Martin Amis Obituary: Goodbye To A Titan Of Moden Literature

Martin Amis, the son of Kingsley Amis and acclaimed author in his own right, has died at his home in Florida of oesophageal cancer aged 73. He passed away on the 19th May and is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

Although his father was a renowned author who wrote on of my favourite novels ever, Lucky Jim, Martin Amis made a name for himself in his own right thanks to his unique brand of observational humour and creative characterisation.

In the 1980s, alongside seminal writers like Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and others, Amis was credited with shaping the UK writing scene. His work is usually character-driven and deeply droll, as he delves into the worst of human, usually male, nature. He created several seminal novels, including Money, a first-person narration telling the story of a chaotic and hedonistic New York film director, and London Fields, a comedic take on a dystopian novel crossed with a murder-mystery.

Most of Amis’s books have a major plot twist, which usually turns the entire premise of the novel on its head. Amis was also famed for his unreliable first-person narrators, who were often men at the very end of their tethers, who indulge in substance abuse and are often mentally unstable. He was also deeply concerned by the accession of nuclear power, and wrote several novels and stories around the subject, including his essay and short-story collection Einstein’s Monsters, the award-winning Money.

Almost every book by Amis was on a major topic that affected humanity, including the sexual revolution and feminism, as explored in The Pregnant Widow, terrorism in the short stories from
The Second Plane, Stalin’s Soviet Union crimes in Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million and even his own relationship with his father in his memoir Experience, which he wrote following Kingsley Amis’s death in the late 1990s. Amis often wrote set his novels in or around London, and was known for writing about Americans in the country in particular, and their culture differs drastically from British sensibilities.

Each work is heavily researched, particularly when it involves a real-life event, and is engaging thanks the author’s unique perspective and hard-drive prose. Every word is put to work to drive the narrative onwards, and Amis never missed an opportunity to deliver a gut-punch that will shock and inspire the reader. His works changed opinions and opened up new dialogues about tough subjects, and while his words weren’t always taken well by some, they were always delivered with a great deal of respect and an attempt at understanding and empathy.

Alongside his extensive back catalogue of written work, which included essays, short stories and novels, Amis also taught at the University of Manchester, and worked to mould the next generation of authors. He was known to struggle when communicating his idealogical views, especially when it came to discussing religion and politics, but he was still a vocal writer who enjoyed sharing his views on the latest news with the world in the form of columns and articles in some of the major newspapers and essays shared in various collections. Even those who disagreed with Amis, and I was, at times one of them, had to admit that the man was empathetic and informed even when making statements we didn’t agree with.

Overall, the sudden death of Martin Amis at a relatively young age by today’s standards is a great shame for those who loved classic literature and enjoyed his witty dialogue and incredibly unique takes on the human condition. His family are in my thoughts as I re-read old favourites and miss this titan of the literary community.

Unnatural History Review: A Strong Crime Novel Let Down By Poor Research

Another great addition to the Alex Delaware series, Unnatural History is an interesting book let down slightly by author Jonathan Kellerman’s slight lack of knowledge about the seedy underbelly of society. While the 38th in this long-standing series isn’t my favourite by a long shot, it’s still a great read for fans. If you’ve never read an Alex Delaware novel, I wouldn’t start here, but if you’re already a lover of the sophisticated child psychologist and his police detective friend Milo Sturgis, then I’d definitely check it out.

Kellerman is an expert in the rich and famous, as well as psychology, and he shines in these areas in this latest release. It begins with the brutal murder of a professional photographer and mega-rich kid whose business mogul father helped him finance his artist endeavours.

Discovered by his latest assistant, the photographer is found killed in his bed, and motive isn’t difficult to find when it’s discovered that he was not only incredibly rich, but also very naive. The victim’s most recent photographic project had been a series of images of the homeless, a before image of what they look like generally and a second after they had dressed up in a costume to embody their dream career. From a pilot to a film starlet, there are several dreams fulfilled in the strange project turned social experiment, but Detective Milo Sturgis and Dr Alex Delaware soon start to wonder if there was more to it.

The subject of homelessness, and the drug addiction and mental issues that often accompany it, is handled with about as much tact as an episode of South Park. Kellerman knows all the right things to say, and while he’s right that these problems are societal failings and not individual issues, his portrayal of the homeless is a little ham-handed. There’s one particular line about al dente pasta that made me physically wince.

