This is piece I wrote just before my (ouch) 50th birthday. I just bumped into it again and thought it was worth a read.
‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child. But when I became a man, I put aside childish things,’ so wrote St Paul in an email to the Corinthians. In a little-known coda, he carried on: ‘and when I reached middle age, I said to myself, what the hell were you thinking? And that’s when I reformed The Apostles.’ Continue reading
There is a school of thought that suggests that, when in a crowd, we make better decisions than if we think as individuals. It’s an extension of Rousseau’s general will. It received its most recent iteration in 2004, with the publication of James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, and is generally considered to derive from Galton’s observation that a crowd at a country fair guessed (on average) the weight of a bullock more accurately than most of the individual members. It’s an interesting concept, and naturally, it’s flawed. Its flaw is simple: no crowd ever makes a truly collective decision. Crowds are always susceptible to the loudest voice. And those with the loudest voices are often those with the least to say. Crowds simply want to be led. Continue reading
Killing Beauties is my latest piece of work and it’s going to be published by Unbound, the crowdfunding publisher … so why not go and have a look, make a pledge … it’s all good!
It’s set in the 1650s, and follows two (real-life) female spies as they work to help restore Charles II to the throne … Continue reading
The sound from the live feed stunned the room into silence, reducing its temperature by a good three degrees. Dave Baker, operative third class, was overwhelmed by a visceral surge of impotence. Even his colleagues comprehended that what they had just witnessed was beyond special, beyond even unique; it was the future. And it didn’t seem to like them that much.
‘What the actual fuck?
The words dripped from Dave’s open mouth.
‘You have got to be kidding me.’ He sat heavily into his seat, utterly defeated. Continue reading
‘Good morning, Sir, may I be of some assistance?’ The voice was clear, and yet weighty, as if it had been doing little else but accreting gravitas for decades. Hamish stood in the middle of the shop – at least, it appeared to be a shop, and he’d entered from the high street end of the shopping centre, so it really ought to be a shop – and looked at the man who addressed him with something akin to confusion. ‘May I be of some assistance, Sir?’ Continue reading
The swimmer reaches the shore, drags herself from the water and collapses, exhausted onto the beach. A knot of holidaymakers gather round her and gawp at each other while the officious tell the rest to give her space, let her breath. A young girl asks her mother if she can use the first aid she learnt to get her badge at Brownies. Hermother shakes her head and pulls her precious daughter close, remembering the lilo incident and dying inside at what might have happened. She sees her daughter lying there, motionless. Not this woman, muscular and broad-shouldered, wearing an all-in-one, swimming hat and goggles. Continue reading
If it takes a historian to bring an exciting but little-known character back to life, the historical novelist can imagine them a new one. But how does this work, and what are the pitfalls? Continue reading
I recently finished a novel of the historical hue, called Killing Beauties. Set in 1655/6, slap bang in the middle of the interregnum, when Cromwell was Lord Protector of England (and brutaliser of Ireland, amongst other places) and Charles II was in exile, the book follows the adventures of two women, Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings, both of whom were she-intelligencers, or spies with broad portfolios.
It’s now live on Unbound, so go and pledge your support as a patron.
Here are two samples of my dramatic work, Bowling at the Death and Shakespeare Must Die!, written for the radio and stage respectively. You never know, you might find them amusing.
Bowling at the Death is a play for the radio rather than the stage, and it based around the great game of cricket. The protagonist is a batsman denied his first century by what he considered a wild miscarriage of justice at the hands of the umpire. The ‘outrageous’ LBW decision to which he he falls victim unleashes years of pent-up jealousy and fury, with murderous results.
Shakespeare Must Die! is a response to the slew of conspiracy theories surrounding the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. The most common idea is that the plays were truly written by Christopher Marlowe, who subsequently faked his own death in order to escape censure at the hands of the authorities for his many and various sins, and that Shakespeare was a cloak. The play takes as its premise that Shakespeare is in fact being employed by a shady cabal to write political works under the name Christopher Marlowe. An altercation in a public house leads to a fundamental shift in the playwright’s firmament.
The lights started to come back on. At first they were incandescent bursts which ripped through her unconsciousness before fading back into darkness. Then, slowly, the bursts became less violent, longer-lived, until she began to see.
The pain at the back of her neck was sharp, visceral and raw, and yet this pain seemed to lie on top of a dull, heady ache. She rubbed at it with the palm of her hand and winced as the pain increased, intensified, sharpened.
She pulled herself up onto her knees groggily and looked at her hand. There was blood. A wipe of fresh, glistening blood alongside the crust of the earlier bleed which her hand had disturbed. Her head hit the floor hard as the lights went out once more. Continue reading