Reading & Writing

London In The Tropics

The brutality of tropical life shocked the unprepared British I’m not sure I can sustain the image of a rainswept London for much longer in my fiction. It’s rapidly ceasing to exist. This year London has been hotter than Ibiza; nearly three months of blazing sun so far, crystal skies, birdsong and emerald fecundity. The […]

Hidden On The Top Shelf…

My parents owned a forbidden book. I could see it from where I sat in the little reading chair they had bought me for my seventh birthday. On the top shelf of the bookcase was a massive brick with a heavy-looking matt-black canvas cover. The title was printed in silver and was too small to […]

Mr Fowler’s London Writing Talk Part 2

This is the conclusion of my little talk on London writing. Let’s move on 250 years. At the start of ‘Bleak House’, Charles Dickens famously points out that there is so much mud in the streets that it would not be surprising to meet a forty-foot Megalosaurus ‘waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn-Hill’, and […]

Re-Reading In Lockdown: Jack Finney

As a kid I spent a lot of time sick in my a kind of personal lockdown, where you could see other kids outside through the closed window, so reading became nourishment and conversation. There were certain authors who spoke to me, and I later realised that many of them wrote tales tinged with fantastical […]

Isolation Tales 12: ‘The Night Museum’

Although the isolation is now guaranteed for a further three weeks, I have a feeling that full isolation won’t be lifted until at least mid-June, especially with UK death figures still rising. In that case, the last story in this series of twelve Isolation Tales may not be the last. Meanwhile let’s end with a […]

Isolation Tales: Cupped Hands Part 2

Here’s the concluding part of ‘Cupped Hands’. The sun vanished behind the water truck, and twenty minutes later the land turned blood-red. A deep star-ranged darkness dropped with the falling temperature. They had both packed mylar travel blankets, because they were light and folded up small. Huddled in the cab, unable to sleep, Neil tried […]

Thought-Provoking Lockdown Reads: ‘The World Of Yesterday’

I’m embarrassed to admit that the first time I had ever heard of Stefan Zweig was in the credits of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. That film has helped to push him back into the limelight and encouraged Pushkin Press to bring out new editions of his essays and his novellas. The subtitle to ‘The World Of […]

Isolation Tales 11: ‘Cupped Hands’

I once stayed on a Greek island that had no naturally occurring food or water. Everything had to be shipped in from the mainland. I kept thinking, what if the supply ship fails to turn up? This was the basis of Polly Hope’s unsettling novel ‘Here (Away from it all)’. I think the following story […]

Thought-Provoking Lockdown Reads: ‘The Science Of Monsters’

This fascinating book is the kind I would usually prejudge and overlook; it would appear to be a patch-together job on a spurious and rather vague subject, but turns out to be surprisingly thoughtful. Kaplan is London-based science journalist looking at the monsters of legend with a serious eye. I was prepared for a rehash of […]

Isolation Tales 10: The Scent Of Roses

Sometimes stories spin out of unresolved scenes in my novels. When I was writing my extremely niche novel ‘Hell Train’, mainly doing it for my own amusement, all sorts of sidebars and anecdotal stories were trimmed away from the main narrative. The book still ended up packing a ludicrous amount of material into a relatively […]