Thankfully, Kellerman makes the smart choice and spends most of the novel dwelling on the side of society he knows more about: LA’s rich and powerful. There’s what looks like the beginnings of a very good literary commentary on money not being able to buy style or brains when we meet the victim’s incredibly wealthy father, and see a comparable interview similar to one recently held with one of the homeless characters. However, it doesn’t quite land, and I for one felt like a little more finesse could have made that chapter something truly stunning.

There’s plenty of wealthy, privileged and downright pretentious suspects to be going along with in the novel, and this is where Kellerman shines. His portrayal of the photographer’s father, who sired multiple children with many women and then left them with only money to remember him by, is particularly inspired. The author sets the character up and a suave, mysterious and presumably debonair businessman in the background, and it’s a true shock when we meet the character. Family intrigue is the second line of investigation, and it opens up a can of worms featuring a long-lost brother who’s an investment expert, a dead sister and a drug addicted mother.

The victim, Donny, real first name Adonis, also has a model girlfriend and a jealous assistant with an overbearing mother, and some of the interactions the protagonists have with these characters are truly inspired. There’s one in particular, at the assistant’s house, which is almost disturbing and really shows the author’s prowess and how great this novel had the potential to be.

While these elements of brilliance are what makes Unnatural History a good read, it can be tough to get over the dreadful portrayal of the less fortunate. Alongside the- frankly odd- portrayal of the homeless is a general desperation to make his narrator and co-protagonist Dr Alex Delaware seem what I believe is known as ‘woke’, otherwise known as generally empathetic to normal people. It goes rather wrong, with phrases such as ‘man-spreading’ used un-ironically incorrectly. The term refers not to men who spread their legs in a single chair, as Kellerman uses it, but to a man who takes up space that should be ocupied by others, often women. Like men who take up extra space on a bus or train seat. It’s a valiant effort, but I can’t help but feel that in instances like that, a quick online search could’ve easily helped to overcome the difficulty and make the book seem much more sincere in its purpose.

It’s nice to see an author trying to be sensitive, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark in this case. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was parody. As it is, it’s clear that the writer has simply conducted rudimentary research, then patched it together as best he can. It’s novels like this that show why we need more diversity in literature, particularly when it comes to writers from less privileged backgrounds. Reading about it only gets you so far.

If I’m brutally honest, I think that Unnatural History is a good enough thriller that’s let down by the author’s desperation to appeal to what he believes the current thinking is and to give a sympathetic portrayal of the homeless that comes off entirely tasteless. Kellerman has a great ability to bring the world of the wealthy to life and show how out-of-touch the rich and wanna-be famous are, but no idea about those on the other side of the spectrum- and I say that as someone who’s been dirt-poor and is never going to be LA rich. I think that while the plot and some of the characters are interesting, it’d be better for Kellerman to stick to what he does best in future, or does more research and actually talks to some people experiencing homelessness.

Brian Jacobs Interview: ‘I am a visual artist by training, and I think about writing the same way that I approach painting’

Author image by Michael Steinberg

Mars Violent Evenings is an innovative novel about art, by an artist, giving a unique perspective and interesting insights. To find out more, I spoke to author Brian Jacobs about the novel, his inspiration and what the future holds.

Tell me about Mars Violet Evenings and what made you decide to write a book about an Englishman trying to make it in the American fine arts scene.

Well, the fine arts aspect is pretty straightforward. After years of working a wide variety of insufficiently fulfilling fine arts jobs (most of which will likely show up in my books), I retreated to positions where I could enjoy some peace and solitude while cleaning and providing building maintenance. This gave me the time and space to think about my creative life and start imagining a protagonist who endures similar experiences in the world of art.

Originally, Marc Clemens was American. But when I printed and read the first draft of the opening pages of the novel, I mentally heard my written words in an English accent. It was the voice of a LibriVox audiobook reader I had listened to for many hours in the car. This voice continued to speak my words through several drafts and the experience was so striking that I decided that Marc must be an Englishman.

Once I knew that Marc was English, I was compelled, as I wrote, to let this fact shape the story. And interestingly, having made this decision, I now heard the novel in my own American accent as I silently read drafts, even as I wrote Marc’s lines in more of an English dialect.

