The Blog

Bits of Byzantium

As a schoolboy I was obsessed with the Byzantine Empire, and its astounding capital city of Constantinople. I loved the poems by W.B. Yeats in which the artefacts of Byzantium were celebrated. Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,More miracle than bird [...]

William Blake: Failing Better

“You may smile at me calling another Poet a Mystic”, replied Samuel Taylor Coleridge having been sent a copy of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence, “but verily I am in the very mire of common-place common-sense compared with Mr Blake.” Even the relat [...]


The current exhibition at Tate Liverpool by the New York artist Keith Haring, whose fame rested on his early career as a street or graffiti artist, reminds me of an article I wrote a decade ago – God, is it really ten years? – about a show at Fondati [...]


EVELYN DUNBAR AND THE WOMEN’S LAND ARMY   A LAND GIRL AND THE BAIL BULL 1945 This is a painting that always used to make me pause if I passed through the gallery in Tate Britain where it hangs – even though I knew nothing at all about its painter [...]

Wicked Simplicity

WICKED SIMPLICITY: the Supermarine Spitfire. In October 2006 I reviewed a new "biography" of the Spitfire, written by the art critic Jonathan Glancey. Mk IIa P7350, the last Battle of Britain veteran still flying. I spent many a short-trousered [...]


Today my latest Cragg and Fidelis story Rough Music is published in the United States. The fact that it is also April Fool’s Day must be coincidental. This new novel is narrated, as ever, by Titus Cragg my conscientious coroner of Lancashire, and is [...]


After the last remnants of Daesh were mopped up at Baghuz, there remained the question of what to do about the surviving foreign fighters who had travelled to join them in such overwhelming numbers.  The following essay, which I wrote as the 2nd Gulf [...]


HECTOR BERLIOZ: A MIND YOU COULD NEVER PREDICT [This is the text of my review of The Selected Letters of Berlioz, edited Hugh MacDonald, which appeared in the Independent on Sunday on 30 July 1995.] Niccolò Paganini was a notorious tightwad, but he [...]

Life Changing Literature: Michel de Montaigne

My second second contribution to the Royal Literary Fund podcast series "Vox" came under the heading of "life-changing literature", for which I decided to speak about Michel de Montaigne. This sixteenth century French essayist possessed one of the mo [...]

Letter to myself aged seven

Some months ago I contributed two short essays to the writers' podcast "Vox", to be put out on the website of the Royal Literary Fund. A number of subjects were suggested  to us and the first that I chose was "A Letter to my Younger Self", in which I [...]
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