John Baker's Weblog



Some reflections of a working writer and reader
Winged with Death current word count: 74534
The About info is all on my website. Click on the link to my Homepage, over there on the left, under the photograph
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Recently read:
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.
The Sound & the Fury by William Faulkener.
The Ikon Maker by Desmond Hogan.
The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban.
True at First Light by Ernest Hemingway.
Absolute Friends by John le Carre.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunnant.
You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe.
The Return of the Dancing Master by Henning Mankell.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson.
The American Boy by Andrew Taylor.
Tokyo by Mo Hayder.
Samuel Pepys - The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin.
Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman.
Sheer Blue Bliss by Lesley Glaister.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind.
Always a Body to Trade by KC Constantine.
The Tupamaros, The Unmentionables by Major Carlos Wilson.
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.
Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
Mary Swann by Carol Shields.
The Forest of the Hours by Kirstin Ekman.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali.
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor.
Family Values by KC Constantine.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.
Unless by Carol Shields.
Good Sons by KC Constantine.
The Dark Room by RK Narayan.
The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy.
Hen's Teeth by Manda Scott.
Disgrace by JM Coetzee.
Burial of Ghosts by Ann Cleeves.
Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore.
Thinks . . . by David Lodge.
Darwin's Worms by Adam Phillips.
The Private Parts of Women by Lesley Glaister.
Death and the Oxford Box by Veronica Stallwood.
The Investigation by Juan Jose Saer.
The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert.
The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine.
Russian Disco by Wladimir Kaminer.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.
Dockers and Detectives by Ken Worpole.
Heartbreak Tango by Manuel Puig.
Foe by JM Coetzee.
Shame by Bergljot Hobæk Haff.
Memoirs of the Author of 'The Rights of Woman' by William Godwin.
A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark by Mary Wollstonecraft.
The Sleeping and the Dead by Ann Cleeves.

Movies remembered:
Diarios de motocicleta (2004) by Walter Salles.
La Mala Educacion
(2004) by Pedro Almodovar.
Bowling for Columbine (2002) by Michael Moore.
Hable con ella (2002) by Pedro Almodóvar.
Elling (2001) by
Petter Næss

The Dancer Upstairs
(2002) by John Malkovich.
Laissez-Passer (2002) by Bertrand Tavernier.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) by Anthony Minghella.
Todo sobre mi madre (1999) by Pedro Almodóvar.
The Big Lebowski (1998) by Joel Coen.
Looking for Richard (1996) by Al Pacino.
Il Postino (1994) by
Michael Radford.
The Piano (1993) by
Jane Campion.
Änglagård (1992) by
Colin Nutley.
Thelma & Louise (1991) by Ridley Scott.
37°2 le matin (1986) by
Jean-Jacques Beineix.
Prizzi's Honor (1985) by
John Huston.
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) by Hector Babenco.
Body Heat (1981) by
Lawrence Kasdan.
Atlantic City (1980) by
Louis Malle.

All That Jazz
(1979) by
Bob Fosse.
Scener ur ett äktenskap (1973) by Ingmar Bergman.
Cabaret (1972) by
Bob Fosse.
Morte a Venezia (1971)
by Luchino Visconti.
The French Connection (1971) by
William Friedkin.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) by
Arthur Penn.
My Fair Lady (1964) by
George Cukor.
Marnie (1964) by Alfred Hitchcock.
Cape Fear (1962) by
J. Lee Thompson.
Jules et Jim (1962) by
François Truffaut.
La Notte (1961) by
Michelangelo Antonioni.
La Ciociara (1960) by
Vittorio De Sica.
Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock.
La Dolce vita (1960) by
Federico Fellini.
The Defiant Ones (1958) by Stanley Kramer.
The Key (1958) by Carol Reed.
The Young Lions (1958) by Edward Dmytryk.
Giant (1956) by George Stevens.
The Ladykillers (1955)
by Alexander Mackendrick.
The African Queen (1951) by John Huston.
The Third Man (1949)
by Carol Reed.
Key Largo (1948) by
John Huston.
The Big Sleep (1946) by
Howard Hawks.
Double Indemnity (1944) by Billy Wilder.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) by John Huston.
Citizen Kane (1941) by
Orson Welles.
Theatre, music and exhibitions from the recent past:
One Touch of Venus by Kurt Weill, performed by Opera North at the Grande Theatre, Leeds.
Steve Earl at Leeds Irish Centre.
Tynan at Newcastle Theatre Royal with Corin Redgrave in an RSC production.
Edward Hopper exhibition at Tate Modern.
The Permanent Way by David Hare at Leeds Playhouse.
Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams with Diana Rigg at Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Measure for Measure by the RSC at Newcastle Theatre Royal.
Käthe Kollwitz museum in Berlin and Cologne.