How did you come to create your protagonist, Marc Clemens? I know a lot of writers create autobiographical main characters—did you include any of your own traits in your character?

Friends and family naturally interpret Marc as my alter ego. Personally, I think Marc and I are very different, and I have a picture of him in my mind that doesn’t look at all like me.

But I did put his character in situations I have known. Sometimes it’s simply that my own experiences are easy to describe. Other times, I’m drawing on personal experiences I have strong ethical convictions about.

And what can I say about Marc’s romances? Before I began to write, I gave him a few flaws to counterbalance his strong powers of observation, which I had intended to drive the narrative. One of his flaws was to be his habit of choosing the wrong romantic partners. From the start, however, the women asserted their places in the story. As a writer, I became smitten with them and they all feel like people I might have come across sometime in my life, perhaps a long time ago.

Why did you decide to write Mars Violet Evenings; what was the inspiration behind the book?

I am a visual artist by training, and I think about writing the same way that I approach painting. In Mars Violet Evenings, I’m painting a picture with words, and it’s the world of art that I am portraying. I could make a real canvas and lots of people would like it, and a few would understand why they like it. By imagining art, however, I have found a strong vehicle for expressing ideas about visual art—concepts that I think increasingly elude literary description, and language in general.

I have a less lofty and more charming reason, too, for writing the book. I’ve enjoyed creating it for myself. Joe says it better than I can. “If I had been a collector,” Joe told us, “I would have wanted paintings like these in my collection. But no one had made them yet, so I had to make them myself.”

How did you come to publish a book? What was your journey towards publication like?

I had no idea how to write a novel, but I knew it wanted to be written. When my area of the world shut down during the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic, I suddenly had time to write. The US government became my patron. I wrote the novel during this shutdown. This just goes to show what creative people can accomplish when they have access to time, money, and resources: six weeks, $2400, and the Scrivener software program was all I needed.

Editing, on the other hand, took another couple years and many, many drafts!

And I couldn’t have done it alone. I enlisted a London hybrid press to edit my manuscript, design the cover, typeset the pages, and market the finished book. It was essential that I have professionals to explain literary conventions and an editor well versed in British English. Last year, I self-published my novel through Authoright’s press, Clink Street. This January, I republished it on my own with revisions (based on feedback from my readers) through my own imprint.

Front cover of Mars Violent Evenings (cover art by the author)

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

Honestly, I love any good writing. I used to take a subscription to New York Magazine (while living in Cleveland) and the one feature I consistently turned to was the restaurant reviews because I found the author to be the magazine’s best writer.

When it comes to fiction, two very different writers really speak to me as a reader and frequently haunt me as a writer. I think I channel a little bit of each of them in my novel. I wonder if my readers can see their influence when I say that Marcel Proust and Hans Christian Andersen hold important places on my bookshelves.

I suspect that a little bit of every author we read seeps into our writing. While I was still in the editing stages, I came across a translated anthology of short works by Denis Diderot while digging around my shelves looking for a bookmark. Easily distracted from my task, I flipped through the volume and stopped on a passage where I found a sentence that, verbatim, matches one of my own in Chapter One. So that’s why I really liked that line! I didn’t write it, I subconsciously lifted it from a twenty-year-old memory. And I kept it.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I sometimes daydream about collaborating with Mackenzie Crook. When I found his television series Detectorists, I felt immediately validated for the way I am writing. Early on, in drafting Mars Violet Evenings, I’d been feeling a bit out of accord with some popular trends in literature. In fact, when I first approached Authoright, I told them, with some degree of trepidation, that my book was going to be “quirky.”

Though I felt some affinity with past writers like Aldous Huxley, G. K. Chesterton, and E. F. Benson, I needed to see that some other living writer was accurately capturing an unexplored corner of the real world with situations and characters that are simultaneously absurd and believable. Crook understands that verité does not exclude absurdity. Naturalism and silliness are not mutually exclusive.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’ve begun work on a collection of short stories by me and my late father. I recently found a folder of short stories that he had written in the early to mid nineteen-fifties. Reading the yellowed, type-written pages, I was fascinated that my father and I share some stylistic similarities in our writing. It appears that none of these stories was ever published.

