Writing About People Like Us: Part 1

The world I grew up in is not the world that’s out there now. Every year there’s a competition among young BAME actors in America to perform the best monologues by August Wilson, whose ten-play ’20th century’ cycle is the gold standard by which black actors are judged. Although not well-known in the UK, his […]

A Book Before Lunchtime

Recently I tried to work out how many words I’d written in the service of Bryant & May. Each time I work it out I get a different figure, but it runs into millions. You can more than double that if you add in my other writings. People are always shocked by this, but if […]

Wrong End of the Shelf: Strange Books I Love

Why we should be seduced away from the reading mainstream. For me it started with the plotless symbolist novel ‘À Rebours’ by Joris-Karl Huysmans, in which the hero locks himself away in his house near Fontenay to live in artificial decadence rather than follow the natural order. The strangest thing that happens in the (non) narrative […]

The History Of A Phrase

The language I grew up with isn’t yours. Family members don’t speak to each other as people on the street communicate. Familiarity changes the way we speak. Parents shorthand and pepper their conversations with odd phrases. The family language I grew up with won’t be yours. Much of my father’s conversation was filled with references […]

Got A Brain? Keep It To Yourself.

When did having a brain become a liability? It seems everyone made the same friend during the lockdowns; Netflix could do no wrong. The streaming service rendered DVDs obsolete as it kept refreshing its catalogue. It put out a more diverse range of product than any other service. It produced originals, part-funded co-productions and bought […]

Abney Park Cemetery

Those with long memories may recognise the above photograph, as the angel featured is on the cover of ‘Darkest Day’. My last post mentioned this non-conformist cemetery in Stoke Newington’s main shopping area. At its centre is Europe’s long-standing non-denominational chapel, currently derelict. It sets the tone for the mossy, damp, gloomy yet distinctly urban […]

The Opposite Of Darkness

I love early mornings because they offer the possibility of adventure. We are told that there are no adventures to be had right now, and that we live in testing times. Are we really? We live longer and better than anyone before us. This weekend I walked through Abney Park Cemetery, the maze-like burial ground […]

The Year In Documentaries

  Just as the literary world yielded some of its best surprises in non-fiction books this year, the top factual films have bested their fictional counterparts in terms of courage and originality. Fiction films have suffered from the black hole created by studio absence, but our attention has been shifted onto far more interesting material. […]

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 […]

What Are The Bryant & May Books Really About?

There are questions people in every profession ask each other. Apparently when actors who have played King Lear meet each other the first question is always, ‘How heavy was your Cordelia?’ Ours is, ‘Are you still writing those…’ along with a heavy implication that you should have given it up years ago. WS Gilbert’s fiancée […]