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Archive 2004(return to current weblog)

30th December 2004
Tsunami disaster. Without intending to politicize the grief of those involved, the following site seems to me to be one of the best for information and for suggesting ways in which you can help: Twelve UK charities have got together to appeal. You can dontate at

29th December 2004
This is a steal from The Common Man. It sounds like an urban myth. But who cares, it's a great story:
The British Nazi Party organised a Christmas fetish party (well, what else would you call a gathering of leather lederhosen-clad, shaven-headed, big-booted Adolf fantasists?). They booked a DJ. The DJ was black. The organiser thought he 'sounded white' on the phone when he booked him.
Needless to say, the master race were too shit-scared of saying anything about who they were to the DJ, who played his set and pocketed the cash. Sweet.
27th December 2004
“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror’ if we would remember it and consider it; the one wrought in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood…our shudders are all for the ‘horrors’ of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak, whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror, that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror, which none of us have been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.” Mark Twain, quoted by Noam Chomsky in a recent interview.
23rd December 2004
One of the colleges here is offering a course on the five saddest books ever written. If you believe it, they are:
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
The Awkward Age
by Henry James
The Good Soldier
by Ford Madox Ford
To The North
by Elizabeth Bowen
The End of the Affair
by Graham Greene
Perhaps it's supposed to be the five saddest books written in English. It seems a shame to leave out the Russians and the South Americans, who are probably better at sad than English speakers.
I'd leave in the Ford and the Greene but I'd want to make space for Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. Probably The Masterpiece by Emile Zola. I'll change my mind a hundred times before bedtime.
19th December 2004
The House of Lords has ruled that it is illegal to imprison suspects without a fair trial. The British government, through its spokesman, the Foreign Secretary, has questioned this. At the same time several people are held in Belmarsh prison, in Broadmoor and other institutions, many of them for several years, without being informed why they are there, and without being charged with any offence.
As a child, at school, I was taught that this country was special because of the rule of law. That every man or woman had the inaliable right to be tried by a jury of their peers and that no one could be locked away without recourse to the law.
This situation has obviously changed. Do teachers in our schools still teach their children the same lesson? Or do they tell our children the truth? That the government and the authorities can hold anyone for as long as they want without any charge being laid against them and without recourse to a court of law.

17th December 2004
"It's very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce." George W. Bush

"They misunderestimated me." George W. Bush

16th December 2004
David Blunkett has been forced to resign at last. Good news, great news on a rather grey day. He is one of the most arrogant and dangerous politicians in Blair's government and it's wonderful to see him leave.

I'm reading David Mitchell's Ghostwritten. Still only on chapter two, but I'm grabbed by the prose, the characterisation and the idea.

15th December 2004
Several million good and decent citizens of the USA who voted for George Bush in the recent elections were followers of the Rapture Index. Try Google for more info than you ever wanted on the Rapture Index. According to this fantastical theology Jesus will return to earth only when Israel occupies the rest of its 'Biblical lands' and when Temples have been built on the sites of key mosques. This will trigger a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Rapture is when true believers ”will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation which follow."
This is not a joke. For these people the invasion of Iraq is merely a warm-up toward biblical prophecy. For these people the Middle East is not a foreign policy issue, it’s a biblical scenario, a matter of personal belief.
Welcome to the 21st Century. They've got their president and he's got our Prime Minister.
The Rapture Index is changed weekly. As well as the usual biblical portents of doom, plagues, famine, etc. it includes other signs like drug abuse, liberalism, the standing of the Pope (they hate the Pope), the UN (hate) or the EU (more hate).
And you thought Regan was bad.

13th December 2004
I only wanted to re-read a couple of chapters of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury but got drawn in and read the whole thing again, thirty years later. The Compson's are a truly corroded humanity. Incestuous passion, pettiness, greed and tragedy are all here. And a tiny showing of human decency to bring it back into balance again. It was different to the book I remember, but no less worthy for that.
11th December 2004
My site has been getting a lot of visitors from Pitbull Dog. Apparently there is a link on there to an extract from my novel, Death Minus Zero, in which Geordie and Sam talk about Pitbull dogs.
Hi guys. Hope I didn't upset anyone.
9th December 2004
"Like a Night Club in the morning, you're the bitter end.
Like a recently disinfected shit-house, you're clean round the bend
." John Cooper Clarke.