Aside from Mars Violet Evenings, I have four unpublished short prose works and I’ll include these in the project with a half-dozen of my dad’s stories. I’ve also begun two short stories specifically for this collection—one which is yet just notes and the other is only kicking around in my head, but they are fully formed otherwise (I think). There may be a collaborative piece, too, working from some sketches that I presume were for his writing class.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

There are so many good new books. Unfortunately, life here in the US is very stressful at the moment and I’ve been finding it hard to relax and enjoy much reading. But recently I was given tickets to attend an inspiring talk by Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed the diversity of readers in attendance and the works he read that night proved to be accessible to a wide audience. I’m on the lookout for other writers like Gaiman who have a unique voice but can write for everyone.

A writer like Gaiman draws the reader through the words on the page the way an artist guides the eye through the composition of a painting. In my own reading, I’m less interested in books that grant readers the characters and plots they ask for and more interested in writers who create characters and plots that readers will find themselves drawn to.

Huge thanks to Brian for answering these questions: it’s really exciting learning more about your work and I’m excited to seeing your future releases!

Tell Me An Ending Review: An Eerie Sci-Fi Novel That Will Come Back To Haunt You

Have you got a memory you’d like to forget? And if so, would you get it removed? And if you did, would you want to know there was something missing? Well, the answers to these questions are the premiss of Jo Harkin’s debut novel Tell Me An Ending. This inventive sci-fi novel is and fun and engaging, and covers a range of principles including psychology, philosophy and ethics.

The sci-fi novel is set in an altered version of the present day, where you can remove memories, at a cost that is both financial and, as the narrative explores, emotional. For individuals looking to have memories removed, there are two options: a removal where you’re aware of the procedure, but not the details of the memory, or ‘self-confidential’ clients, who remove any memory of the removal itself.

As part of this premiss, many individuals who had memory wipes start experiencing flashbacks, known as ‘traces’. When this is discovered, some former informed patients sue the company, and the judge rules that it must offer ‘restorations’ to all former clients- including self-confidential ones. Those who elected to forget the procedure entirely are unaware until their lives change in one quick email. Imagine having your entire world view and sense of self rocked like that. Harkin brings that terror to life in this gripping novel.

The novel focuses on a clinic in a small town in Surrey that offers removals for both informed and self-confidential clients, and each chapter features a different character. There’s Noor, a therapist at a UK clinic that offers memory removals and is exploring her boss’s strange behaviour; Oscar, who’s on the run in Morocco from something he has no memory of; William, a former UK cop who’s desperate to erase the memory of a photo that sent him spiralling out of control; Finn, an architect whose wife had a memory removed during a brief break in their relationship many years ago; and finally Mei, a young girl living with her adopted dad in Kuala Lumpur who’s determined to find out about the memory she had removed after dropping out of university.

By incorporating multiple characters into the narrative, Harkin is able to provide a range of different perspectives and see how various people with differing outlooks on life deal with the ethical dilemmas invoked by the existence of a memory removal procedure. At first, it seems like all these individuals are unconnected, except that they all have ties to Nepenthe, the company offering the memory removals. Quickly, however, we see patters emerging, and in, a unique twist, we find the threads all connect these individuals to a sinister conspiracy that shocks the reader and characters to the core.

The book explores the various characters and how each of the customers and their loved ones deal with the news of their memory deletion, and what restorations do, or don’t, do to them. For Noor, the doctor at the memory loss clinic that links all the patients, ethics, philosophy and personal responsibility all come into play as she tries to navigate the minefield that is playing with people’s minds for money.

A slow burn, Tell Me An Ending quickly picks up, so it’s well worth persevering with. I was initially skeptical about how I was going to keep up with this multitude of different characters and different narratives, but they quickly become entwined and within a few chapters I was hooked. It’s relatively easy to follow the premise as the universe in which it is set is so similar to our own, and so unlike other sci-fi novels, I found the world and rules easy to follow. The characters are well-written and relatable, so I was able to understand their struggles and felt invested in their moral dilemmas as each of them wrestled with a different issue related to the removal of a memory.

