Monday, August 28, 2006

Hello Edinburgh. Goodbye beard.

I paid a flying visit, by train, to the Edinburgh Festival, to see my god daughter Alex in The Positive Hour by April de Angelis. The play was brilliant. Alex was brilliant. Edinburgh was brilliant. Sorry to sound like the 'brilliant' character in the Fast Show, but it was.

Anyhow, it was well worth the 9 hours there and back on the train. Thank God I reserved my seats.

I had a brief trip to the book festival with Alex's mum. Our main objective was to have a coffee, which we achieved. 'You'll be here next year, signing books.' That'd be nice wouldn't it. Though by the sounds of it, I could have stood in for some of the authors who couldn't be bothered to show. (I noticed Jake Arnott's name scratched from one board.)

I was bearded in Edinburgh. Been growing one for a few weeks now. Yesterday I shaved my neck, to try and tidy it up. The kids hated it though. And Claire's friend Caitlin thought it made my very tiny head look even tinier. Rachel seemed slightly freaked out by it. 'You look like somebody else,' she said.

So this morning it came off. I must say, I feel a lot better without it. It was another distraction too. All that chin stroking and searching for titbits when I should have been writing.

Sorry, no plug today. Maybe shaving the beard off sapped my plugging powers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Suroopa in the Hindu.

Check it out.

Great article in India's national newspaper.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More embedding.

Now I know how to do it, there's no stopping me.

This is just a re-edit of the old video of me talking about the book, mixed in with some of the footage from the trailer. I also let Ed's wonderful music track play out.

Get this video and more at

That book meme thing.

Crimeficreader got me.

1. One book that changed your life?
That would have to be Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.

2. One book you have read more than once?
That would have to be Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
I was going to say Life of Pi but that might start to freak me out, particularly the island bit, so I’ll go for Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, in French with a dictionary. That should keep me busy.

4. One book that made you cry?
Going back to Life of Pi, I had to get it in somewhere. I don’t know if I actually shed wet man tears, but I did find it incredibly moving, which took me by surprise. I always crumple in soppy films, by the way.

5. One book that made you laugh?
Recently, King of the Road by Charlie Williams.

6. One book you wish had been written?
A golden age whodunit detective novel featuring Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment. Ah, maybe I’ll have to write it myself. Maybe I will. (Maybe I already have!)

7. One book you wish had never been written?
Don’t like this question but if you push me, Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. Put me off Ian McEwan, to whom I was quite favorably disposed. I thought it was shallow and cynical and, frankly, rubbish.

8. One book you are currently reading?
To the Hermitage by Malcolm Bradbury. St Petersburg in the time of Catherine the Great, the French philosopher Diderot pays her a visit, intercut with a modern day academic junket to St P for what I take to be usual Bradbury shenanigans. Interestingly, the book has a blurb quote from Brian Martin, my fellow MNW author, from his book review days. It is also described by Auberon Waugh as the funniest book ever written. Not so sure about that as I haven’t laughed once yet, so Charlie Williams wins there. It is very clever though.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Too many to mention, but American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis seems overdue.

10. Now tag five people...
I’m going to pass on this bit, because I think this meme is near the end of its life and almost everyone I know has already done it! Sorry. What I'll do instead is add one book I think everyone should buy. I think you probably already know the answer to that.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The trailer, embedded.

Get this video and more at

Stephen King is no longer my friend.

Was it something I said? I really have no idea. But the fact is Stephen King has mysteriously dropped off my list of friends on myspace.

You don't think he read the cheeky little post I wrote about him here and took offence, do you? No, surely not. Surely Stephen King has better things to do than read obscure blogs by rampant self-promoting authors?

It makes you wonder though, doesn't it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Welcome to Leningrad.

I'm back from St Petersburg where I had a great and highly productive, though foot-wearying time. I did a lot of walking.

I was warned about muggers and crime in general. But actually the city did the opposite of mug me. It was extremely generous to me and gave me far more than I could have hoped for.

For example, on the very first day, as I stepped out into rain from the international terminal, looking for the No. 13 bus to take me to Moskovskaya metro station, I was accosted by a Russian guy, loaded up with his own luggage. When he discovered I couldn't speak Russian he switched to perfect English, to tell me that I was waiting at the wrong no 13 stop. So he took me to the right No 13 stop, got me on the bus and negotiated with the conductress on my behalf. The fare was something like 25 roubles and the smallest note I had was 500. This didn't seem to worry her, though she was a bit taken aback by how wet the note was. I had been holding it in my hand in the rain for a few seconds and it had got drenched.

Andrey, my new Russian friend, escorted me on to the right metro train, even donated a metro token to me, and made sure I got off at the right stop. The hotel information from was completely misleading, and if I'd followed that, rather than Andrey, I would have got very lost, bewildered and fraught. (Reminds me, I must write to them correcting their info.)

Andrey and I met up a couple of days later and he took me on a walking tour of the northern part of the city, taking in the Peter and Paul fortress and Kammeniy Island.

Andrey had lived in the States for 12 years and in London for one. He'd come back to look after his 85 year old mother, leaving his wife and a good job in London. The future seems uncertain for him, but he was in no doubt that the right thing for him to do was to be close to his Mum now that she needs him.

Other highlights, in brief:

The young BA stewardess announcing our arrival at St Petersburg with: "Welcome to Leningrad." "She said Leningrad!" cried the Russian woman on the aisle seat of my row, her face equally amazed and amused.

Seeing Chris Eubank - yes, I'm sure it was him - strolling down the Nevsky Prospect in his best togs, grinning at everyone in a 'so-do-you-recognise-me?' kind of way.

Taking 247 photos. I'll post a few here if I get a chance.

Going to the Dostoevsky museum, paying homage to the great man. I had a quiet moment with his ghost. We talked a few things over, writer to writer. There were things I needed to say to him. I think he's cool.

Hearing the a capello quartet singing in the Yusupov Palace. Afterwards, when all the other tourists had cleared the hall, I bought a CD, as a present for Rachel. The guy gave me a little private show, to demonstrate the acoustics of the room. In the process, demonstrating his incredible vocal range, which went from high falsetto to basso profundo.

Meeting a very convivial and Russophile American gentleman called Robert, who spoke perfect Russian and had many great stories of Russia during the Soviet era, which was when he first visited as a student. It was then he met and married his Russian wife, while they were both in their twenties.

Quite a different story to the loud American gentleman on the row behind me who announced loudly to the whole plane that he was coming to Russia to find a wife. He didn't want the kind of wife who goes out to work, he said. But one who would stay at home and look after the family (what family would that be?). That's why he was attracted to Russian girls, he said. Looking at him in the toilet queue, I just wasn't sure any Russian girls would be attracted to him.

The weather was great - apart from that spot of rain on the first day. I came back tanned and exhausted. As well as inspired.

Siobhan Curham.

On an entirely unrelated note, I've added a link to Siobhan Curham's website. Siobhan hosted a reading I did for the writers' group in Hillingdon and has written a number of books. Here's how she describes her work: "Are you sick of formulaic 'chick lit', with tired plots involving two dimmensional characters who live in Notting Hill, work in PR, have a token gay friend and spend their lives drowning in a sea of chardonnay whilst they wait for Mr Right to throw them a lifeline? As a writer of commercial women's fiction I try to offer something a little grittier - 'real' women (and men) dealing with real issues and above all taking control of their own lives."

Check out the very funny character blogs she's got going on her website.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bye bye for now.

I'm off to St Petersburg (the Russian one) tomorrow morning for a week or so.

More about that when I get back.

Cheers for all the comments - keep em coming!