Monthly Archives: February 2011

Black Comedy Primer: 1

I’ve always loved black comedies. The plays of Joe Orton and Peter Nichols, TV shows like the dark ‘Brittas Empire’ and the blacker-than-hell ‘Nighty Night’, and books like the ones above all work for me. There’s a fine line to getting it exactly right – ‘Lolita’ treads it perfectly – but when it’s good, it […]

Hurt Your Eyes In Trafalgar Square

Two of my favourite things – London and reading – combine on March 4th. The biggest single literary event in history is going to take place in London in just over a week as a curtain raiser for World Book Night, itself billed as “the biggest book give-away ever”, when 20,000 book lovers will give […]

Welcome Back To Cole Bay

‘What’s it like, being in a panto?’ Harry asked. ‘Widow Twankey went to prison for child molesting a few years back.’ Mayhap you recall Cole Bay, suicide capital of the UK? The crummy seaside town where Kay grows up (and from where he falls into Persia) in my novel ‘Calabash’? The book remains a personal […]

‘Galaxy With Your Jane Eyre?’

WH Smith, the stationery souk (‘Do you want a giant chocolate bar for a pound extra?’ ‘Shawarma while you’re waiting?’) sells largely remedial reading matter, and has a private panel which decides what goes on the shelves. They turned down the fabulous chance to stock ‘Paperboy’, saying it was not populist enough. Maybe I should […]

How To Be Unpopular

We’re in strange times for horror and fantasy. China Mieville writes the knockout ‘Kraken’ and gets criticized for being too weird. Stephen King writes four new novellas and gets praised for avoiding the supernatural. TV dramas like ‘Whitechapel’ get greenlit so long as they have a factual element in them. Writers produce fiction based on […]

Taking Europe To Extremes

This rant was brought to my attention by Jennifer Siegel, from my old pal John ‘Muriel Volestrangler’ Cleese, with whom I had the pleasure of working a few times. Good to see that in these times when we carefully avoiding national stereotyping (except, it seems, when it comes to Arab countries, he has maintained true […]

Re:View – ‘Heartbreaker’

French comedies have a very different internal logic to their American counterparts. There’s the same mix of frivolity and cold-eyed ambition when it comes to landing the right man, but the French confections seem less sentimental and prepared to touch on the financial downside of making a mistake. ‘Priceless’ (‘Hors De Prix’) was extremely cynical […]

London’s One Stop Culture Shop

On Friday night I appeared at a terrific Polari event run by Paul Burston, with six of the most varied writers imaginable, talking about everything from South African weddings to bonkbusters. The room overlooked the London Eye, and had a bar and a bookshop, and what was interesting was that the entire South Bank was […]

Favourite Horror Double Bills 2: ‘Orphan’ & ‘The Orphanage’

The former is a guilty pleasure for its Enemy In The Home set-up, its shameless B-movie set-pieces (the hammering of a kindly nun!) and the utterly outrageous twist ending that, for once, feels entirely in keeping with the rest of the film. Kate and John are rebuilding their troubled marriage. Kate drank after her miscarriage. […]

Re:View – Susan Hiller @ Tate Britain

This major exhibition at Tate Britain offers a selection of key works from the Florida-born UK-resident artist, including many of her pioneering mixed-media installations and video projections. Hiller collects, catalogues and restages cultural artefacts and experiences to allow us to experiences the gaps between them. Most rely on a disconcerting aural/ visual mix, some of […]