In all, I was impressed by Harkin’s debut novel. It’s a complex sci-fi story that is easy to understand and isn’t too convoluted, but is also incredibly engaging and interesting. It made me question a lot of my life choices and really shook my world view, which is something that doesn’t happen as often as it should to someone like me who reads a lot. I really enjoyed it, and I’m not even a massive fan of sci-fi novels, which I sometimes find are unnecessary complicated and pretentious. That isn’t the case here, and I think this is a perfect introduction to modern sci-fi for readers looking for a book that keeps them guessing until the final word. At over 500 pages in paperback form, Tell Me An Ending is hardly a quick read, but you find that time moves exceptionally fast when you’re enjoying your book as much as you’ll love this one.

The Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2023

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when I explore some of the upcoming books that I’m excited about for 2023.

There are loads of amazing books due to be released this year, but I’ve put together a small selection that I think you’ll be interested in too.

Mostly they’re crime fiction, but there are some other books I’m excited about in the upcoming months, and no doubt many I’ve not even heard of or thought about yet! But here’s the list so far to wet your appetite.

Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night

Sophie Hannah has bought the Queen Of Crime’s beloved Belgium sleuth back to life with four outstanding novels. In this fifth one, we get to see the incredible little grey cells in action on a Christmas-themed mystery. I personally love a good festive crime story, so I’m looking forward to this new outing for Hannah’s version of the beloved character.

The Murder Game

Following from his stellar debut novel A Fatal Crossing, Tom Hindle is back with a bang with his upcoming novel The Murder Game. The second book is a standalone and doesn’t follow on from the first novel. Instead, it’s set in the present day at a 1920s-themed New Years eve Murder Mystery party at Hamlet Hall, a seaside statley home. Nine guests are invited and each has a part to play in the Murder Mystery game, until one of the assembled company is killed by a violent head injury. After the devlish twist at the end of A Fatal Crossing, I’m buzzing for Hindle’s lastest release, which is due out in the next few weeks.

A Death in the Parish

The second in the enthralling Canon Daniel Clement series follows on from the first book Murder Before Evensong, with a new murder in the form of a sadistic ritual-style killing. The Reverend Richard Coles is hilarious on Twitter, and brings this wit to his cosy crime fiction writing. So, if you like classic, Golden Age-style crime fiction that delves into the politics of small English village, then this book, set to be released in the summer, could be an ideal choice for you.

Death Comes to Marlow

The follow-up to the surprisingly gripping Marlow Murder Club, Death Comes To Marlow is a classic cosy locked room mystery from Robert Thorogood, who created Death In Paradise, a show that’s almost entirely locked room mysteries. So, I’m expecting good things from this new novel, which is set during a society wedding in the small town of Marlow, where a small collection older ladies solve crimes to enliven their lives between writing crossword puzzles or caring for their families.

Death of a Bookseller

In the age of the true crime book, series and podcast, Alice Slater has endearingly entwined true crime with fiction in her first crime novel. The book features a bookshop, a friendship built on a love of true crime podcasts that takes a sinister turn, a cold case and, weirdly enough, a pet snail named Bleep. To be honest, I was sold when I saw the snail’s name, but the rest makes me excited for this quirky but also thrilling sounding new novel.

Oh Miriam!: Stories From An Extraordinary Life

A departure from crime fiction is this non-fiction memoir from the hilarious actor-turned-raconteur Miriam Margolyes. Her first book, This Much Is True, was a funny and shocking selection of unique and laugh-out-loud stories. In her latest tome, Margolyes shares even more tales that didn’t make it into the previous volume. Given how funny and, at time, deeply moving, her first book was, I’m excited to see what more the actor has to share in this new book, due out later in 2023.

Black Candle Women

If you’re looking for a book that embraces adult fantasy and loved the Netflix series Wednesday, then I’d suggest checking out Diane Marie Brown’s Black Candle Women. The novel features a family of women living together in a small bungalow in California. The group is happy and stable until the teenage family member brings home a man, which means the older women have to share a long-held secret; an ancient family curse means that anyone they fall in love with will die. I love fantasy and stories of witches, so I’m eager to read this invigorating tale.

These are just some of the books I’m excited for in 2023! They’ll be loads of exciting new titles out over the next 12 months and new writers to chat to so stay tuned.

Merry Christmas From The Dorset Book Detective

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from The Dorset Book Detective!

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas and thank you so very much to everyone who has supported this book blog over the past year.

I know I’ve not posted nearly as much as I should’ve over the past 12 months, but I’m working hard on some new pieces to share with you in 2023!

Have a lovely festive season and see you on the flipside!