I stole this quote from Zoe at My Boyfriend is a Twat, who stole it from John Cooper Clarke. Her site is better than mine by this much.
We were at the Grande Theatre, Leeds tonight to see the British premire of Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus performed by Opera North. It's going on tour next year to Hull, Sheffield, Norwich, Nottingham, Newcastle and Salford. So if you've missed it in Leeds there's still more chances coming up. This is nowhere near as brilliant as the work that Weill did with Brecht but it comes with an impressive pedigree and keeps you firmly in your seat for the evening. The play was written by SJ Perelman, who wrote many of the Marx Brothers scripts, and the lyrics are by Ogden Nash. The sets are impressive and the nightmare scene in which the grey citizens of New York crunch out any life forms that stand in their way will stay with me for a long time.
8th December 2004
These are some of the results of a Googlism on John Baker. Thanks to Paul for sending it. Those of you looking for a bio can use this. It could be true.
john baker is a real estate
john baker is the creator of sam turner
john baker is said
john baker is one of those writers that you know from the first book
john baker is the founder
john baker is the master of crafting a beautifully turned phrase while making it seem natural and effortless
john baker is in heaven
john baker is not
john baker is the question
john baker is best known for the sam turner mysteries which are set in york
john baker is revealed
john baker is having another birthday party in the city
john baker is a crime writer
john baker is married with five children and lives in york
john baker is
john baker is a track star
john baker is 'one of britain's most talented contemporary crime writers.'
john baker is rebuilding the lower changing room
john baker is the ancestor; he came from england previous to 1660
john baker is looking good
john baker is considered by many to be the best of the hard men

7th December 2004
I found this on someone else's site and couldn't leave it alone. I'm a sucker for blue. From Todd Lappin's Tokyo/Kyoto photos.

'Americans have different ways of saying things. They say elevator, we say lift. . . they say President, we say stupid psychopathic git. . . .' Alexi Sayle

6th December 2004
The paperback of my latest Sam Turner novel, The Meanest Flood is published this week. I'll be calling round the local bookshops to sign copies. Otherwise, you can get a copy from my site or your local bookshop or or one of the other internet bookshops. It's the season of overconsumption anyway, so why hold back?
They tell us we have to buy something for everyone we know. And they all have to buy something for us. It doesn't matter if they want or need it, or if we want or need it. This is not for you, it's for God. God doesn't want you to think about it. He wants you to spend, spend, spend, and consume, consume, consume. So get out there and do your christian duty.
4th December 2004
Went to Bracknell Forest with Margaret Murphy and spoke to a good audience at the library there. Great questions and a lot of interest in the craft. We could have easily gone on for another hour. Haven't done much since. Still trying to shake off this lurgy thing.
26th November 2004
The Ikon Maker by Desmond Hogan. Beautiful little novel first published in 1976. Original and poetic prose written in scraps of memory, short paragraphs and jerky positioning of words which make you want to read everything twice in case you miss one tiny thing.
I've been ill this week, some kind of virus which keeps me coughing through the night and sends veins of hysteria through my body. It'll be good to see it go. I want to be left weak and grateful.
Don't foget Kiev. The people there need all the help they can get.
20th November 2004
I've been battling with an aged computer for the last few days. But it seems to be coming through. Montalban's The Buenos Aires Quintet is a slow read. I'm enjoying it, but it's not easy.
And Susanna Pugiolli sent me a load of photographs of Montevideo from Argentina. Exactly what I needed for the current novel.

18th November 2004
I was at the Irish Centre in Leeds last night to see Steve Earl and his band. Great night. He gave us all the tracks from his latest CD, The Revolution Starts Now. Several others from the Jerusalem CD, Beatles covers and, "as a way of coping with the thought of George Bush for the next four years," a whole lot of Stones covers.
If this tour comes your way don't miss it.

11th November 2004
We went to Newcastle yesterday to see Corin Redgrave in the RSC production of Tynan. Based on the diaries of Kenneth Tynan the script doesn't do the man justice, but Redgrave brings compassion and humanity to the role and by the end of the play I felt we had been allowed a small glimpse of a complex, witty, flawed and erudite personality.
10th November 2004
"I'm a great believer in getting your priorities wrong, setting your sights low, so that you don't go through your whole life frustrated that you never became prime minister." John Peel 1939-2004. RIP.

