“As a writer you are trying to spin a magic spell, to convince the reader that something exists when it doesn’t. I find this exciting.” Julie Myerson
Matteo Garrone: Bigger than life

Matteo Garrone: Bigger than life

Matteo Garrone’s latest film, Tale of Tales, is a flamboyantly grisly retelling of three little-known fairy tales collected in the seventeenth century by Neapolitan poet and courtier Giambattista Basile. From the 50 tales in the collection, which includes the earliest – and bawdiest – recorded versions of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty...
Elena Lappin: Secrets and lives

Elena Lappin: Secrets and lives

In Elena Lappin’s novel The Nose, her protagonist Natasha Kaplan, a young New Yorker in London editing an Anglo-Jewish magazine, discovers more than she’s bargained for when in the course of her new job she ends up uncovering secrets about her own family’s past. “I thought I had invented and...
Julie Myerson: Seeing the bad stuff

Julie Myerson: Seeing the bad stuff

The Stopped Heart is Julie Myerson’s ninth novel (she has also written one novella and four works of non-fiction). It may just be her best book yet as it manages to be both a page-turning thriller and a serious exploration of how abuse works. If that sounds off-putting, it shouldn’t...
Whit Stillman: All there

Whit Stillman: All there

You’d be forgiven for not exactly jumping with joy at the news that yet another Jane Austen adaptation has hit the big screen. This year alone has seen the release of both Burr Steer’s irreverent and rather dubious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the publication of Curtis Sittenfeld’s contemporary...
Blood well shed

Blood well shed

Early in his debut crime novel Clinch, Martin Holmén makes a play at our sympathy. Waiting for a business contact in the streets of 1930s Stockholm late one autumn evening, former boxer Harry Kvist spots a man beating a stray dog across the way. Kvist is quick to call the...
Edelweiss on the Black Sea

Edelweiss on the Black Sea

How it warms the soul to discover – amid naked rock, amid eternal snow, beside a cold, dead glacier – a tiny velvety flower, an edelweiss. In this realm of icy death it alone is alive. It says, “Don’t believe in the horror that surrounds us both. Look – I’m...
Squinting at DeLillo

Squinting at DeLillo

“I thought, Is this the world as it truly looks? Is this the reality we haven’t learned how to see?” Artis Martineau, Zero K Those who came of age in the nineties will no doubt remember the Magic Eye craze. Many will recall the fraught minutes spent studying these seemingly-abstract...
Agatha

Agatha

In December 1926, Agatha Christie vanished, sending shockwaves through British society. As the authorities scoured the country for her, theories and suspicions abounded: it was murder, a hoax, suicide, a publicity stunt, revenge. When she was finally discovered ten days later, living under an assumed name in a hotel in...
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Apparitions

Apparitions

One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years. A shepherd boy, awakened from his nap under a frangipani tree, peed in his shorts and screamed, and his four sheep ran off haphazardly in between stones and wooden grave markers as if a tiger had...
Worth watching

Worth watching

Woody Allen’s Manhattan begins with a montage of iconic New York City locations. Park Avenue, the 59th Street Bridge, the Staten Island Ferry; captured in sleek-as-silver Panavision black and white, a procession of these marvels dazzles the eye, while in our ear Allen’s voice agonises over the opening lines of a novel he’s writing. “Chapter...
Hole in the heart

Hole in the heart

On Mother’s Day 2001 Henny Beaumont gave birth to her third child. For the first four hours, her baby seemed no different from her two other little girls. When the registrar told Henny and her husband that their daughter might have Down’s syndrome, she thought that her life was over. How would she be able...
Waiting for a story

Waiting for a story

In April 1999, my flatmates had scattered on extended holidays to the far reaches of the world and I stayed behind in the rancid maisonette flat we shared in a Newcastle suburb. During the day, I rattled around in my dressing gown and kept the curtains closed, resisting the temptation to go outside into what...
No end in sight

No end in sight

Sunset at the Villa Thalia by Alexi Kaye Campbell. Dorfman/National Theatre “Decision time. Have you chosen hope or fear?” says one of the characters in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s brilliant new play. That character is a forty-something American known simply as ‘Harvey’ and played electrifyingly by Ben Miles. Harvard man extraordinaire, US State Department ‘floater’, man...
Behind the black gates

Behind the black gates

When I wrote my novel The Exclusives, a psychological thriller set in a boarding school, recollections of my own school days played some part in underpinning themes of the book. I was sent to a boarding school when I was thirteen. One of my overriding memories of the place is the school gates. They were...
Fiction of the American underclasses

Fiction of the American underclasses

During Presidential election campaigns, the men and women who aspire to the White House pitch themselves as the Wizard of Oz (or are they Dorothy?) – who will lead all Americans to the Emerald City about which they dream – and the myth of America’s cultural identity as a land of opportunity and dreams shines...
All too human

All too human

The French have an unflinching predilection for narratives that penetrate the veils of the private, the personal, the intimate – the vital experience of the unsayable. With dogged perseverance they will read confessions, autobiographies and diaries of all kinds, monumental epistolary collections, and torrents of conscience worthy of many Niagara Falls. They are masters of...
Land of eternal spring

Land of eternal spring

I decided to write The Mastermind for two reasons. After publishing four novels set during different periods of Guatemala’s history, I wanted to see if I could write a book that dealt with an incident grounded in my birthplace’s contemporary reality. Secondly I was intrigued by the internationally reported 2009 Rodrigo Rosenberg case in which...
Twin Falls

Twin Falls

They leave the freeway and cut south through the desert. Soon the canyon comes into view, a great gray crack in the land. Crowds swarm on the far rim, and behind them a dome of trees cloisters a ranch house. The bulge of the launchpad stands at the far end of the crowd, a mound...