Keeping My Writing Current – The Literary Consultancy

Motivation It’s easy to start writing. Finishing tricky. I started writing fiction for teens because my experience was there after supporting literacy in schools. Doing research for a YA novella called ‘Get Over It, Adventures,’ Onwards & Upwards, 2009, gave me insight into writing for a purpose. Also, I wrote prose non-fiction to understand my … Read more

Making the Fun Factory

Does the name Karno mean anything today? It made a rare appearance in recent political polemic, with Theresa May described by one critic as “more at home in Fred Karno’s Circus than leading her party or Brexit negotiations”. But in his heyday, at the beginning of the First World War, the knockabout comedian was famous … Read more

From forager to banker

It is important to know what sort of creatures we are. If we don’t, how can we know how to behave? Or what really makes us thrive? And to find out what we are, we need to know where we’ve come from, who our relations are and what forces shaped us. The short answer is … Read more

Roosevelt’s rough deal

The appetite for biographies of American presidents is insatiable. Critics have complained for more than half a century that “the presidential synthesis” distorts US history by slicing it up artificially to match the terms of its presidents, which may have little relation to longer-term social trends. Social historians have lamented the stress that biographies place … Read more

Is man no more than this?

Down-and-out, vagabond, homeless, mendicant, drifter, fly-by-night, tramp, traveller, hobo, bum, loafer, shirker, rogue, cursetor. These words, some familiar to us, others less so, have long been used to describe those whose lives are lived on the margins of so-called respectability. The degree to which poverty has been seen as something to be ashamed of has … Read more

Stealing Ukraine’s past

The priest yanked the iron handle on the trapdoor and led me down to the crypt. In the church above a handful of old ladies in headscarves were crossing themselves and lighting votive candles: the Cathedral of St Catherine in Kherson remained open throughout the nine months of Russian occupation, so the faithful could continue … Read more

Attuned to the absurd

In July 1998 Lucia Berlin wrote to her friend, the poet and librettist Kenward Elmslie, “I am a woman with a past! With lots of them.” Chip Livingston’s selection of letters between the two writers gives us glimpses of the eventful history to which Berlin refers, and paints an intimate portrait of both writers’ experiences … Read more

Stamp duties

The year is almost over. The young literary lions, alongside some of the field’s wearier workhorses, will be busy taking notes on some of the coming year’s store of literary anniversaries to write about. Who was born? Who died? Who managed to write a book that one may now argue is either outrageously overrated or … Read more

Liberal Britain

I am most grateful for Ian Cawood’s generous review of my book, The Strange Survival of Liberal Britain (November 25). He may be right that I underestimated the corruption and brutality of British imperial rule, but the examples he cites do not prove his point. The Indian famines of the 1890s were the result of … Read more

Twinned cities

The Mediterranean in the last centuries BC was a world of great powers. Some were the remnants of Alexander the Great’s destruction of the Persian empire. There were kingdoms great and small, ruled by the descendants of Macedonian generals or Iranian satraps. There were grand city-states such as Athens and Sparta (neither quite as powerful … Read more