WRITER'S BLOG

January 28, 2019

Clubbed To Death?

If you find yourself in the city of Bath with a yearning for a Classic Club Sandwich do not try to find one at the Kingsmead Kitchen in Kingsmead Square. If you do, you will be as disappointed as I was this Sunday lunchtime.

The menu said Classic Club Sandwich – expensive but perfect: just what I wanted. And what arrived was a fine sandwich: two slices of toasted bread filled, as advertised, with bacon, chicken and salad. But it was not the Classic Club Sandwich I'd ordered. Three pieces of bread (or toast), two fillings, right? Right.

The cafe was crowded, the wait staff were busy, so I ate my sandwich and was absolutely going to pay for it. But, in the interest of accurate advertising, I decided to point out the mistake.

Which was my mistake, because when I did – very politely – the waiter replied brusquely that I had been served exactly what I ordered. 'You gave me a sandwich,' I said, 'not a "club" sandwich.' He pointed to the menu and repeated that I had been served what was described on the menu. I said again that the menu was offering a Club Sandwich and not an ordinary sandwich.

English was not his first language, so just to be absolutely sure I knew what I was talking about I Googled the sandwich in question and nowhere could I find a picture or a description of a ‘club’ sandwich that did not have two fillings separated by a third slice of bread. I gently explained this to the waiter.

I should have left it there, of course. But the guy was looking at me as if I was stupid and trying to get out of paying. Which was insulting. Also I do not react well to frustration. So I had one more shot at explaining myself, this time to a young woman who described herself as a trainee manager. I can't remember exactly what she said, partly because English was not her first language either. But the upshot was that the original waiter came back an offered me a slice of bread.

That was too silly even for a connoisseur of silliness like me. So I got up and left with my remaining dignity, (not much, by then) and paid the full price. I wish I hadn't because I still find myself fuming rather than laughing – as this blog clearly demonstrates.

December 27, 2018

In A Fog.

This silent foggy morning reminded me of Foggy, Foggy Dew, and I wondered for an instant about a blog entitled 'Whatever happened to the "fair young maid"?' Another mysterious absence in a bloke's song. But then I couldn't be arsed. Fog seems to sit too heavy on all my motivation. Be thankful.

December 14, 2018

Talking Leaves.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles.

But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. (more…)

December 2, 2018

Gothic Horror and Science Fiction.

Recently I decided to reread both Dracula and Frankenstein. I first tackled them in my early twenties – a long time ago. Now they both seemed unfamiliar.

I think that’s because when I was twenty I was both depressed and impatient. I did not recognize large chunks of both books. In the case of Dracula that must be because the seductions were too slow and the activity too long coming. With Frankenstein the reason must have been because Mary Shelley was even more depressed when she wrote the book than I was when I read it. (more…)

October 24, 2018

Machines.

Let me explain machines to you, my dears. They're all fascists. If you can't think like they do you're doomed to burn in hell. That's all you need to know.

September 27, 2018

Dance to the Music of Time.

Last night my partner and I went to hear a blues band called The Blueswater at a small local venue. The evening kicked off with the singer performing a Skip James number (before the rest of the band joined him) with just a guitar on his knees and a bottle neck. He did it really well. The band followed up with a load of my favourites – numbers made famous by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and the like, numbers written by the God, Willy Dixon.

We’d been to this venue before, and at the bar prices are astronomical. We smuggled in our own beer. (more…)

September 4, 2018

Trying to Think Clearly.

Anti-Semitism has been described as ‘The Longest Hatred.’ It has so often been used by those with power and influence to distract ordinary people's attention for other, real and pressing problems. You only have to think about Germany in the ’30s.

Is this what's happening now in the UK's Labour Party? Is the right wing press using accusations of anti-Semitism to tear the left apart? It looks like it.

But is there anti-Semitism in the Left leadership? Yes, it looks like it.

Is there anti-Semitism on the Right too? There always has been and I'd be very surprised if there weren't now. (more…)

August 4, 2018

Not Such Good Intentions.

If I were wise I’d be ballyhooing my new hot-off-the-presses sequel to Lady Bag: Crocodiles and Good Intentions. But it’s hot and I’m unaccountably irritated, and I’m no good at self-promotion, so I’ll go with the irritation instead.

Okay, here’s my beef: I’m not all that interested in clothes – I like them old, soft, loose and comfortable. But sometimes my nearest and dearest persuade me to go for something other than what I kid myself is charity shop chic. So sometimes I go out and spend money. And here’s the bugbear: (more…)

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. (more…)

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…)

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 Bucket Nut Trilogy
Professional wrestler Eva Wylie appeared in three novels in the '90s. Click on the titles for more information.
Other stand-alone novels
RIFT is set in the Ethiopia of the 1970s. BALLAD is the story of a girl with a miraculous musical talent. MISS TERRY is the story of what happens to someone who looks different from her neighbours when a grisly discovery is made. Click on the titles 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.