Five Favourite Reads: 2016

Writing this list is beginning to feel like a Christmas tradition, alongside the good single malt and the seasonal ghost story. As ever, reading for pleasure has been mediated and muddled by research and editorial work, and I honestly couldn’t tell you how many books I’ve read in the last year.

This Time It’s Personal LIVE – Something Like a Review

here are few things finer in the creative arts than a project that is totally unexpected but in hindsight makes perfect sense, like the end of a really good novel. The album This Time It’s Personal (Sony 2016) is one of those projects, a musical collaboration between the godfather of performance poetry, Dr. John Cooper Clarke, and legendary guitarist, singer/songwriter and author, Hugh Cornwell, the original Guildford Strangler, a cultural event as modest as it is huge.

Five Favourite Books

The was something I did for the Unthank School blog last Christmas that I’d forgotten about until I spotted Ashley’s list while browsing his blog just now. The idea was for Unthank staff to briefly list and discuss five books that we had read in 2015, regardless of publishing date or genre. This was mine…

How To Write A Novel: Student Review

n a blog for the Unthank School of Writing entitled 'How To Write A Novel and What It Did For Me,' student Jackie Harmon talks about the learning/teaching experience on an online creative writing course designed and taught by yours truly. The last course has just ended and places are still available on the next, which begins in May. You'll find details here. Jackie Harmon, like me, has an academic background, and is currently working on a historical novel set in the late-nineteenth century. From what I've seen so far this is going to be an impressive debut...

Dear John – Public Image Ltd, UEA, September 30, 2015

This is not a review. This isn’t an earnest cultural study. This is just me… ‘Icon’ is an overused word, especially in music, but this week I got to see the real deal because John Lydon was playing in my hometown. He’d almost certainly despise me for saying so, but for my generation that’s like seeing Elvis or The Beatles – someone who represents a seismic change (arguably the last) back when rock ’n’ roll was still a serious, evolving art movement rather than simply cold, hard product – the only difference being that he remains a genuinely independent artist, not on the Fortune 500 or a grotesque parody of his younger self. This is why he was at a medium-sized campus venue on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday night in Norfolk.

Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair

This is a life-long obsession. My late mother was a Spiritualist and I grew up in an environment in which readings and séances were as natural as church and football, although my father dismissed such things as ‘Codswallop!’ To this day I remain fascinated with the subject, and still a little afraid of ghosts. Anyway, however ill or down I was last year I could always get completely lost in a short, scary story.

Where’s Sailor Jack?

Where’s Sailor Jack? is by turns romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga. Like its hero, Bob Swarbrick, this novel is charming, charismatic and complex, and reminds us that not all contemporary fiction has to mirror Hollywood, with metrosexual twenty-somethings charging about solving impossible problems. Where’s Sailor Jack? is measured and thoughtful, with a strong plot, believable characters, and an intelligent moral centre.

The Day I Met Dr. Who

One of the nicest memories I have of my late-father is standing in a queue with him, surrounded by empty Daleks, waiting to get Dr. Who’s autograph. We were at a summer fete in Norwich, in some bleak little park, and I remember that the grass was washed a vivid green by incipient showers and that the breeze had a distinctly unseasonable bite.