9th November 2004
Thanks, Jon, we appreciate that you tried. Better luck next time. An admirer.

PS. I found Jon and many others like him on:

6th November 2004
I'm well into The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban and enjoying it immensely. It's good to know that there are many of his novels I haven't read yet. I'm working well on my own novel despite the interruptions of the American election and this terrible build-up to the flattening of Falluja.
30th October 2004
I've finished the Hemingway and am trying to think what to read next.
Also I've been working hard on the rss/xml links on this page and on my site, trying to figure out how they work best. I'm not a natural with technology. Always have to force it a little.
My novel is up around 70,000 words and the end is in sight. Still have to write it, though. It feels good.

22nd October 2004
Self-explanatory American election aid.

Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country. George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2004.

20th October 2004
Oedipus, schmoedipus. So what, as long as the boy loves his mother?

19th October 2004
This image is from, a website fighting for the interests of George Bush, although they insist that they are a Democrat organisation.

This is an image from, which is a website fighting for the interests of John Kerry, although the organisers insist that they are a Republican organisation.

16th October 2004
I'm on the second chapter of Hemingway's True at First Light. This is a MS that was edited by his son and first published in 1999. It's set on a safari and seems to be a blend of autobiography and fiction. This is the first time I've looked at Hemingway for nearly thirty years. Verdict? Well, you've just gotta love him.
13th October 2004
Tony Blair's plans to hand out Knighthoods, OBEs and MBEs to those on the Iraq Honours List, including the slight-of-hand merchants who helped put together the dodgy dossier on Sadam's WMDs, should be scrapped. In fact, political patronage of any kind should not be part of a PM's remit. This leaves the honours system open to corruption. But we've known that for a long time.
9th October 2004
Ken Bigley had his head hacked off yesterday. The world just stood and watched. I can't help feeling that the guy would be home for Christmas if it wasn't for the president and his lapdog.
Go out and buy Steve Earle's new album, The Revolution Starts Now. The man needs all the support he can get.
4th October 2004
I stole this quote from Mat Coward's site. It's from one of his old columns in the New Statesman but is still worth repeating:
"Quite simply, [the Blairies from Blairyland] were never Labour. They don't come from Labour families, they don't share Labour values. On the contrary, they represent a group of people who, witnessing the failure of deregulated Thatcherism, rightly feared that this would lead to a marked realignment of the consensus in a socialist direction. [They] set out to abolish the Labour Party and replace it with an updated version of the Tory Party." (26 April 1996)
28th September 2004
I've been listening to the Tom Mcrae CD (the first one - called Tom Mcrae) and I can't stop playing it. Wonderfully dark, poetic lyrics and haunting tunes that remind me sometimes of a very young Paul Simon, but with a twist of the old, gnarled version of Leonard Cohen. Don't get the impression that it's imitative, though. It's not happy stuff but it comes with a cold and frozen beauty that is impossible to resist.
I'm reading le Carre's Absolute Friends. As usual it's a gem, written with a raging prose about the world we live in.
20th September 2004
Hunt protesters out on the streets of London. These are people who want to maintain fox-hunting with hounds as a 'sport'. Aristocrats, major and minor, poseurs, wannabe's and their lackies for the most part. Good to see them out on the street fighting the police, though I in no way support their cause. In some way this is the proof of a perfect democracy; they beat us with sticks when we protested Vietnam or the invasion of Iraq, and now they do the same with the toffs. No favouritism, see. Don't you love it? Or do policemen just like cracking heads?
18th September 2004
Life of Pi is a real treat. I'm reading it slowly; one of those books you don't want to finish too quickly. It's thoughtful and packed with ideas and the writing is just plain good.
Otherwise I've been doing some research of dance and religion for my own novel. Fascinating.
13th September 2004
I read more than a hundred pages of the Donna Tartt book and then dumped it in the middle of a sentence. It was overhyped; an ordinary novel draped with the latest fashions. Time is too precious to waste on such fare. I'll give Yann Martel's Life of Pi a go.
11th September 2004
I'm about fifty pages into Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. This is usually decision time in a novel. Shall I read it or dump it? I don't know yet. A lot of people are saying it's good but it hasn't grabbed me yet. We'll see over the next few days.
I'm spending more time on my own novel now. It lost its shape for a while and I've sorted out how to put that back together. It'll take some concentrated work, but if I don't do it I can't see anyone else picking it up.
Writing a novel is uphill for a long time and when you get to the top there's still a way to go before you get back down again on the other side. Both sides, the climb and the descent, have their moments but on the whole I prefer the editing stage, the part where you have to decide how much comes out.
4th September 2004
Easing my way back into the novel. One of the problems with it is that I have an abundance of material. I'm learning brevity, but it's a hard lesson. Also, the material is forever increasing and my ideas about what a novel might be seem capable of limitless expansion.
We went to the Hopper exhibition at Tate Modern during the week. It was more than I could have wished for. I never understood the pictures before, never gave them as much credit as I should. In the original the sense of alienation and imprisonment, paralyses, is very strong but it is counterbalanced by the light, how it spills out in every direction. I came away with a new way of looking at the world, which is a pretty good way to leave an exhibition.
29th August 2004
Back from a month in Norway. Got a lot of reading done, swimming and walking and soaked up some sunshine. Met old and new friends and talked up a storm over a fire by a black-blue fjord. But not much writing.
Came home to around 400 emails and have spent the last 24 hours deleting most of them.
Among the things I read was Sarah Dunnant's The Birth of Venus, which was something of a joy. Now I'm somewhere towards the middle of Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again. This is a book that's been avoiding me for years but I've caught up with it now.
24th July 2004
