Death in the Family – signed, limited edition. Order now in time for Christmas.

This month marks six years since the publication of the third Bone and Cane novel The Great Deception. Many readers assumed, not illogically, that the third novel marked the final part of a trilogy that had begun five years earlier with Bone and Cane. But that was never my intention. Indeed, back in 2015, I had a sabbatical from my part-time academic post to work on the fourth novel in the series. That October I was 20,000 words into the first draft when my oldest friend, Mike Russell, died of cancer, which took me off track. I  was getting going again  in December when, against our expectations, Nottingham won UNESCO City of Literature accreditation. I was, until recently, chair of the board, and found myself running things for nine…

Brian Moore’s Century

Today is the centenary of the Belfast born novelist Brian Moore, who I’ve been reading for 44 years, since a friend introduced me to his work during the first term of my English and American literature degree. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on Moore’s fiction, supervised by Northern Irish poet Tom Paulin, who was also a Moore fan. He remains my favourite post-war novelist in the English language. Yet when I mention him to people born after 1970, they’ve never heard of him. One has to ask why – apart from his having a rather common name which, nevertheless, nobody knows how to pronounce (it’s Bree-an) – this might be? I attended an online Moore symposium at the University of Exeter earlier this year and there…

May reading: in and out of lockdown

This blog can also be read on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website. I’m a sucker for a good Antarctic or Arctic story. My favourite in this genre is Trevor Griffiths’ seven-part TV telling of the Scott expedition, The Last Place on Earth, from the mid-eighties. I was reminded of this recently by the harrowing TV series, The Terror, which is a fictionalised version of the ill-fated Frankland expedition in search of the North-West passage through the Arctic. Then there are Thomas Kenneally’s two fine novels The Survivor and A Victim of the Aurora, both from long before he won The Booker Prize with Schindler’s List. Each made a big impression on me forty years ago. To these can now be added Jon McGregor’s…

2020: The Sleeve Notes

Since 1988, we’ve sent out best of year cassettes since 2000, CDs) to friends around the globe. In 2019 we added a Spotify playlist. I’m not going to put that up until this set of daily sleeve notes is complete. However, this year I intend to extend the playlist so that, in addition to the twenty songs on the CD, there’s another twenty things there wasn’t room for. It’s been a very good year for music, if little else, so let’s celebrate that. In another year, The Big Moon, Loudon Wainwright III, Drive-By Truckers (two great albums!), Courtney Marie Andrews, Cowboy Junkies, Moses Sumney, James Taylor, Hen Ogledd, Richard Dawson, Maria McKee, Bill Callahan, Jason Isbell, Georgia, Nadia Reid & sophomore albums from YUNGBLUD, Rolling…

Five Years Old

Hard to believe that a whole five years have passed since Nottingham became a UNESCO City of Literature, a proud, ongoing achievement which we celebrated last night. There’s a terrific oral history of how we made the successful bid on the NUCOL website which I urge you to read. Also, if you’re aged 16-25, please read the post about joining our Youth Advisory Board and, if you’re interested, apply by December 23rd. My university term (by far the most arduous and exhausting of my 18+ years, and I’m not even full time, so God help many of my colleagues) only ended on Thursday and the birthday celebrations took up all of yesterday. When they were over, we went straight to the virtual launch of the…