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Christopher Fowler
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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 that even the snowflakes are covered in soot, 'gone into mourning for the death of…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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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 elements. Ray Bradbury was my favourite, and although I could not identify with his Illinois…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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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 Yesterday' is 'Memoirs of a European', and the common ground between the Jewish Vienna-born author…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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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 origin stories for vampires and werewolves (only coupled together…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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I keep a list of the books which are guaranteed to make me smile. As everyone keeps evoking the Second World War at the moment I wondered, how did the British cheer themselves up during wartime? One of the ways was by turning to the sprightly comic novels of Caryl Brahms. Caryl (nee Doris Abrahams) Brahms and 'Skid' (ne Simon Skidelsky) met in a hostel and shared the same ridiculous sense of…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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If you made a list of your reading influences from the age of eight to eighteen, what would they be? Partly because we didn't have any kids' books at home, mine reading included the simpler Dickens and Shakespeare tales (thankfully introduced to me at an early age), Mervyn Peake, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hammer horror, Ian Fleming, the Pan Books of Horror, Marvel comics…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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I'd forgotten that Bryant & May crop up in my black comedy 'Soho Black'. Of all my books it's probably the oddest man out. But I wrote it for a specific reason; the story is effectively true. Beneath the puns, jokes, movie references and snappy dialogue lies a more serious intent. If you substitute 'serious physical or mental illness' for 'death' in the book it all becomes clear. My agent said, 'I…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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There's a healthy market for bad books. Game of Thrones fans were so upset by the final series of the epic show that they started trolling the two scriptwriters. When you Googled 'bad writers' that month, the first thing that came up was a photograph of the pair. Viewers were upset that their invested time had not been rewarded. Yet readers who slog through long, disappointing novels would never…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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'If you're woke, you dig it.' Well, that answers the question; the word 'woke' first appeared in 1962, after William Melvin Kelley said it in a New York Times article that suggested beatniks had appropriated slang from African-Americans. Kelley was 24 at the time and lived 'uptown, way uptown.' He was interested in idiomatic language, and said his grandmother had told him that 'ofay', meaning a…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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There remains, clear like an adventure, the day. Today I started the 20th Bryant & May novel, to be published in 2021, which may seem a long way off to you but is actually a little behind schedule, which is why author's works continue to appear after they drop dead. A blank page, then. How to mark it? Last week, as I finished the edit on the next Bryant & May novel and the latest incarnation of…
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