The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival is very successful and a lot of fun. It's good to be involved and to meet up with old friends. On the opening night there was an announcement about a new national literary award - the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. This intends to celebrate the broad spectrum of crime fiction and will be the only crime fiction award voted for by readers. Innovative and timely, as many of the existing awards in this field seem to be mired in a swamp of their own making.
This blog is hanging up its clogs for the next month while I try a combination of holiday and work. But it'll be up and runing again towards the end of August.
21st July 2004
I'm reading Henning Mankell's The Return of the Dancing Master and enjoying it so far. I wasn't sure because I haven't enjoyed his previous books, especially the ultra-miserable Wallander series. This one is about the death of a man who was obsessed with tango and therefore bears a superficial resemblance to the novel I am writing. I'll take it to Norway with me, something to while away the hours on the boat.
17th July 2004
I've got the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival coming up this weekend. There's a party on Thursday evening and a couple of panels Friday and Saturday. And then I'm going to Norway for a month where I hope to get towards the end of the first draft of Winged with Death.
13th July 2004
There is a political button doing the rounds in the States which simply says: Re-Defeat Bush.
There's a website, bumper stickers and lawn signs with the same message. In this series you can buy a condom in a matchbook-style wrapper with the slogan Don't Get Screwed Again on the front. Isn't it great when a whole group of people get together and find they can laugh at misfortune?
10th July 2004
Life is hectic at the moment. Not getting a lot of work done. Six visitors last week, and another four this week. Parties, drinking, living high and fast, overeating and not getting the required exercise.
The God of Small Things my only constant. We go away to Norway in a couple of weeks. Then work begins again.
28th June 2004
The Great Gatsby was wonderful to revisit. It's not often one reads a novel that is word perfect.
Now I'm inside The God of Small Things which isn't word perfect at all but is nevertheless compulsive reading. Arundhati Roy is adventurous in her use of language, wild about alliteration and almost anything which has a trace of rhyme about it. Dark and original imagery underlines the author's faith in her readers. This is a novel I've looked forward to for a long time and so far it's not disappointing.
23rd June 2004
Compassion fatigue. I couldn't finish reading the Guardian's account of the torture and humiliation of Afghani prisoners by US Soldiers. Of course, we knew that it was happening all along, you couldn't see pictures of the way they immediately hooded everyone they took into custody without fearing for the health and lives of those arrested. George Bush's insistence that 'everything goes' in the so-called war against terror makes the torture and degradation of the civilian populations of these countries inevitable. And the military have always hidden behind starch and white-collars, shoeshine and bullshit to mask their real business which is the letting of blood in all its various forms.
This is not an anti-American rant, by the way. The same comments apply to the British government.
18th June 2004
It's been a long time since I read The Great Gatsby. I remember being very impressed with the language. Now I'm reading it again for my reading group and it all comes tumbling back into focus. It must be one of the greatest American books. While you have it in front of you you can understand that God isn't dead at all but He/She/Whatever it is has moved away and forgot to keep in touch. In a way it is worse than God dying on us. He/She/Whatever didn't care enough or became so disillusioned with what was created that somewhere else, anywhere else seemed better.
14th June 2004
I started Robert Wilson's The Blind Man of Seville this morning. He buttonholes you straight away with his fine writing and the promise of a broad canvas and a multi-layered narrative.
12th June 2004
This ( is a site which sets out to oppose George Bush's Presidential Prayer Team Website. The PPTW is a money-collecting political action group with a right wing religious agenda, which has almost 3 million people praying every day for Bush and his administration. Pray for Reason wants to get that many Americans and more praying to defeat the guy. It's almost funny. Which side are you on?
11th June 2004
I just caught the end of Margaret Thatcher's eulogy for Ronnie. Good to see how she's aged and how frail she looks these days. But she's still spouting a lot of rubbish. To hear her and the others at the funeral you'd think Reagan was the best thing that happened in the 20th Century instead of one of it's principle pains.
Reading Andrew Taylor's The American Boy. Clever stuff. He captures the period in the voice of his narrator and leads you on by the nose as if you had a ring in it.
10th June 2004
The deification of Ronnie Reagan continues. He's lying in State now and they've got a national day of mourning going over there. I suppose it takes the heat off Bush and his administration for a little while.
Reagan was confronted by the AIDS epidemic when he became president and completely ignored it for over six years. It was only in 1987 when Rock Hudson died from the disease that the president decided to talk about it. But around 35,000 Americans had already contacted AIDS by then.
Now they're saying that he was responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union. Well, he was around when Mikhail Gorbachev decided to end the cold war and reduce the world's spending on nuclear weapons and bring in some much-needed reforms, but in that whole process Reagan was no more than best supporting actor.
9th June 2004
Went to see Pedro Almodovar's La Mala Educacion today. Great film, you don't even want to blink in case you miss something. The narrative is maintained on different levels and time-frames and he manages to make you give up trying to determine which is the fictional and which the factual strands. Beautiful images with a deservedly hard-line on the Catholic church and a passion for the movies.
8th June 2004
I'm reading Mo Hayder's Tokyo. The novel comes with a galaxy of recommendations from the great and the good in the world of crime fiction. Mo is on my panel at the Harrogate Crime Festival this year so I'm looking forward to meeting her.
Lot of stuff in the news about D-Day, it being the sixtieth anniversary of that event. I asked everyone I met what the D stood for but nobody could tell me. Apparently it's military-speak for the Day of the operation, whatever the operation is, as in the operation will take place at H-Hour on D-day Terribly disappointing isn't it?