Tom Mead Interview: “Telling stories is what I love to do”

Tom Mead is an author of locked room mysteries who recently published his debut novel. I chat to him about his work and the road he took to publication.

How did you come to become an author? What’s your career experience and how do you draw on it in your writing?

Well I studied creative writing at university, but before that I always had my head in a book. The idea of being a writer has always appealed, ever since I was young. Telling stories is what I love to do. I grew up reading classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, so fair-play puzzle plots have always been a significant feature of my reading life, too. It just seemed like a natural progression to take my enjoyment of the puzzles and use it to construct mysteries of my own.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards locked room mysteries?

I’ve always had a fascination with magic tricks and illusions, and really the locked-room mystery is the closest literary equivalent. The best kind of locked-room mysteries are the ones that give you a sense of “retrospective illumination”- a moment where you want to kick yourself because you realise how deceptively simple the solution is and you can’t believe you didn’t think of it. I love reading those kinds of book, and so I want to try and give readers the same sense of joy that I get from them.

How did you come to publish a book? As a debut novelist, what was your journey towards publication like?

My publishing experience was a pretty unorthodox one. I’d been writing short mystery stories for a long time- several years, in fact- when my story “Heatwave” was selected by Lee Child for inclusion in his anthology The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021, which was published by Mysterious Press in the US and Head of Zeus here in the UK (under the title The Best Crime Stories of the Year). This put me in touch with Otto Penzler, who runs Mysterious Press, and who shares my love of locked-room mysteries. So I took a chance and sent him my manuscript, hoping for a bit of feedback at best. Not only did I get the feedback, but I also got an offer to publish it, which certainly exceeded my wildest expectations. But it was through Mysterious that I established a connection with Head of Zeus, which is why the book came out in the US first, although I live in the UK.

Why did you decide to write Death And The Conjuror? What was the inspiration behind the book?

I’d written about my detective character, Joseph Spector, in several of my short mystery stories. I’d been wanting to use him in a piece of longer fiction for a while, but it didn’t initially occur to me that Death and the Conjuror might turn into a full-length novel. It was only while I was plotting it out, and adding characters and complications, that it occurred to me that it would take a novel to fully explore the complexities- all the twists and turns- of this story.

What’s your research process? How do you go about finding out important facts and integrating them into your work?

Writing about the 1930s is a lot of fun because that era was the height of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, when so many of my favourite writers were at the peak of their creative powers. Crime fiction offers such a brilliant insight into the social mores of an era that I couldn’t ask for better research material. But when it comes to adding period verisimilitude to my depiction of London society, there are plenty of nonfiction resources out there. Historical records, photographs, documentaries and of course books. I used as many as I could lay my hands on.

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

My favourite writer is John Dickson Carr, commonly known as the master of the locked-room mystery. He didn’t invent the genre, but he certainly took it to new heights. Discovering his works was certainly pivotal for me. That’s why I’ve dedicated Death and the Conjuror to his memory.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I actually have two collaborations happening at the moment. I’ve co-written a murder mystery for younger readers with the author Michael Dahl. I’m also co-editing an anthology of all-new locked-room mystery short stories with Gigi Pandian, another brilliant US author who’s written a number of fantastic mystery series.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

At the moment it’s all systems go for the UK publication of Death and the Conjuror in hardback, so I’m really excited about that. But I’ve also recently announced the US publication date for the sequel, The Murder Wheel. It comes out in the US in July 2023, and in the UK later next year. So perhaps it goes without saying that I’m also incredibly excited about that.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

I’m looking forward to diving into the latest book in Martin Edwards’s magnificent Rachel Savernake series- it’s called Blackstone Fell. Other recent books I’ve enjoyed include Anthony Horowitz’s The Twist of a Knife, Victoria Dowd’s The Supper Club Murders, and Fiona Sherlock’s Twelve Motives for Murder. Another author whose works I greatly admire is Robert Thorogood, creator of the BBC show Death in Paradise. Last year I read his brilliant novel The Marlow Murder Club, and I’m very excited for the sequel, which I understand includes a locked-room mystery.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just that I’m always delighted to hear from people who’ve enjoyed the book, and I try to be very responsive to readers. You can find me over on Facebook ( and Twitter (, or you can check out my website (

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been amazing to hear about your debut novel and I’m looking forward to your future work!

