"I didn't want people to read in the same way they might eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, but because I wanted them to know the mind-expanding privilege of walking a mile in someone else's shoes." Cathy Rentzenbrink
Top tens
You and the story

You and the story

Second-person narration, in which the author uses the pronoun ‘you’ to seemingly address the reader and draw them into the story, can be a bit of a high-wire balancing act. Or, to apply an analogy more suited to my West Coast background (I’ve never tried any circus stunts, let alone a high-wire act), writing in...
The solace of the strange

The solace of the strange

As the threat of a global pandemic grew and when we finally went into lockdown, something happened to our dreams. Telephone conversations, social media posts, virtual meet-ups became places to express the strange effect the virus was having on our subconscious sleeping states. For a while, I’m having the weirdest dreams, seemed to be the...
Misfiring love

Misfiring love

I’m really not a big romance fan, but I have to admit I do love a bad romance. Here are some of the fictional relationships that have stayed with me since first encounters – some troubled, some problematic, and some downright bizarre – from my formative years up to more recent times.   Manhattan, written...
All in the mind

All in the mind

At the risk of sounding like valedictorian delivering a graduation speech, a ‘psychological thriller’ is defined on Wikipedia as a thriller “which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters.” As definitions go, that’s good enough for me. In general, I just know a psychological thriller when I read one. Most whodunits, at...
Singular museums

Singular museums

This list comes out of writing Little, a novel about Madame Tussaud, whose waxworks on the Marylebone Road has always seemed to me a museum about one person. Marie Tussaud lived through the French Revolution, and many of the people she cast she actually knew. Her wax figures represent the different stations of her life:...
Puppetmasters

Puppetmasters

Do you ever have the feeling that somebody or something is influencing your life in some way? Making you do the foolish things that you know you really shouldn’t, providing snakes where in fact you should be going up ladders? You’re quite right. There is. The somebody is you, programmed to do what you do...
Other worlds

Other worlds

I love a good dystopia as much as the next reader. Throw me into a destroyed civilisation with a handful of plucky survivors struggling to stay alive, and I’m right in there with the can opener and home-made water filters. But sometimes I struggle to understand how that world came from this one – the...
Angry young, frail old man

Angry young, frail old man

Over two hundred films, mostly blockbusters, made over the past fifty years. Compiling a top ten list for Amitabh Bachchan is by definition an impossible task. It is also a frightening one as even the most considered, academic of lists must exclude beloved films. The films below are not necessarily his most successful, nor are...
Enduring grief

Enduring grief

My parents died within three years of each other when I was in my early twenties. In an effort to make sense of that blizzard of time, I told myself there was nothing I didn’t know about grief. We are encouraged to seek the positive in everything, and my silver lining would be that I...
Going it alone

Going it alone

What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘single mother’? Despite the passage of time, the opening of minds and general social progression, the term still comes loaded with negative connotations. Around a quarter of UK families are headed by a lone parent, and 90% of them are women. If some headlines are to...