Liquid History

At first glance, John Warland’s ‘Liquid History’ looks a tad undernourished. This pub crawl in a book is a handsome little hardback filled with scrappy pen sketches and only seems to feature a handful of over-familiar boozers. Ye Olde Chesire Cheese, check. The Grenadier, check. the horrendously overprice George Inn, check. But dig a little […]

New Year, New Reading

I devoured David Sedaris’s ‘Theft By Finding: Diaries Volume One’ when it first came out. I love American essayists. They’ve successfully made it an art form unique to America (although we used to write them in the pre-war UK) and Sedaris has a unique way about him. It seems as if he is viewing the […]

Where Did All The Male Readers Go?

In the last few years, the book-reading and publishing demographic has radically changed. In the press this week, Elisabeth Strout warned against the dangers of women writers dominating fiction as both authors and publishers. ‘We need to mix it up. I also wish there were more male readers of fiction.’ Overall, males are still ahead […]

A Paint Pot Full Of Blood

Oh no, I thought, haunted paintings. Elderly men raising flickering candles to canvas as the figures move… It’s a supernatural genre that has never worked for me, except for Oscar Wilde’s coded parable, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, and even that falls apart when films literalise the painting to show not a nameless horror but […]

What I Read Last Week

I was a fan of the deadpan dissector of New York life many years before Ms. Lebowitz became a national treasure like Dorothy Parker, able to make Martin Scorsese collapse in fits just by opening her mouth. I even remember the first joke of hers that I read; ‘The outdoors is the bit you go […]

A Sheffield Talk 2

(This article is continued) Arthur Upfield inspired a killer to copy his fictional perfect murder. Kathleen Winsor became the subject of a sex scandal. Other authors like Simon Raven never learned how to deal with sudden success and succumbed to a variety of hideous fates. Some were simply unlucky, some shied from the spotlight and […]

A Sheffield Talk

Some while back I gave a talk about forgotten authors in Sheffield. I’m not sure I’ve published it before, probably not in this form. It may be of passing interest only, but here it is; Once there were popular novels almost everyone owned. Mum had Georgette Heyer, Dad had Eric Ambler, kids had Billy Bunter […]

Behind The Scenes At The Cheltenham Literary Festival

The smaller literary festivals – the ones where you have to stay overnight in a hotel room that still has a trouser press – are a bit like attending a bathroom fittings convention. We drink too much, stay up too late and have a good moan about work. The Cheltenham Literary Festival is not like that. […]

Why Does Dracula Never Grow Old?

He’s the IP that never needs fresh blood. His fans still lap him up. What’s the appeal? The thirst for new material from the old Hammer Films studio is extraordinary, and an entire industry built up around this esoteric corner of the entertainment industry. The above volumes have been republished with new sections bringing the […]

Writing: The State Of Play

A quick health check on the average writer reveals that the patient is not doing so well. The average median income from writing for those who spend more than half their working life on books is around £10,000 p.a. It gets worse; Between 2006 and 2018 the average income for authors fell by 42%, according […]