Book review: ‘Chums’ by Simon Kuper

Even if you have never read a book on politics before, you need to read this one. It is short, and witty. It is scary and funny. It joins up all the political dots which you can’t see from your usual position on the sofa watching Newsnight or at the Polling Station. It shows, veryContinue reading “Book review: ‘Chums’ by Simon Kuper”


‘All Cornwall Thunders at my Door: a biography of Charles Causley’ by Laurence Green

This is the only complete biography of Charles Causley even now, nearly 20 years after his death and nearly 10 years after this biography of him was published. As he is one of the greatest Cornish poets, and the best Poet Laureate we never had, the paucity of material seems a shame. Especially given theContinue reading “‘All Cornwall Thunders at my Door: a biography of Charles Causley’ by Laurence Green”

Poetry Collection – ‘You have no normal country to return’ to by Tom Sastry

(Nine Arches Press,, published 21 April 2022) What does one want in a twenty-first century poet? Not exactly a dispassionate eye – because one wants passion in the work. But definitely an ability to view one’s material as an outsider, to see the absurdities, the prejudices. But, at the same time, one needs theContinue reading “Poetry Collection – ‘You have no normal country to return’ to by Tom Sastry”

‘Shadow Chasers’ by Paul Adam

First published 2000 by Little Brown & Co I am a big fan of Paul Adam. He is (a bit like Robert Harris) an author of infinite variety. As I also aim to tread new ground with every book I write, I respect this and enjoy the frisson of wondering where we’re off to now,Continue reading “‘Shadow Chasers’ by Paul Adam”

‘Noble Savages: the Olivier Sisters’ by Sarah Watling

(paperback 416 pp, published by Vintage in August, 2020) This is an interesting book about four sisters, cousins of Sir Laurence Olivier (who barely appears, and who I mention just to give a little context). I had certainly not heard of these women before I picked up the book, being attracted by the ‘savage’ aspectContinue reading “‘Noble Savages: the Olivier Sisters’ by Sarah Watling”

Book review: ‘The Cotillion Brigade’ by Glen Craney

Genre: Historical fiction. Description: the novel’s subtitle is “A Novel of the Civil War and the Most Famous Female Militia in American History”. That sums it up very well. It has the same kind of historical sweep as War and Peace but is, mercifully, half the length. (But only half the length!). The book beginsContinue reading “Book review: ‘The Cotillion Brigade’ by Glen Craney”

Book review: ‘Blood Red Sand’ by Damien Larkin

Genre: Alternative/future history Description: This novel is set in the same milieu as Larkin’s debut novel Big Red which came out in 2019. I have not read that book, but felt very little adrift not knowing its content. Blood Red Sand stands satisfactorily alone. Apparently Blood Red Sand is a prequel, so if you enjoyContinue reading “Book review: ‘Blood Red Sand’ by Damien Larkin”

‘Pandemic 1918: The Story of the Deadliest Influenza in History’ by Catherine Arnold

I picked this up in late 2020, thinking it might be a good thing to know a bit more about pandemics, since we were in the middle of one. It is constructed in an anecdotal way, drawing on many, many sources – and must’ve required daunting amounts of trawling through archives, local newspapers, medical records,Continue reading “‘Pandemic 1918: The Story of the Deadliest Influenza in History’ by Catherine Arnold”

‘Czechmate’ by David Brierley

You know how all the time authors are banging out spy thrillers which are compared favourably to John Le Carré, and you buy it and read it and it is a damp squib compared to the master? Well this book really is as good – if not better – than Le Carré. Huzzah! There areContinue reading “‘Czechmate’ by David Brierley”

‘Dancing at the Asylum’ by Marilyn Ricci

This is a poetry project which explores the concept of mental health, those enormous and dour mental institutions which used to dot the countryside until the turn of the last century, and leaves one wondering anew what happens to the people who used to be committed there, who are now cared for in the community.Continue reading “‘Dancing at the Asylum’ by Marilyn Ricci”