7th June 2004.
Jack Ellis's production company has optioned the TV rights on Poet in the Gutter, the first Sam Turner novel. They're working on a script. Jack plays the character Jim Fenner in ITV's Bad Girls, but is looking to play Private Eye Sam Turner.

Photo: Ronald ReaganThe actor and former President of the USA, Ronald Reagan has died at the age of 93. The media are busy telling us what a great man he was, which is difficult to understand. As a crony of Margaret Thatcher he was largely responsible for the reigning conservative ideology of tax cuts for the rich, limited government and American unilateralism. He thought of all Medicare recipients as 'a faceless mass waiting for handouts.'
It is wrong to portray him as a great man. If we do that others may want to emulate him and that would be a pity for future generations. May he rest in peace but we don't want or need another one like him. The sterling intelligence of the man once led him to say, I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during a hydrogen bomb blast.

6th June 2004.
We were at Appleby Fair yesterday. Truly amazing. Appleby is an ancient Horse Fair, held each June in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria. It is attended by many Romany and Gypsy families traveling to meet up with old friends and to conduct business. The fair has existed since 1685 under the protection of a charter granted by James II. Horses everywhere. In the river, along it's banks, tethered outside shops and taverns. There was an impromptu harness race along one of the narrow lanes, men and animals hurtling along on a path barely wide enough to hold two of them side-by-side. Hair-raising stuff, no crash-helmets and little regard for personal safety. Wonderfully invigorating.
My editor at Orion loved the early draft of Winged with Death. But he doesn't want to publish it because he thinks it would confuse my readers. (That's you, folks.) I suppose this is because it isn't really a crime novel and only being a simple publisher he thinks that people who read crime novels don't read anything else. Whatever, at the end of the day it's a patronizing and paternalistic attitude. These people want to put readers in a box, all neatly labelled, so that they can feed them a kind of pre-digested crap, something like the methods associated with factory farming.
I'll carry on with the novel and finish it whatever. I'm writing it because it needs writing and it's the project that is closest to my heart at the moment. But I'll need a publisher sooner or later. Only apply if you want original work and understand that readers are intelligent beings who are stimulated by, among other things, a love of language, the development and delineation of character and, ultimately, by a search for meaning.
Was that a rant? No, it was a blog.
31st May 2004.
Can't remember where this came from:
Well, it came from the USA. One of the nicer things from over the water for some time.
30th May 2004.
Tomalin refers to Edward Montagu's bride, Jemima, and the 'womanly virtues admired in her father's family.' These 'can be judged from the names of her grandmother and aunts, Temperance, Patience, Prudence and Silence.'
29th May 2004.
I've begun reading Samuel Pepys - The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin. I have nothing to say about it yet. Only great joy and relief that I was not around in the seventeenth century.
28th May 2004.
was a great read. Kerstin Ekman must rank high among modern novelists. The two books I have read of hers in translation have been among the most enjoyable reading experiences in recent years. She has something to say and an original and exciting way of saying it.
22nd May 2004.
Still reading Blackwater. Well, it's a long book. The first draft of Winged with Death seems to be coming to a natural conclusion. I have perhaps another ten or twenty thousand words to write. Maybe I'll finish it in Norway?
14th May 2004.
I was at the Lincoln Festival last night with Margaret Murphy, Chaz Brenchley and Ann Cleeves. A panel of crime writers. Good event with an interesting and interested audience. Didn't see much of Lincoln, though. Ate in what must be the noisiest restaurant in the world.
9th May 2004. Went to see David Hare's The Permanent Way at Leeds Playhouse last night. A modern Brechtian piece, half documentary contemporary history about the privatizing of the railways and the subsequent mess and near-total collapse of the system. It's a story of our time; some people got very rich while others were maimed and killed and there was never really anyone to blame.
8th May 2004. I've begun Kerstin Ekman's Blackwater. She writes so well. Feels like reading a latter-day Faulkner.

6th May 2004.

This is the fellow who ate all my lettuce seedlings in one night. Well, he had a partner with him. Black guy without a shell suit. I want them both, dead or alive. You should've seen the carnage they left behind. SOCCOS wouldn't even go in there.

