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Posts tagged ‘reading’

The Affirmation

by Christopher Priest is one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve just started reading it again – for the third time, I think – and the tricks and clues to what’s to come are quite breathtaking. If you’ve never read this fine book, I heartily recommend you do so.


I’ve just finished reading Michael Mashall [Smith]‘s novel The Intruders. It’s a depressingly good book, as is one of his other novels — The Straw Men.

Last week I finished Elizabeth Moon‘s Speed of Dark — another superb novel.

Both are highly recommended.

laugh? I nearly died

I got an email from Ticketmaster today, promoting tickets to see Frank Skinner at the NIA in November. Now, I love seeing live comedy.

My missus and I have seen Eddie Izzard several times. A few times he was brilliant, but his last show was at the NIA and we didn’t think much of it. It really wasn’t very good. We’ve seen Ross Noble once, at the Hippodrome. I like this guy a lot, but in this case he didn’t impress me that much either. I’ve also seen some Irish bloke whose name I can’t remember. He was OK, although the Alexandra Theatre where the gig was held was only about one-tenth full. He made jokes about it himself.

We also went to see Ken Dodd once, again at the Alex. When we entered the foyer the little “tonight’s performance will end at” clock was pointing to 2am. I suggested it hadn’t been changed since the matinee. If there’d been a matinee. But no, Doddy went on, and on, and on, until we just wanted him to shut the fuck up and let us go home. Never again. We’ve also seen Victoria Wood at the Hippodrome a couple of times, and most recently, Jasper Carrott at the NIA.

But last time we saw Frank Skinner was back in the early nineties. He did a lot more TV after that, and so didn’t do stand up. This gig was at Birmingham Town Hall. I laughed so much, and so hard, the top of my head hurt in line from one ear to the other. (The woman sitting next to me didn’t crack her face the whole evening, however…)

So when this email came through there was no hesitation. Two tickets for me and the missus, two for her sister and her husband. £20 each. Fair enough. But then, each ticket was subject to a £2.50 service charge, AND £2.25 p+p! I mean, WTF! That’s an extra £12.50 on top of the ticket price. I was pissed off most of the day about this. But then it occurred to me that if the price of the tickets had been £25 with no “service charge” I’d still have bought them. So what am I moaning about? I dunno, really.


My agent phoned me last night having read the sample of my new thing that I sent him a few weeks ago. The good news is that he likes it very much. So, onward, with enthusiasm. This morning while writing I had one of those moments you read about when you first start writing, in which writers suddenly have a stream of stuff coming out of their head that they just have to get down. It was a strange experience. All this material kept coming, and I just kept typing. OK, it’s rough at the moment, but it meant that I got the raw material down quickly, and almost doubled my word count for the morning. It was a great experience, and one I hope will happen again.


Oh, and I finished The Collector yesterday morning. What an excellent book. I found the ending very moving. The skill with which Fowles wrote in two such distinct voices was amazing. Highly recommended. I shall add it to the white site.

That’s it for now, pop kids. Keep to the beat…


Last night Rosaleen and I attended the Arthur C. Clarke Award ceremony in London. M. John Harrison won this year for his novel Nova Swing.

Although the trip to London for such events is always tiring, we both enjoyed it. Not only for the ceremony itself, but it’s a welcome chance to catch up with friends we haven’t seen for far too long: Christopher Priest, Darren Nash, Peter Lavery, Simon Kavannagh, David Garnett, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Robert Holdstock, Simon Taylor, Sandy Auden… too many to mention. Even the little Monkey Boy was there, rubbing his little furry head, trying to pick fleas out of other people’s hair and saying “Dad, do you know the piano’s on my foot?” You hum it, son, I’ll smash yer face in…

The ceremony was the culmination of the first year of Administration by Tom Hunter. There was no disceranable difference between this year’s ceremony and previous years’ – a fact that is all to Tom’s credit. I’m sure only those closest to the Award know the amount of work and co-ordination that’s required behind the scenes during and leading up the event, and that it went without (apparent) hitch is a great achievement in itself.

Tom seems to get taller every time I see him, and I think for next year’s Award I’ll take a step ladder with me so I don’t get a crick in my neck while we’re having a conversation.

Integrating the Clarke Award with the Sci-Fi London event is a masterstroke, and whenever I see all those trailers it reminds me just how many films I really need to see. (Feel free to send me your recommendations…)

Anyway, that’s it for now. The Monkey Boy needs hitting with a stick.


So far this year – and bear in mind this year’s only about 12 weeks old – I’ve read more books than I did in the previous two years – maybe even three – put together. This is important for someone who claims to be a writer. My new strategy is a simple but effective one, pop kids:


I now have three to four books on the go at any one time. There’s one next to the bed, one in the car*, one next to the bog, and one in the living room. Sometimes, if I’m really into a book, it can occupy more than one of these places (see “no naked flames”, below).

So there you have it.

Oh, and from whence did I glean this tactic? On Writing by Stephen King – it is probably the most useful “writing book” any writer could ever hope to read. Inspirational, with real nuts and bolts stuff to boot. Want to know what you need in your writer’s toolbox? Want to know who your Ideal Reader should be? Want to know the difference between writing with the door open and writing with the door closed? It’s all in here, sonny.

I’ve read it twice, and I think it’s very nice. But never in an English country gar-ar-den.

Anyway, I’ve gotta go: I’ve got a book to write.

* Please note, I do not read while driving, because that would be foolish…


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