December 14, 2018
“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.
Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."
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
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
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
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…)
The Anna Lee series
The Bucket Nut Trilogy
Other stand-alone novels
The story collections I co-edited for Britain's Crime Writers' Association.