Thursday, 16 June 2022

Assassins' Deeds - now available for Korean readers!


암살자의 행위

amsaljaui haeng-wi

The Korean translation of my history of assassination Assassins' Deeds (published in the UK by Reaktion Books) is out!

Now for some proof reading.

Monday, 16 May 2022

WORLD EXCLUSIVE. Leaked letter from UK to the Kremlin

Someone has just leaked me this extraordinary letter. It appears to be addressed to President Putin at the Kremlin, but who can it be from?

Dear Vladimir,

I’m sorry about the delay in getting the trade war with the EU underway, but now we’re motoring. I’m as keen as you are to destroy the EU. I know perfectly well how embarrassing it is to have neighbours who are more prosperous, more efficient and more democratic.

Of course I am aware that without your money, bots, lies, dirty tricks, etc. I would never have got my job, but you have to understand I’m in a very tight corner. Even some of the foolish people who voted for Brexit have begun to see through my lies! So, apologies once again that it has taken so long.

And I appreciate you invading Ukraine so the mendacious right wing press and my stupid MPs could trot out the line about: ‘We can’t change prime minister! There’s a war on!’

And I can understand that you’re cross about me sending weapons to Ukraine, but you have to see it from my point of view. This has got to look good! If too many people start to think I am in your pay and in your pocket, the outlook for me could be really bleak.

Onwards and upwards!

Your friend in the FUK (Former United Kingdom) 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

The real Queen's Speech - Brexit benefits, making us richer by making us poorer etc

For anyone who didn’t manage to sit through all the turgid, lying drivel of the 'Queen's Speech', (note for overseas readers - in the UK what's known as the 'Queen's Speech' is actually the Government's Speech, but ministers are anxious to get someone else to share the blame) below are the main points. I bet the Queen was delighted she had a sick note and didn’t have to read this guff out.

1. We will defend democracy in Ukraine, but not in the UK obviously, where anyone who does not bow down to worship the Great God Brexit and the heroic achievements of Chairman Johnson HAD BETTER WATCH OUT.

2. We appreciate that a lot of you can’t afford to eat or put the lights on, but don’t worry. We will be delivering you a whole pile of BREXIT BENEFITS (details to be announced in due course).

3. We will use the OPPORTUNITIES OF BREXIT, which makes our economy smaller, to make our economy bigger.

We accept NO RESPONSIBILITY for any policies that may prove defective.

Is this all right, Vladimir?

Boris Johnson’s Conservative ‘government’. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Todokimashita! The Japanese translation of my history of assassination

Just received a copy of the Japanese
translation of my book 'Assassins' Deeds: A History of Assassination from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day'. The cover looks very fierce. I've blocked out the next couple of days to check it. Right. First things first. Which way up should it be? 

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

My BBC radio interview: Devon's worst disasters

Really interesting to be interviewed (again) by Pippa Quelch on BBC Radio Devon on the subject of Devon's worst disasters. 

Here are the shipwrecks of the Coronation and the Ramillies, how pilfering of gunpowder led to the Amphion blowing up. The great fires of Tiverton and the blaze that destroyed Exeter's Theatre Royal, the Blitz in Plymouth and the Lynmouth floods. More about all of them in my book A Disastrous History of Britain.

You can hear the interview here -

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Reading Proust in French for the French - the movie!

Proust Lu. Here I am reading Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu in French - an excerpt from Albertine Disparue, sometimes known as La Fugitive. Honoured to be involved in Véronique Aubouy's wonderful project. 'Beautiful bedroom, great reading' says a comment in Polish. A French comment says my reading has only 'a touch of Britishness'. I'm very flattered.

Credit to skill and patience of cameraperson, Lee Banting.

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Reading Proust for the French - in French!

I am proud to have been involved in the monumenal Proust Lu project of Véronique Aubouy, a French film maker who has recruited 1500 people to read Proust's monumental A la Recherche du Temps Perdu to camera in a kind of literary relay.

Véronique allocated me a couple of pages of La Fugitive, sometimes called Albertine Disparue, the sixth of the seven novels that make up the work. Proust is not the simplest French - often very long sentences - and reading it aloud called for fierce concentration. I needed a lie down afterwards.

I'd first read A la Recherche when I was in my twenties, which was some time ago.

By the time it's finished, Proust Lu will probably run for about 180 hours. 

The 145 hours completed so far was shown at the Médiathèque de la Ciotat, not far from Marseille, in December. Here's an interview with Véronique Aubouy:

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

'Milkman' is a masterpiece

I do not say this lightly or often. In my opinion, Anna Burns' novel Milkman is a masterpiece. Its shunning of proper names gives it a universality as it tells the story of a young woman's life caught up in the turmoil of a violent political struggle.

It's written in Joycean, though more accessible, stream-of-consciousness style. I listened to the audiobook, read by the author herself, and found it a completely compulsive listen.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

The Plagues of Britain and Devon - my radio interview

What was the worst plague to hit Britain and Devon? The Black Death, cholera, Spanish flu, covıd? And what can we learn from the diseases of the past about how we should deal with the coronavirus pandemic? I was lucky enough to discuss all this and more with Pippa Quelch on BBC Radio Devon.

How the Black Death killed nearly half the clergy in parts of Devon, how the authorities in Exeter took the right approach to cholera even though no one knew what was causing it, and how one Devon medical officer warned women that low-cut tops and thin stockings were spreading Spanish flu.

You and hear it here -

And learn more from my book A Disastrous History of Britain

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Literary corner: Catch-Brexit, with apologies to Joseph Heller


'That's some catch, that Brexit catch', said Yossarian admiringly.

'So hit me with it again. So everyone knows this Brexit is crazy, right? But the MPs say they can't do nothing because the referendum was binding, right?'

'So some guys go to the judge and they say: "Hey judge, not only is Brexit crazy, but the referendum was bent." And the judge, he says: "Sure it was bent. It was bent as a nine dollar bill, but I can't do nothing because the referendum wasn't binding."' 

'So Brexit is crazy, but the MPs can't do nothing cos the referendum was binding, and the judges can't do nothing cos it wasn't binding.'

'Man, that's some catch. That's some catch.'