5th May 2004.
Apparently three workers at the Nestle factory in York have been sacked after it was discovered that thousands of Aero Bars (a kind of chocolate) had been overprinted with the words 'Shit Bar' where the best-before-date should have been. Martin on the VF2 community commented, 'I used to love them but now they make me feel sick.' Reinstate the York-Three, say I.
1st May 2004.
Still enjoying the Glaister book. The portrait of a psychopath is chilling.
29th April 2004.
A good link to moderate Muslim opinion in the UK is: There is some good debate on the site and up-to-date responses to current events. At a time when much media coverage tends towards demonizing the Muslim community it is necessary to make sure we understand both points of view.
26th April 2004.
Blunkett's hard-line on identity cards needs to be checked. Many in the Cabinet are against it, even names like Jack Straw, Patricia Hewitt, Geoff Hoon and Alistair Darling. Seems like the only ones who are really determined to push it through are Blair and Blunkett. I didn't think I'd live long enough to see the country ruled by decree. But here we are. Identity cards have never stopped illegal immigration. Ask in the USA, Germany or France.
24th April 2004.
I finished the Suskind book, though it was quite predictable and completely unconvincing. Now I've found a copy of Sheer Blue Bliss, a novel by Lesley Glaister. Glaister is not as well known as she should be, and undervalued. I'm only at chapter three but enjoying her voices immensely.
My own novel creeps forward at a petty pace, although the overall shape and point of it is beginning to broadcast itself. There are a couple of characters I had left shadowy or missed entirely, which need some work. And the central voice needs some modification. But it's coming, slowly, slowly. It is on its way.
17th April 2004.
About half way through Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Fascinating but disgusting book about a character (creature) with no scent who seems to be composed almost entirely of olfactory sense. A clever gothic fantasy.
Going to Newcastle today to see Diana Rigg in Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer. Life should have little treats every so often.
10th April 2004.
Easter Saturday. The house is full and fairly harmonious. No work really possible. Still, Easter is supposed to be a time for sacrifice.
3rd April 2004.
I've just read the first chapter of KC Constantine's Always a Body to Trade. Quite brilliant. There are few writers as constant and reliable as Constantine. Glasgow was great. After the gig at Ottakars we got ten of us around the table at Rogano's. Happy place, Glasgow. . . people were singing outside our bedroom window until well after three a.m.
27th March 2004.
Still researching the Tupamaros. Not much writing this week. Next week I'm in Glasgow with Steve Booth and Stuart Pawson. We're part of a panel at Glasgow Ottakers. Sounds like it might be a good outing.
20th March 2004.
Little bit of research for the current novel. The Tupamaros, The Unmentionables by Major Carlos Wilson is almost impossible to read from cover to cover. There is some good stuff in there, info that I need for the section I'm writing at the moment but the language is bad. Hope it doesn't rub off on me.
18th March 2004.
Jerome Doolittle said, The Bush administration will no doubt be enshrined in history as the most dishonest ever to hold power in (that) country. By now, the count of misleading or outright false statements issued by BushCo. is so high that few can keep track. I suppose Tony Blair would be one of the few, Jerome?
13th March 2004.
The Wasp Factory
is still compulsive.
7th March 2004.
Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory: I've just finished the first chapter and I'm hooked. This week I spoke and read in Northallerton, Barnsley and York. I used to think I was a writer. Resolution: in the future I should do more writing and less talking.
28th February 2004.
The Corrections
