsheet ghosts and the Legend of Sleep Hollow. Films are now our main source of disturbing images, although the ‘clown in a drain’ thing doesn’t work in the UK, which doesn’t have […]

A Roomful Of Strangers

In an age of MeToo, proactive diversity and gender blindness (all of which I am heartily in favour) I did start to wonder where all the weird old white men had gone. Now I know. The Pulp and Paperback Book Fair in Bloomsbury brings them out in droves. These are a special breed of hunters, […]

Halloween Special: In Praise Of The Grotesque

The trickster who appears, causes havoc and vanishes is an ancient myth in most cultures. The idea of a stranger sweeping in and unsettling the locals is especially connected to America’s geography. Unconnected towns joined by single highways made perfect targets when travelling salesmen, circuses and preachers came to visit. Tricksters got in and got […]