Reading & Writing

It’s All Just Words

Pressing The Nib I’m bored of writing about illness so let’s discuss more interesting subjects. Did the above sentence bother you? The ‘of’ instead of ‘with’? I notice the Youngs are using it. Does it matter? The flickering intricacies of the English language would test the patience of a poet. We learn to write in […]

Rereading: It’s Like Buying Pre-Owned Fashion

Nobody in my family ever dies. My mother made it past 90 with a cheery smile on her enormous false teeth. My Uncle John is a fit, happy, tanned and laughing marvel at 91 (he sent a text to his son the other day. ‘Have you got my extension ladder?’) My feisty non-nonsense Auntie Doreen […]

Writing: The Planning Stage

Serendipity plays a large part in finding inspiration I’m thinking of starting another book, and to do so I’m going through the hunter/gatherer process that always occurs at this stage. It’s complicated and works differently every time, but part of it involves churning through the work of many writers and thinking about the way they […]

Dark Talk with Hull Noir

  A lovely book discussion from members of the online crime fiction festival Hull Noir, feat. the superlative dame noir Cathi Unsworth, author of the knockout Bad Penny Blues, here banging on about Bryant & May…

Short Story: ‘The Scent Of Roses’

Short stories are not making a comeback, they’re still unpopular, but being a great fan of all things unpopular I still write them. A few years ago I wrote this amuse-bouche, and have since discovered that there may be more of a back-story to it than I realised. I’ve added a postscript.          The Scent […]

There’s Not Always A Word For It

  A letter reaches me from reader John Healey in South Australia who has twigged one of the longest-running games I’ve been playing in my novels. My love of esoteric language has occasionally encouraged me to add rare words, and to sometimes make them up. I figured that if Billy Shakespeare could invent over 1,700 […]

Tomorrow Is Another Story

I’m tempted to write a literary book about stasis Today I stumbled across a great file of film pitches for ‘Roofworld’, ‘Spanky’, ‘Calabash’ and many others. I have files full of such presentations, most of which you can date at a glance. Few of them ever got beyond the script stage. One or two are […]

Popping Out For A Spell

Writing is a craft first and an art second. It happens every few years; someone suggests we abandon correct spelling in schools to ‘liberate’ children from rules and level the literacy playing field. This month, in a clickbait story designed to have Daily Telegraph readers clutching their pearls, universities have been talking about abandoning correct […]

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?’ […]