"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Top tens
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...
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...
Tips for living

Tips for living

Britt-Marie is not judgemental, or fussy, or difficult. No matter how ill-mannered, thoughtless, impertinent or unkempt others may be. But she does expect things to be done in a certain way. She has lived a perfectly orderly life with her husband Kent in their rented apartment in Stockholm for the last forty years. But when...
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...
As Evel does

As Evel does

Americans love a confident scoundrel. We are willing – some large number of us are, anyway – to forgive myriad flaws, lies and crimes, so long as the offender is charismatic and self-assured. Perhaps this is true of people everywhere, but there is a particular strain of American rogue that populates the nation’s history to...
American road epics

American road epics

American stories are road stories. We are aware that others do road stories. We are aware that others did them before us. We read Dante, some of Cervantes, and we saw Mad Max twelve times. But no other people set such stock by their road narratives. Nobody churns out so many, or believes them so...
Transformers

Transformers

Years ago, when I was starting out as a writer, I met a literary agent. “What do you want to see happen to characters in a story?” I asked him. His reply was simple: “I want to see them changed.” In many ways, identity change is a central part of most stories. Through the experiences...
Other Africas

Other Africas

Most first-time visitors’ images of Africa are shaped by the safari experience, which is defined by its artificiality. Camping hundreds of miles from the nearest office block or high street, they learn every detail of an elephant’s sex life but catch only brief glimpses of how the locals live. Western reporters, in contrast, are drawn...
High life and dirty boulevards

High life and dirty boulevards

The films in this list may range widely in style and subject, from brooding dramas to spectacular action movies, from French New Wave masterpieces to slightly dated 80s thrillers; some are French productions while others are American movies filmed in Paris, but one thing is true of all of them: they couldn’t have been set...
Made-up worlds (and a worldie maid)

Made-up worlds (and a worldie maid)

It’s a bit ridiculous to choose only ten examples of how world mythology has inspired popular culture, as the examples range into the thousands across books, films, TV, comics, games, music, fashion, and more. Any Top 10 can only be an intensely personal one, so that’s what I’ve chosen: ten of my personal favourites, taken...