WRITER'S BLOG

May 24, 2018

How Philip Roth Nearly Killed Me.

Well, I'm sorry Philip Roth has died. But thinking about him and his idiosyncratic take on the world he lived in reminded me of an incident from long, long ago in my must-spent youth when he was very nearly responsible for my early death.

It was summertime and I'd driven down to beautiful Lyme Regis. I was, I hoped at the time, a rebel, a risk-taker and experimental in my attitude to experience. In other words, I was an art student who'd read Jack Keroac, de Quincey and many others. And I'd probably understood very little. But on this day I had a little mescaline in one pocket, Keat's Endymion in another, and a copy of Portnoy's Complaint in my bag.

I settled on a cliff top overlooking a truly spectacular view and took the mescaline. I sat crossed legged with a notebook in front of me ready to draw my visions, or the seascape in front of me , or to write poetry.

Nothing happened. There were no imaginings of transcendental beauty, no incredible creativity, and no words of wit or wisdom occurred to me.

I began to get bored so I took Portnoy's Complaint out of my bag, propped myself on my elbows and began to read. Previously I hadn't been particularly entranced by a story about a young guy's wanking history but after about twenty minutes I began to laugh. Every word Philip Roth wrote struck me as so hysterically funny that I was rolling on the ground convulsed with unstoppable laughter.

A couple of ramblers very fortuitously interrupted me just me as I was about to roll off the edge of the cliff. I'd like to take this late opportunity to thank them for saving my life, and for the bottled water they made me drink; less for the lecture, but hey, life-savers don't have to be perfect.

And writers don't have to be killers. But. Philip Roth nearly was.

April 26, 2018

Normal Service?

There have been several excuses in the past couple of weeks to gnaw my fingernails down to the second knuckle.

First there was the Post Office telling me there is no connection between itself and Royal Mail: that false information put on a label by someone at the Post Office which resulted in a lost parcel had nothing to do with the PO because the information on the PO’s computer was from a Royal Mail site. Not our problem, mate.

Then there’s Bose who refuse to repair a very expensive piece of kit even if I pay them (more…)

April 23, 2018

Born Again Porn Again. Seriously.

Coming back to a horrible subject – I receive regular pornographic emails. I consign them to junk and block the domains of the senders, but they just keep coming.

Occasionally I check them out. Some purport to be sent by men, others by women. The stuff supposedly sent by men threatens me with exposure for wanking to porn sites. When it's apparently from women who 'know what men want' it is simple-minded and disgusting. Both approaches presume to be telling men what they want and what they're doing about it. That’s a presumption insulting to men and damaging to women.

Are men so stereotypical in enough numbers to make this kind of fishing worthwhile? (more…)

March 25, 2018

Lost Treasures

Last week my friend joined the likes of TE Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway when he lost two crucial chapters of the book he’s writing.

This concerns me because I was helping with rewrites and editing. In my clumsy way I take a hard copy and on it write in pencil all my corrections, suggestions and lyrical pensées. Pencil notes can be erased and ignored but if they’re lost they’re gone forever. No copy exists, no carbon, no electronic trace on a memory stick.

You’d think, in the electronic age, that this kind of incident was a thing of the past. (more…)

March 14, 2018

Hello My Victim

Today I had another email from Haggerty James which began, ‘Hello my victim’ and ended ‘Think twice.’

Apparently I have been filmed masturbating to porn. My blackmailer will send the video to everyone on my hacked contact list tomorrow unless I pay $290 US using bitcoins. There are detailed instructions about how to mine bitcoins.

As scams go, I think this might be quite a good one. I like the idea of pornography being made using the customers of pornography as its subjects. And I like the idea that there might be a few people around ashamed enough to pay up.

Porn isn’t a victimless crime.

March 5, 2018

Recent Movies

All the movies I’ve seen in the past few months have been women led: Hidden Numbers, The Florida Project, Molly’s Game, Three Billboards in Ebbing Missouri, Lady Bird, and I, Tonya. These are not all art house movies. They may not be big budget La-La-Land fare, but they’re American and Hollywood-ish. There’s a lot to applaud. And a lot more to hope for. Although I have to say I felt that I, Tonya was a true American tragedy, played for laughs.

I’m so impressed with two older actors: Frances McDormand and Laurie Metcalf – absolutely riveting, bad hair and all.

February 25, 2018

Good News, Delta

I did not know that, among other airlines, Delta had been offering group travel discounts to NRA members. Insanity. Isn't it illegal to take guns onto planes anyway?

Their children are being killed by children with guns.

Yet there's such a ridiculous, cruel fuss about abortion in the USA. It's easier to get a gun than a termination. Again, insane – when it’s been proved that there's such a dreadful knock-on effect on health, mental health, crime, and gun crime when women aren't allowed to decide for themselves how many children they can manage.

Our own dear NHS – yes, the one that wants to cut back on vasectomies etc – should listen and learn.

February 21, 2018

Stuck in the Middle with You

There’s a magpie on the roof opposite. It’s wagging its tail at me – which I will take as a sign of encouragement and approval. Starting a blog? Really?

When I begin a new piece of work I always start in pencil, on paper (as I’m doing now.) When I have about seven pages I copy it into the computer. Seven handwritten pages are roughly 2,000 words – which seems to be a critical mass.

That was what I was doing yesterday. And while doing that I found I needed to check out which of the Romantic Poets probably took opium and whether or not Keats’ Endymion begins with a dream that fit the notion. It does. And then I found a rather entertaining chat-room by googling the question ‘What does opium smoke smell like?’

Apparently the sweet flowery smell is a myth. (more…)

Selected Works

Don't judge a book by its cover, or a bag lady by her appearance. "I didn't always look like this," she says. "Being barmy doesn't mean I'm stupid." Lady Bag does have her problems - her close relationship with cheap red wine, for example. When she gets hammered she talks to her dog. When she's extra-hammered her dog talks to her. Guess who makes better sense. She and her greyhound, Electra, wander through the streets of London, seeing a Dickensian side of the capital city that's only visible to the homeless. Together they accept the kindness or unkindness of strangers with the same wry patience. Until, on one dreadful day, they meet the Devil outside the National Portrait Gallery.
All Birdie Walker wants is some justice for her husband, Jack. But since Jack was a rock star and the justice has to come from the music business, Birdie absolutely has to take some extreme measures.Click on the title for more information.
Short stories
All my short stories up to 2003 are in this collection. It includes two written specially. Click on the title for a bit about how I came to write short stories and more information.
The Anna Lee series
I wrote six novels about Anna Lee. Click on the titles for more information.
The Eva Wylie series
Professional wrestler Eva Wylie appeared in three novels in the '90s. Click on the titles for more information.
The other stand-alone novel...
This novel is set in the Ethiopia of the 1970s. Click on the title for more information.
The story collections I co-edited for Britain's Crime Writers' Association.
In the early '90s I helped edit these three books - aiming them to be more annuals than anthologies. They include many things we're proud to have published. Click on the titles for more information.