“There is something in the self-loathing that comes from writing that helps the job along, that also feeds the writing.” DBC Pierre
Boom or bust

Boom or bust

A hundred pages into Jay McInerney’s new novel Bright, Precious Days, Russell Calloway treats himself and a co-worker to lunch. As the editor-in-chief of a small New York publishing house, Russell has just initiated a pre-emptive bid on a hot prospect: the harrowing memoir of a journalist who recently escaped from a...
The day of reckoning

The day of reckoning

US District Court, Tampa, Florida March 26, 1990 Armed guards led me into a tiny, windowless room in Tampa’s US District Courthouse. Through the glossy mahogany walls came the muffled voices of lawyers arguing and the response of an unruly crowd. On the other side of the door, I was...
Gavin Extence: An occupied mind

Gavin Extence: An occupied mind

The set-up for Gavin Extence’s The Empathy Problem is as bleak as they come: Gabriel Vaughn, a hotshot hedge fund executive with a heart of stone, is given only months to live when he learns that he has an inoperable brain tumour. The tumour happens to be located in the...
The many faces of Lucy Caldwell

The many faces of Lucy Caldwell

Multitudes is the first book of short stories from the prizewinning novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell. The collection is eleven stories strong and each of the stories seems to describe a character in peril so that holding one’s breath whilst reading them sometimes feels unavoidable. Caldwell agrees to meet me...
Laura Lippman: No more heroes

Laura Lippman: No more heroes

Laura Lippman’s latest novel is set in the Maryland suburb of Wilde Lake, Columbia, twenty miles west of Baltimore, where she lived and went to school in the 1970s. The ‘new town’ of Columbia was founded as a well-meaning experiment in egalitarian community living – which in retrospect was always...
Idra Novey: Reckless passions

Idra Novey: Reckless passions

Idra Novey’s debut novel Ways to Disappear is a boisterously funny literary thriller in which noted experimental Brazilian author Beatriz Yagoda vanishes up a tree, pursued by her two grown children, her American translator Emma, an ex-publisher and a sleazy gun-wielding loan shark seeking payback on Beatriz’s online poker debts....
Jenn Ashworth: Into the dark

Jenn Ashworth: Into the dark

I wouldn’t have expected Jenn Ashworth to be nervous at this stage in her career. Perhaps a couple of novels ago she might have worried that the 2010 Betty Trask prize she’d snagged for her debut A Kind of Intimacy had been beginner’s luck. But her 2011 follow-up Cold Light landed her on the BBC Culture Show’s list...
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After dark

After dark

Chris Whitaker’s debut novel Tall Oaks is a suspenseful, sinister and hilarious story of a small town in the full glare of the world’s media after the mysterious disappearance of a young boy. He gives us the inside track on his writing and reading habits, big influences and favourite writers. Where are you now? At...
India

India

The obvious irony was that she wasn’t from India. She didn’t know where she was from, ethnically speaking, but she could pretty much count on not being Indian. Why her adoptive parents named her India was not a story she liked to tell. She bore the burden of being beautiful. A burden few others could...
Lifting the lid

Lifting the lid

Sophia Khan’s debut novel Dear Yasmeen is the story of Irenie, a young girl in upstate New York whose charismatic mother disappeared five years ago, and her distant, eccentric father James, who refuses to open up about the past. As Irenie digs around for details of her mother’s life, she uncovers love letters written between...
Too close for comfort

Too close for comfort

In cities, crime rates rise with the temperature but I’ve often wondered how many murders happen because of summer holidays. After all, British murder rates spike at Christmas – all those long, workless, alcohol-soaked days closeted away from the real world with the people who know us best: our family. What surer crucible for psychological...
Very like a whaler

Very like a whaler

Among the great books of the sea, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale of 1851, has few peers. Around the simple narrative of Captain Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of the great white whale that had taken his leg, the whale’s deliberate destruction of his ship, and the loss of all but one member of the crew,...
Apocalypse never

Apocalypse never

In his Brief Theory of Travel and the Desert, skilfully translated with grit and brio by Jacqueline Minett, Cristian Crusat orchestrates a syncopated arrangement of six stories suspended in time and space, relating the experience of being and non-being through stunted snapshots from the lives of disparate, seemingly ordinary and inconsequential characters. Their insignificance, we...
Searching for angels

Searching for angels

Landing by Laia Fàbregas is a rare find – a narrative of worlds lost and found, of words that are vital and impossible to translate, of human communion, and communication that must be retrieved in its utmost simplicity from the plexus of relentless alienation and multi-layered facelessness that characterises the aftermath of our post-modernity. Above...
Aces of the West

Aces of the West

Here is a list of some of my favourite novels that take place in the American West. This includes both historical Westerns and contemporary stories set in the rugged and wild areas that we consider the West. There are so many good ones, but I chose these due to the heavy use of location and...
Be a writer

Be a writer

In Ancient Egypt, or at least in the New Kingdom, writing was taught in scribal schools. Young boys (there is little evidence for girls’ schooling) were taught to read and write by dictation and by copying existing texts. Various compositions, of different genres and from different periods, were deemed suitable for teaching purposes. Classics of...
Unfinished business

Unfinished business

There is a singular sense of feverish neutrality in Thanassis Valtinos’ writing. A cinematic poise, a travelling eye, a dramatist’s instinctive flair for tension, voice, climax, the lull that contains more menace than any thundering explosion; a perpetual game of darkness and light, an omniscient narrator who never divulges all he knows. Valtinos was born...