State Of The Arts: Everything Awful About The 70s Is Back

When I sat down to write the 1969-set ‘Hall of Mirrors’ I didn’t have to do much period research because I remembered it all too clearly. 1966-1976 was a decade of precipitously disastrous decline for the UK. To go from the futurist, optimistic fantasies of the mid-sixties to corpses stacked outside crematoria while radicalised unionists […]

What Did We Learn From Our National Cinema?

ABC, Odeon, Regal, Gaumont, Roxy, Biograph – the names feel resolutely British, attached to a time when we had a separate national cinema keeping smoky houses filled every night of the week. But the films inside them slowly shifted from London to Hollywood and we no longer saw our own island lives represented on film. […]

The Book That Launched: An Evening On The Golden Hinde

There was a terrific turnout last night for the ‘Bryant & May’s Peculiar London’ event on board the dry-docked replica of Sir Francis Drake’s flagship at London Bridge, even if we all nearly knocked ourselves unconscious on the beam ceilings, raised up these days, so I can’t imagine how low the rooms must once have […]

The Subversiveness Of Superheroes

As a writer of popular fiction (as opposed to literature) I keep myself familiar with other popular forms of entertainment. For this reason alone I sat through most of Netflix’s most expensive film, ‘The Gray (sic) Man’, which comprised a parade of postcard European locations, firepower and exploding vehicles destroyed by cut-out characters in search […]

What Makes A Novel Great?

The author and literary historian John Sutherland asks the question, and answers it himself with ‘How To Be Well Read’, a guide to 500 novels he considers to be great. What defines greatness? A book that is a world first? A game changer? A source of controversy? A novel of immense popularity? Of critical acclaim? […]

All Aboard For Something New

Free at last. No more hospitals for now. Apart from the unappealing carrot of another experimental trial (this one with even lower survival odds and half of it placebos) happening at the other end of the city there’s nothing else, so I’m letting nature take its course. This doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to vanish […]

Holidays From Hell

‘Where was the busload of nuns you ran off the road in a past life that caused you to get this shit?’ asked my friend Roger. He was referring to my holiday text. After receiving the devastating news that my life was not being renewed for another season, I had taken off for the coast […]

Why I Published This Piece

I was very touched to see the comments to this column. I’m lucky to have some of the very kindest readers. I had written the piece out of necessity. When I sat down to look at the jumble of short stories, articles and novels I’d left on my laptop I had an epiphany;  Ie. ‘This […]

Just The A’s

As part of my life laundry, I’m attempting to be more selective in my viewing/ reading and therefore getting rid of anything that has dated badly. Or in the case of Spike Milligan’s ‘Q’ shows (a very long-running anarchic comedy sketch series), very badly indeed, with its comedy blackface and sexism not really making up […]

London, City Of Lies

While I was writing ‘Bryant & May’s Peculiar London’ it became clear that most of what I knew about the city was wrong. In any single story I investigated, the facts changed from decade to decade. Worse, they continue to change to the present day, so that I was rewriting sections right up until we […]