Books

The Marvellous Mr Moore

Brian Moore is my kind of writer, unplaceable, thoughtful, readable, moving. The Irish-Canadian novelist and scriptwriter wrote a number of haunting short novels (some 20 in all) often concerning life in Northern Ireland, exploring the Troubles and the Blitz. Born into a family of nine children in Belfast, 1921, he rejected Catholicism and explained his […]

The Really, Really Big Book Of Short Stories

When I decided to stop writing short fiction, it was for a number of reasons. I was overloaded with contracted novels. Short genre fiction was fun to do but financially worthless and too many anthologies were edited without any sort of critical judgement. A good editor can lift an anthology head and shoulders above the rest […]

The Long And The Short Of It

Stuck indoors? Feeling cooped up? Day 4 of my self-incarceration found me asking what exactly it is I did when I went out so much. It couldn’t just have been shopping and meeting friends, could it? Admittedly I’m in an unusual situation; my home is half-inside, half-outside because everything inside faces out, so I am […]

Hilaire-ious

The discussion of nonsense poetry and in particular cruel Victorian verse brings us – as noted in the Comments section of yesterday’s blog  – to the master, Hilaire Belloc. The stern-looking Anglo-French historian and writer Hilaire Belloc was also a poet, satirist, soldier and political activist. Among the most versatile English writers of the first […]

Ruthlessly Funny

The Victorians were a callous lot, really. A gentleman named Harry Graham started writing very Victorian fiction, light verse, journalism and history in his twenties. His memoir ‘Across Canada To The Klondike’ was published after his death and is mercifully lost, but in 1898 he published a volume under the pseudonym Col. D Streamer called […]

Sentenced: Why Writers Need To Be Brief

Our default Prime Minister has called for all documents under submission to be no longer than two pages. While some have called this the ‘first ADHD government’ (the condition is now being linked to maternal obesity) I think it’s probably a good idea. The sheer volume of docketed briefs must require the initial application of […]

A 3-Part Guide To Airport Thrillers (3)

The airport thriller was transmuted, first by the supernatural, through Stephen King’s immense and seemingly unedited doorstops, then by one other global phenomenon. There’s a simple clarity to the No.1 airport thriller writer’s storytelling, too, but that’s because Dan Brown can’t write any other way. Mr Brown is entirely beyond parody, as demonstrated by numerous club-footed […]

A 3-Part Guide To Airport Thrillers (2)

The British-Canadian author Arthur Hailey was so generic in his choice of airport thrillers that he called one ‘Airport’ and another ‘Hotel’, and wrote a detective novel called, you guessed it, ‘Detective’. If your gate was closing and you needed something to read fast, at least you knew what you were getting. Airport thriller writers […]

A 3-Part Guide To Airport Thrillers (1)

My flight is delayed. I’m in Gatwick Airport, where newsagent-souk WH Smith have attempted to take themselves a tad more upmarket by separating out their curated books from the main shop. The upmarket book part is called ‘BOOKS’. The other part should be called ‘INFLATABLE NECK BRACES, CRAYON SETS AND TOBLERONES’, the idea being that […]

What I’m Currently Reading

This month’s reads have to be fitted around research books, and I certainly won’t finish them quickly, especially not William Dalrymple’s epic examination of the East India Company in The Anarchy. I’ve read a lot about the plundering corporation who carried out the ultimate form of aggressive privatisation (and relished Jonathan Pryce’s foul-mouthed managing director […]