fettered by an obscured unnatural view he sought another as if a fresh vista might renew a weary perspective on his mother tongue    the tricks he’d sleight-handed since the womb his genius for linguistic husbandry were devoted to a life beyond the tomb his embalming for posterity   it was the one thing he... Continue Reading →

On Being Thrown Over

Would your love for me increase were I to die or would my barely-mourned decease erase me from your memory?   Would your febrile eyes seek out a physical response, the fuel to weave a quilt of lies made posthumously cruel?   Was I no more than ornament, a transient nod to Spring, the blush... Continue Reading →

The Perennial Question: What Next? (part 2)

It was a little over two months ago I wrote the first version of the post below. Given the books I was working on were finally published today - Published Today! - the questions posed below become even more relevant. I'm heading into the bulk of 2020 without a firm plan. I have been through the... Continue Reading →

Published Today!

I am delighted to announce three new books for 2020, the first two of these released today, 1st February 2020! The third is published in a week's time. Liam is haunted by his age and the history it forces upon him. Yet he is also plagued by the need to make more - to generate... Continue Reading →

“Tale Tales and wee stories”

Many years ago the comedian Billy Connolly produced a brilliant TV series, "Billy Connolly's World Tour of Scotland". Many of the stories in "Tale Tales and wee stories" are replays of some of the material from that series, and at its best the book takes you back to those shows; you can picture Billy delivering... Continue Reading →


She speaks with a strange intonation, a peculiarly-located rise in her voice as if the person who taught her English had overlaid the rhythms and inflections of an entirely different language: French, or German, or Pig Latin. It also seems she has never acquainted herself with the full set of letters in the alphabet; some... Continue Reading →


I really don't like not finishing reading a book once I've started, but sometimes I find that's the only way to move on. Unfortunately Charlotte Ansell's "Deluge" falls into that category. I've been dipping into it for many weeks now and am still only half-way through. It sits on a table by the sofa and... Continue Reading →


Some books don't travel well through time. They are of an era, an age. Perhaps those that do - Austen or Conrad, for example - are signs of greatness, of 'classic' literature. What, then, might one say about a book that has not travelled well, that is stylistically convoluted and at times feels remarkably self-indulgent?... Continue Reading →

“After Me Comes The Flood”

Sarah Perry can write. On the back cover of "After Me Comes The Flood" Sophie Hannah is quoted as saying "If she doesn't win the Booker Prize one day, I'll be amazed". I'm inclined to agree. There are perhaps some characteristics shared between the protagonists of "After Me" and her other two novels "Melmoth" and... Continue Reading →


I really like Mary Jean Chan's "Flèche" - even though, based on my track record of how I respond to a reasonably large proportion of modern verse, I shouldn't... Why is that? Two main reasons, both normally bête noires. The first is the significant experimentation in form (especially how the pieces appear on the page)... Continue Reading →

“The Order of the Day”

I confess to being uncertain as to what kind of book Éric Vuillard's "The Order of the Day" actually is... Although I found it on one of Waterstone's fiction tables, it relates events leading up to the Austrian Anschluss of 1938 and thus the foothills of the Second World War, and does so with what... Continue Reading →

“Before the coffee gets cold”

My occasional penchant for modern Japanese 'magic realism' novels is something of a double-edged sword. Why do I say that? Having read virtually everything Haruki Murakami has read, I find the bar for such novels is set pretty high, so when something like Toshikazu Kawaguchi's "Before the coffee gets cold" comes along, there is perhaps... Continue Reading →

“The Tradition”

The thing that struck me most about Jericho Brown's "The Tradition" was more generic than specific. As I struggled to get beneath the words, to find some kind of rhythm that appealed to me, a language I could interpret, I realised how much reading poetry - unlike prose, you could argue - is dependant on... Continue Reading →

“The Wall”

It's great when you choose to read a book from an author you have never previously encountered and end up wanting more. John Lanchester, whose novel "The Wall" found its way into my possession after a recent expedition to Waterstones, is such writer. Like Sarah Perry, Donna Tartt, John Ironmonger, Sebastian Barry and many recently... Continue Reading →


Although its geographical setting is very different, Sarah Perry's excellent "Melmoth" tackles some themes similar to those in "The Essex Serpent": the semi-isolation of an individual in community; guilt and sin; the threat of the unknown; how people manage - or not - their interaction with something intangible, ephemeral, threatening. The words you might see associated with the... Continue Reading →

The Perennial Question: What Next?

It's that time of year again. As seems to have been the case for - what? - the last two or three years now, I arrive into December putting the finishing touches to the final drafts for new books that will see the light of day in February; all that remains is the generation and... Continue Reading →

“After the Formalities”

Anthony Anaxagorou's "After the Formalities" is a 'difficult' volume of poetry. Difficult in a number of senses: in some of its themes and narratives; in the structure of many of the individual pieces; in some of the language and punctuation. It is also difficult in its variability. There are a small number of exceptional pieces... Continue Reading →

The mood music of editing

When we write fiction - and especially when we are steeped in revision - it would not be unreasonable to assert that our primary goal is to land on the 'right' words, that elusive combination which tells the story we want to tell and does so in the perfect way. Not unreasonable, surely? Indeed. I... Continue Reading →

“The Cockroach”

It was with a degree of surprise that I realised last night I hadn't read any Ian McEwan for a long time - something which was accompanied by a recognition that I needed to read more. The catalyst? "The Cockroach": a sublimely unfiltered, undisguised and scathing satire on the state of UK politics - and... Continue Reading →


I need to learn my lesson. If the cover of a book says "The #1 International Best Seller" then just leave it on the shelf. Madeline Miller's "Circe" is one such book. If it starts out as a dull retelling of ancient Greek mythology - told from the perspective of the title character - one... Continue Reading →

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