A Site For All Ages


When I started this site in 1878 I never thought it would last thing long. A blog about books, how original. And we can use it to flog your tawdry output, said the publisher’s PR. Oh, and we’ll want full access to it.

The result was the Bryant & May website, disastrous from Day One, peppered with plugs and content popping up from nowhere. I closed it down and set up this one, without worrying about parameters or demographics or advertising books. My only concern was to provide you with author access.

I did not cater to a particular age group. Outside certain genres, long-tail authors tend to draw their own ages (something to do with shared memories, no doubt). Although I wrote many novels of a feistier, more zeitgeisty nature they aged faster. The Bryant & May series appeals to more mature readers – the comment I get most is ‘My parents love your series’, which gives me a clue that they haven’t read ‘Soho Black’ or ‘Spanky’ or ‘The Master Builder’.

I had not intended this. I figured, a story is a story. But I’m suspect there aren’t many younger readers, even though I’m mindful of language and tone (Sherlock Holmes remained family fare until Anthony Horowitz misjudgedly brought paedophilia into ‘The House of Silk’.)

My sentence construction can be a little more demanding than crime fiction’s usual default setting. I know that, and it’s deliberate. Now there may be an explanation for the demographic appeal – and with it comes proof that older readers are better readers.

In one of the largest studies ever undertaken into national intelligence, new research from Imperial College London shows that your way with words doesn’t decline with age – the traditional graph has become rather different. Literary faculties now decline as we pass from young adulthood to middle age, but linguistic ability increases well into the 70s and 80s.

The surprising results are to be broadcast on BBC’s Horizon show on May 4, and are expected to show that the change has occurred due to the harmful long-term effects of social media. The association between stress and social media is actively hampering IQ so that 40 year-olds have the puzzle-solving abilities of 12 year-olds. Although Milennials read, they choose very little fiction.

It was previously thought that the total number of words people know declines from age 50 onwards, but older readers have completely upturned the theory. They may eventually be the only ones who get mental access to more complex written word. Experience, curiosity, a preference for deep reading over swiping and browsing, all play their part.

And from the School of the Bleeding Obvious comes a list of ways to improve the 40s lit-dip, from better diet (Mediterranean, basically – fruits, nuts, protein, fish, olive oil), more exercise and reading an awful lot more books.

So you see, in a way, this was about flogging my books after all.

17 comments on “A Site For All Ages”

  1. Eric Brown says:

    1878? I didn’t know you were that old, Chris.

  2. Gary Hart says:

    After being stuck in this long, I definitely feel that old, Eric.

  3. In strange situations, we can lose our sense of time. It reminds me of the foreign gentleman on a coach tour of England who arrived at Runnymede at one o’clock and was disappointed to have missed the signing of the Magna Carta by 45 minutes.

  4. admin says:

    It was a joke, jeez!

  5. Eric Brown says:

    It’s reassuring to know that our way with words doesn’t decline with age. I’m sure my imagination has, though, along with my ability to spot a joke.

  6. Roger says:

    Our sense of humour becomes more idiosyncratic as we get older, I think, Eric Brown, which means we miss other peoples’ jokes and they miss ours.

  7. Ian Luck says:

    I sent someone at work a picture from ‘Blackadder The 3rd’, with the dialogue showing the grandiloquent language Blackadder uses to annoy Dr. Johnson. It’s all nonsense, but so beautifully constructed, it could be real – especially if one considers the verbiage used in the Regency period. A reply came back: ‘Why do you think this is funny?’ The recipient is a millennial. As the late, great Stan Lee would have put it: “-‘Nuff said.”

  8. Helen Martin says:

    It’s comforting to think that my occasional inability to find a specific word may just be Altzheimer’s and not a decrease in vocabulary. On the other hand, every time someone repairs, installs, improves, or otherwise monkeys around with my computer I end up with more and more serious difficulties in using it.

  9. Debra Matheney says:

    Inability to find the right word leads to interesting conversations in my house all the time. It is my understanding that it is not Alzheimers. I now think it is because my large vocabulary has crowded out the ordinary words I can’t find in a given moment, thanks to this blog.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Debra, what a wonderful problem! Leave all computers set to an on-line dictionary and leave a paper one readily to hand. Just think how you could be adding to the knowledge of all those habitue(e)s of your area. Do you ever have that traffic jam feeling in your head when you know there is a perfect word or phrase but everything wants a try so you just babble for a bit until the traffic clears.

  11. Helen Martin says:

    (So I lost it anyway. Rats.) So glad I can think of a positive problem, Debra. Just think of the positive effect you can have on all the people around you. Set the computers to an on-line dictionary and have a physical one available and you could double vocabularies. Do you ever feel a traffic jam in your brain when you are sure you have one perfect word or phrase but everything in your head wants to get out and take part so you have to just babble until you have some traffic control in place?

  12. Helen Martin says:

    As a result of the fluffle over that last entry I now have larger print size and don’t have to lean forward and squint.

  13. John Howard says:

    I’ve decided to adopt my venerable old mothers attitude. If I can’t quite recall a word or phrase i’m convinced I used to know then it must have fallen out of the back of my head because I have rammed to much new stuff in the front.
    I’m not sure about the rest of the chaps out there but, even though I started out with B&M all those years ago, I read everything of yours I can get my hands on. The complete oeuvre in fact…..
    Now that I have wrestled that little gem from my grey cells I will go for a lie down with a stimulating cup of char.

  14. Jo W says:

    # John Howard,
    I too have been saying the same to myself and to others to reassure. I’ve filled up the shelves and filing cabinets in my top brain, so new information pushes out the old, to be stored downstairs in the basement of my mind. If I can’t recall something at once, I say that the tiny librarians in my mind will look up that answer when they’ve finished their tea and popped downstairs.
    I think that’s why an answer sometimes comes into the front brain several days later. I have even woken in the middle of the night and written it down straightaway,in case it’s been re-filed by morning.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    Jo W, pleased to know that it is all up to the librarians. Perhaps there could be a better response if we ensured their supply of strong tea and a fireman’s pole for quick access to the deep storage of our minds.

  16. John Griffin says:

    I’ve had that retrieval problem for about a decade, sometimes a bit of an issue when teaching and about to utter a key term or name a key study (great fun flanneling round it though). Then my 17 year old students confessed to having the same problem – Tip Of The Tongue afflicts all ages.
    I’m trying to expand the library by learning Welsh, partly for the mental exercise, and partly having lived in Swansea for a decade and never learned any except ordering pints.

  17. Helen Martin says:

    I admire your courage, John. It’s a complex but beautiful sounding language and I wish you luck.

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