Billy Liar

The Enemy Of The Comma

The Ending Soars into Very English Tragedy ‘A novel from the author of several previous books,’ said the Amazon logline about ‘Jubb’, one of Keith Waterhouse’s astonishing black comedies. Was there ever a less appealing biography? I’m not sure I want to live in a world where ‘bibulous hack’ Waterhouse is out of print. His […]

The Opposite Of Darkness

I love early mornings because they offer the possibility of adventure. We are told that there are no adventures to be had right now, and that we live in testing times. Are we really? We live longer and better than anyone before us. This weekend I walked through Abney Park Cemetery, the maze-like burial ground […]

Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: Dan Banbury

Many, many books are written by outsiders. Writing is a solitary, strange occupation, and writing well requires enormous willpower and single-mindedness. It occupies writers’ minds and possesses them. There is a constant need to improve, yet I can open a cheap crime novel from the 1940s and find better writing than I am capable of […]

A Cover Is Not A Book…(Part 1)

…so open it up and take a look,’ sings Lin Manuel-Miranda, but in the hands of a good designer a cover can be a powerfully persuasive tool. In a modern bookshop with limited space covers must communicate a lot to browsers, and I have often been compelled to buy a book by its cover. Natasha […]

The Most English Films Ever Made

The rubbish line-up of the Oscars this year set me thinking, not that I set any store by these awards; any supposed system of excellence that could ignore ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Singing In The Rain’ and ‘Vertigo’ isn’t worth bothering with – If you were to look down the list of most popular British […]

Our Friends In The North

Being a Londoner, this blog inevitably gets Londoncentric, but I have a great affinity with the North. Londoners trot out lazy, obvious prejudices about much of the North, forgetting that it was the great Victorian driver of international commerce, through industries like wool, shipbuilding, steel, coal and china. Every major city had grand civic buildings […]