is a slow novel, but fascinating. A terrifying picture of a family, but it somehow retains a sense of humour. All the time you're wondering if it's possible to age and not become like the heads of the family, Enid and Alfred. Please, God. . . .
21st February 2004.
Reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. The opening few pages are extremely funny, but it's another novel of 650 pages and, not surprisingly, it can't keep up the pace. Spent a couple of days in Stroud, meeting old friends and enjoying something close to an English spring. Then a day in London, being interviewed and signing books here, there, and everywhere. Ended up at the Orion Authors' party at the National Portrait Gallery. Lots of champagne and noise. But the payoff is that I'm now back at my desk and trying to remember what it was that kept me here before I went globe-trotting. Ah, that's right, now I remember. . . .
7th February 2004.
Good day in Newcastle yesterday. I taught a group of talented writers during the afternoon, and in the evening I read from White Skin Man at the Literary & Philosophical Society.
1st February 2004.
I finished Michel Houellebecq's Atomised. It came good in the end. In fact there was one short passage in there which moved me more than any other book has done for a long time. Now I've got Karin Fossum's Don't Look Back on my desk. The Stavanger Aftenblad called her Norway's Queen of Crime, but I'll try anyway.
29th January 2004.
An email from Ritchie Owen made my day. This is the edited version: 'I work all day with criminals, drug users and the, 'hameless' in a city centre office in the midlands. This work is rewarding as beneath the presenting exterior of a seemingly hopeless drug user we quite frequently find a 'Geordie'. (In a cheap second-hand bookstore) I picked up a copy of Poet in the Gutter for the grand sum of £1.00. Thanks for the characters. I have to say the plot left me wanting more but boy can you write characters and atmosphere. I got the book out to read in a local pub when the Sky TV feed to the Arsenal v Boro game failed and (the barman) is reading the book now (a £1 is a £1). Cheers Again will go to Amazon for more Sam.'
24th January 2004.
But I'm still reading it. Slowly, because the main focus is the novel I'm writing. Trying to stick to clear, lyrical prose. Not easy but always a challenge. I seem to have a lot of speaking/reading dates coming up, which would be wonderful if it didn't mean losing writing time. Still, it's part of the job these days. Looking forward to publication of White Skin Man next month.
17th January 2004.
I'm reading Michel Houellebecq's Atomised. About a hundred pages in. Don't know if I want to carry on or not. On the back page it says, 'A novel which hunts big game while others settle for shooting rabbits.' Makes me feel like hanging up my spurs.
9th January 2004.
Good, productive week. I've come through somehow with the new novel. One of the keys is to have the narrative transferred into the subconscious so that you can work on it in dreams and when you're somewhere else. And this happened during the week. I've found myself wandering around at 4am, 4.30am, making notes; being dragged out of sleep by a new development in the thinking or the lives of the characters. This is an exciting time, building up a head of steam and hoping the thing will hang on to its own volition. Time is still the main theme, the centrepiece, but it is hung with the tassels of revolution and dance and youth and the presence of death.
3rd January 2004.
Happy New Year. I'm still reading Alias Grace. These big books take me a while to get through. I like Grace, she's a great character, chatty and good company. Still haven't worked out if she's a real victim or whether she's manipulative and devious. It seems to me that the suspense of the book lies mainly in this, and the triumph is that Margaret Atwood manages to keep us in the air for so long.
I'm in the last stages of procrastination now. I shall have to go back to work in the next three or four days.















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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