Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Books, books, books –another batch of Sunday Times Kultur and the book sections are awash with interesting new publications that I know we simply can’t afford but interesting reviews nevertheless. To begin with there are a number of new biographies: Joseph Roth, Michelangelo (Vol.1), J. Bruce Ismay (Titanic), “Under our Skin” a white family’s journey through South Africa’s darkest years, “Why Be Happy When You could Be Normal?” By Jeanette Winterson, Strindberg – what a character – wrote 60 plays, 18 novels, nine volumes of autobiography, his private life a disaster. Wilkie Collins – another weird character, Christopher Isherwood, Henry Miller, Simon Cowell (!!!??? Only joking –can’t wait not to get this one), Edith Sitwell, “Leaving Alexandria” the autobiography of Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh who left the church. A fascinating story by the sound of it, “The Man Without A face” The unlikely rise of Vladimir Putin and a new biography of TE Lawrence. Is that enough to be getting on with do you suppose? But biographies apart there is “The Great Sea” A human history of the Mediterranean, “London in the Eighteenth Century” – a regular cesspool whichever way you look at it. “Savage Continent”: Europe in the aftermath of World War Two. “Thomas Becket” – or should this one be under biography? “Enemies”: A History of the FBI. “The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England.” “With The Hand”: A Cultural History of masturbation. (And this one deserves a quote later.) “Seasons Of The Sun”: The Battle For Britain 1974-1979. And this one, with the influx of immigrants since then, particularly Muslim, I should think definitely needs updating!
“A History of Ancient Egypt”: From the first farmers to the great pyramid. “In The Shadow of the Sword”: The battle for global empire and the end of the ancient world. “The Spanish Holocaust”: Inquisition and extermination in twentieth century Spain. Well that little lot would keep me busy for a while, no?
Have finally finished the rewrite of my third novel, ‘Torque.’ (That is apart from the Thornton Kings of which there are now six – two waiting in the wings). It has taken longer than anything else I’ve ever worked on. I can’t remember exactly when I started on it but it must be well over two years ago; but it’s not really surprising because I only came back to it whenever I felt in the mood and other things took precedence: for example a new play ‘Marry Go Round,’ and the two Thornton King books, ‘Celluloid and Tinsel’ and ‘Men and their Toys’ still to be published. Also ‘The Museum Mysteries’ that Douglas is currently proofing, hopefully for the last time. It’s amazing how many times you can proof read a manuscript and still miss mistakes. In every book I read these days I am certain to come across a typo or other mistake somewhere along the way. Now he is adamant he won’t put up with any mistakes, certainly not if he can help it.
He reread ‘Dead on Time,’ published in the United States a few years back and decided it’s not up to standard so has republished it. I have to admit, looking at it, it’s a great improvement. Apologies to all those who bought the original. At the time we thought it was terrific. Four years later with that much more experience – in presentation it doesn’t appear to be quite so terrific. That’s not to say it isn’t eminently readable. Take my word for it, I have just reread it and enjoyed it immensely, as Oscar Wilde might have said. Tee-hee!
Chris has been having a little contretemps with Amazon UK. His Champagne Charlie biography, ‘The Heaviest Of Swells,’ as everyone must surely know by now, was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize 2012 and he wanted to put that piece of information on Amazon under the book’s title but was told that was not policy so was refused. Title only thank you very much. Oh Yes? So why was it allowed for the winner of the prize? Anyway a flurry of back and forth e-mails resulted I’m afraid in the winning book losing its accolade, Oh dear! The playing field was now even. But, to add insult to injury, rub salt in the wound, turn the screw, and anything else you might think of, Amazon e-mailed Chris with a list of “theatre” books he might find enjoyable and guess what was on top of the list? You guessed it, the winner of the 2012 theatre book prize.
Gosh, how about that?

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