Reading & Writing

The Enemy Of The Comma

The Ending Soars into Very English Tragedy ‘A novel from the author of several previous books,’ said the Amazon logline about ‘Jubb’, one of Keith Waterhouse’s astonishing black comedies. Was there ever a less appealing biography? I’m not sure I want to live in a world where ‘bibulous hack’ Waterhouse is out of print. His […]

Writing About People Like Us Part 2

To write a family scene I really have to use my imagination ‘Don’t show me pictures of your baby,’ says Brendon Gleeson in ‘The Guard’, ‘they’re all the same except the really ugly ones.’ For a couple of decades selfish London urbanites looked upon children as if they were visitors from Mars. ‘Are they dwarves?’ […]

Some Crime Authors Deserve To Be Locked Up

A lengthy conversation with my agent this morning on the subject of writing (what else?). I’ve been receiving review copies of lots of crime novels, many of which I find completely unreadable. Partly this is down to their authors’ use of cliché, but often it’s the sheer unreality of everything, as if it’s all been […]

You Too Can Be A Writer!

Let’s have a laugh at some would-be writers who spend their precious time sending out unsolicited manuscripts with lines like these, from an editor who wishes to remain anonymous…   David wasn’t much, she admitted, but at least he was an up-and-coming businessman or lawyer. She screamed in the soprano range until her diners came […]

Beyond The Lockdown

The news this morning that people are frantically booking their post-lockdown flights felt predictable. Imagining perhaps some sunlit moment when the shackles of the world are released and we all dance away into the Elysian Fields, it seems increasingly unlikely that such a scenario will unfold. The idea of attending a fiesta in Seville, say, […]

How Bryant & May Saved My Career

You don’t need imagination to write drama, you need empathy This week I finished the main draft of ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’, the 20th Bryant & May novel, and became aware that I’ve entered a new stage of a writer’s life. I started very young with no confidence at all, fooling around with elaborately […]

Lying For A Living

  Lying for a living is no longer the sole province of the writer. A complaint from a reviewer today about a new historical fiction. ‘It’s interesting, but would have been so much more exciting if we’d known it was a true story instead of fiction.’ Why? The obsession with true stories strikes me as […]

No Time To Read?

When I was young I used to have a framed print of Charles Edward Perugini’s ‘Girl Reading’ on my wall. It’s amazing how many paintings there are of women reading – perhaps because it was considered a genteel, passive image, demure, ladylike and calming. It also suggests virginity or purity; the girl in white, the […]

Fancy Words & Plain English

This is the latest in an occasional round-up on readers and writers, books and their readability or unreadability, general discussion points for us all. First up; Are you a book snob? Recent reports suggest that one reason for not buying e-books is that others don’t know what you’re reading. Women find men who carry books […]

Death Under Lock And Key

Meet the king of the keys… He was the bard of the barred, the lord of the locked-up, the king of the keys. Robert Adey worked what I could only call an extreme niche of the murder mystery writing trade. Throughout his life (he died in 2015) he had collected notes on his particular area […]