The Divider Review: A Timely Reminder Of Why Trump Should Never Be President Again

As he gears up for another presidential run, I felt now was an ideal time to share a review of an incredible book chronically the 45th President’s absurd and chaotic White House administration. I’ve already shared some of the best books about Trump a few years ago, but I’ve recently read this defiitive guide and I thought that now would be a great time to share my thoughts on this book that everyone who used to, wants to, or is supporting Trump.

The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 is an incredible overview of the manic Trump presidency, from his initial run to becoming the unlikely underdog to win the presidency, to his mis-handling of the coronavirus pandemic right through to his incitement of the January 6th riots when he didn’t win reelection.

Dubbed ‘the adhocracy’, the madness of Trump’s White House set-up, including the infighting, nepotism and backstabbing is brilliantly outlined by husband and wife journalism team Peter Baker Susan Glasser.

Drawing on interviews with insiders, a detailed analysis of the media and Trump’s former favourite social media platform, Twitter, the pair analyse how the former president was perceived by those around him, both in and out of the White House. The book is incredibly detailed and delves into all of the major scandals and events of Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

Throughout the book, which takes its name from the nickname given to Trump’s staff management style of pitting his staff against one another, Baker and Glasser make droll comments about how duplicitous and contradictory the former Commander In Chief was throughout his one-term tenure in office. By combining their own opinions with those of former staff members, the authors are able to highlight the craziness in the Trump White House.

Alongside the chapters, which are each named after a comment from or about the 45th President, the book features a selection of well-chosen photographs that encapsulate Trump’s presidency. Some of the highlights include the picture of a stern looking Angela Merkle standing over the former president, Nancy Pelosi wagging a finger at him, Melina Trump strutting around her husband’s concentration camp for migrant children separated from their parents wearing a jacket with “I really don’t care, do u?” emblazoned on the back, the image of Trump holding a bible upside down outside a church after clearing aside peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors with tear gas, and many other iconic photographs. Each image is accompanied by a scathing inditement on Trump’s behaviour and astute observations about how the pictures were perceived in the media, by the public and behind closed doors in Trump’s fractious White House. The imagery is perfect, and although the text isn’t fully proofread and grammatically correct, it’s still a great read.

The one thing I’m not entirely sure about when it comes to The Divider is how Baker and Glasser portray many of Trump’s enablers, such as his multiple Chiefs of Staff, Vice President Mike Pence, the Republicans who chose not to impeach him and other former supporters in Washington’s political class. The authors assert that many of these individuals didn’t support Trump at all, and were just working on his behalf because they were concerned that if they left, they would be replaced someone worse than they were. Allegedly, many of these individuals didn’t believe in the policies they were promoting, but were instead pushed by Trump and had a sort of moral imperative to stay in the White House and do their best to do everything in their power to derail Trump’s worst plans.

Perhaps the worst instance of this is the way the writers discuss Kirstjen Nielsen, who is perhaps most famous for implementing Trumps family separation program, which has devastated thousands of lives. Many of the children separated from their parents have still not been reunited with their families all these years later, yet the book tries to make readers feel sorry for Nielsen and argues that she, in fact, opposed the plan and just had to pretend to support it and go through it to keep her role. While this might be true in some cases for some of the White House staff members mentioned in the book, it seems a bit of a reach for some, including Nielsen. It seems impossible to me that someone so disgusted with such an immoral policy could still be its champion and spokesperson. While Nielsen tried to justify the policy in public statements and tried to make out like the policy was less serious than it was, that doesn’t say to me that she vehemently disagreed with the policy. Neither of the authors spare the rod for Trump himself or his family, but many Republicans who enabled him and supported his appalling work are made to seem sympathetic because they were themselves targets of Trump’s wrath and because the White House was such a toxic workplace. We’ll never know the full truth, but it seems like the authors are pushing to provide an acquittal for many of the key players in the Trump administration, which I don’t believe they deserve.

However, despite this, The Divider is still a useful read for anyone who wants a complete chronicle of the entirety of Trump’s presidency. It doesn’t gloss over any of the worst of the administration’s actions, and reviews them from multiple angles. For example, Baker and Glasser explore Trump’s removal of American troops from Germany through the lens of multiple players throughout Europe. Additionally, every action Trump takes that has an impact on the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, and there are many, is chronicled in detail and the authors work to outline how these affect major players on the world stage as well as how they make America look.

