Underhand, oversexed, foul-mouthed and crude

Like many placid, slightly dull people, I have often been secretly jealous of those whose dramatic car-crash lives is the subject of endless concern and interest among their friends. It has taken until now for me to come out of the dull closet and try to sound interesting with this new song – my Song […]

Enter Pervy John – songs From the van #3

I wrote ‘My Village’ one autumn a few years back. It was, I think, provoked by the idea that the great city-dwelling majority of the population were given a distorted view of life in the country  – one that was half Midsomer Murders  and half Springwatch. I wanted to tell the truth. Of course, I did nothing […]

Meeting the squire of Levington Park, JP Donleavy

The news that JP Donleavy  – author, playwright, litigant and squire  – died earlier this week has reminded me of one of the more peculiar meetings I had while researching a biography of our mutual friend Willie Donaldson in 2006. Donleavy’s early novels, The Ginger Man, The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B and The Onion […]

We’re with stupid – the seductive lure of idiocy on the left and the right

Soon after the death of Fidel Castro, I pointed out somewhere online that, for all its brave resistance to the crude might of the United States, the Cuban regime did have the unpleasant habit of locking up those who disagreed with it.  Kangaroo courts had sentenced writers, academics, teachers and librarians for up to 28 […]

The art of not writing – some practical guidance

  I recently came across a literary quotation by Hugh Grant. Asked by an interviewer about whether he wanted to write, he came up with an impressively honest answer. ‘It’s actually more comfortable to think I could write a novel than to discover that you can’t,’ he said. That spoke to me, as I go […]

Crossing the line: when local politicians go bonkers

First, an apology. This is a small story. It is about a village, its school, some houses and a white line. It would not be out of place in one of the quieter episodes of The Archers. To some, the fact that I want to write about it may seem like the final, irrefutable evidence […]

The wind whistling past your ears: dealing with the post-novel blues

It has gone. The piece of work which has occupied over the past couple of years, a novel, has left my desk to make its way in the blustery, chilly outside world. Almost certainly it will be back, nagging for attention of some kind, but right now I’m in that odd, conflicted state of mind […]

‘Lady in Blue, Unidentified’ – a little vampire story for Halloween

I write this report on Christmas day in the library of Oxburgh Hall, an agreeable late-medieval moated house in Norfolk where I have been a guest for these past five days. By the end of this week, I am confident that my task will be complete. The vampires will be dead. No, please don’t be […]