In all, The Divider is a timely read for anyone who’s considering voting for Trump, or who thinks that a return of the Donald to the White House might not be as bad as people say it will be. Donald Trump is a serial liar with no capacity for empathy or interest in anyone but himself. The man has multiple legal cases against him right now, and he deserves to be locked up for his complicity in the January 6th riots and his attempt to pervert the course of justice and disrupt democracy. Trump might not have announced his bid for re-election in 2024, but he’s clearly gearing up for it, so anyone who’s unsure about how dangerous he is, or how fundamentally unhinged, should read this book before passing judgment.

Five Paddington Bear Novels For Newbies

As most people now know, the Queen of England has recently passed away. Whatever your opinions on the monarchy, you can’t deny that Elizabeth the Second has had a significant on culture.

From her cameo appearances in short skits to her iconic profile, she’s had an impact on almost every aspect of the cultural world.

One of the most symbolic ways the Queen has impacted our culture is her short film with Paddington Bear.

Michael Bond’s cute, cuddly little bear, who’s a refugee from darkest Peru, has become a famous symbol over recent years and became the unlikely, unofficial mascot of the late Queen, after she appeared in a humous skit with an animated version of Paddington.

In light of this, many readers are returning to this childhood favourite to bring them comfort in these tough times. I myself have loved the Paddington books for years, and found myself going back to them when I saw all the Paddington artworks and mentions that spread across social media after the Queen’s passing.

The Paddington books were illustrated beautifully and transport readers into a simple yet spellbinding world of imagination and gentility. Each book is a series of short stories that follow one another, meaning you can pick the book up and revisit it again at your leisure. All the stories involve a moment of minor peril, but every mishap is overcome in the end, so there’s always a happy ending and, occasionally, a moral to be found.

If you’re new to Paddington Bear and want to start reading about the plucky orphan bear and his madcap adventures, then here are 5 great books to start you off.

5. Paddington at Work: Back from a visit to Aunt Lucy in darkest Peru, Paddington quickly gets into some high-jinx with a man claiming to be from the Stock Exchange. There’s also a trip to the ballet and a few unique adventures involving the Browns, their housekeeper and their curmudgeonly neighbour Mr Curry. Paddington is renowned for being reluctant to spend money, but he does buy gifts for the Browns in this novel to thank them for the trip, and it’s sweet tales like that which make this book a must-read.

4. Paddington Helps Out: In this series of fun stories, Paddington tries to help those around him, usually with pretty disastrous results. That includes his hilarious trip to a laundrette, where he’s helped out by the kind staff, his experiments with DIY and the time he prepared dinner for Mr and Mrs Brown when they’re sick and everyone else is away. It ends with an utterly brilliant story about a meal out to celebrate Paddington’s birthday. As you can probably expect, all doesn’t go to plan, with brilliantly funny results. While Bond doesn’t lecture the reader on massive cultural or social morals, he does offer a great perspective on how to be more understanding of others and teaches kids valuable lessons through his tales, and Paddington Helps Out imparts some great values to readers.

3. More About Paddington: The second book in the series is a fun caper featuring the mystery of the missing marrow, a chaotic family portrait of the Brown family and the bear’s first ever Christmas in London. The book is fun for kids and adults alike, with some cute capers that are funny and show the values Bond tried to impact through his Paddington tales: friendship, honesty, understanding, tolerance and family unity even through trying times.

2. Paddington Goes To Town: In this series of stories, Paddington goes on a selection of adventures, including a trip to the golf course with Mr Curry that ends with a visit to the hospital, an adventure to find the finish touch for Mr Gruber’s patio and finally, more Christmas shenanigans, as Paddington tries out carol singing and goes to view the town Christmas lights. This book is fun and cosy, and the final stories are great for anyone who gets the winter blues around this time of year.

1.A Bear Called Paddington: Beginning at the beginning is a great way to immerse yourself in a new book series, and it also helps when the first book in a series is as good as A Bear Called Paddington. From his first meeting with the Brown family at Paddington Station, where he tries out tea in a cafe and find the experience truly unique, to his acceptance as a member of the family, his visit to the theatre to his time building sandcastles at the seaside, every one of the stories in this book is a fun-filled adventure.