Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gary* has written a piece this week’s Speccie about intelligent drug dealers.

Depending on your leisure pursuits, it will either put you off cocaine, or Kinder Eggs.

Gary’s appearance at Bristol Festival of Ideas (see last blog) is now sold out, but you can still get in to see Ken Livingstone’s ‘Being Red’ show, or Alexei Sayle’s lament about Maggie Thatcher and his trousers (actually, that’s probably very funny).

This is great.

How to be a successful writer.

They’re realising an abridged version of the Da Vinci Code, aimed at kids.

If you think the nineties was bad you should have been there in the eighties, mate.

*Gary’s book Animal QC is selling quite nicely, but it could sell better. He has a rather large tax bill to settle at the moment, so please do buy a copy if you haven’t already and help out an impecunious fat cat (him, not us – we’re just impecunious). We promise to spend the money on Kinder Eggs.


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Is out in March, at a very affordable £8.99, which we calculate is about twelve laughs per quid. We’re ripping ourselves off at these prices.

You can order a copy from Amazon here, or nip into your local bookshop and order one from a real person.

Here’s the latest very nice five-star review from Amazon:

Latest Gary review

Here’s the new jacket, as-is:

Animal QC_paperback-visual7 pic

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…is our unashamedly (though occasionally tongue-in-cheek) book of national self-promotion, up-biggage and braggadociousness, in which Steve Pope explains all the amazing things that this tiny little island stuck in the north Atlantic has done for the world.

If UK readers have kids who don’t know anything about their own country, or foreign chums thay want to tease, or they just want to be reminded yourself of some of our achievements, we highly recommend it.

Many of the discoveries and inventions relate to medicine – from vaccination and antiseptic and anaesthics, to identifying the agents which cause lung cancer and malaria and cholera, to cures for smallpox and typhus and diabetes and impotence, to inventing the MRI and CT scanners (the latter having come about because of The Beatles), Great Britons have made the world a better place for a lot of people.

And this week came this news, about multiple sclerosis:

A pioneering new stem cell treatment is reversing and then halting the potentially crippling effects of multiple sclerosis.

Patients embarking on a ground-breaking trial of the new treatment have found they can walk again and that the disease even appears to be stopped in its tracks.

Holly Drewry, 25, from Sheffield, who was wheelchair bound after the birth of her daughter Isla, now two.

But Miss Drewry claims the new treatment has transformed her life. She told the BBC’s Panorama programme: “I couldn’t walk steadily. I couldn’t trust myself holding her (Isla) in case I fell. Being a new mum I wanted to do it all properly but my MS was stopping me from doing it. I started seeing changes within days of the stem cells being put in. It was a miracle.”

The treatment is being carried out at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and Kings College Hospital, London and involves use a high dose of chemotherapy to knock out the immune system before rebuilding it with stem cells taken from the patient’s own blood.


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is our THE LITTLE GIRL IN THE RADIATOR, by Martin Slevin.

It doesn’t sound a massively promising set-up, being the story of how – in early middle age – Martin has just gone through a difficult divorce and has had to move back in to his childhood home, a bungalow in Coventry, with his mum.

And she has Alzheimer’s.

But I promise you it will make you laugh and weep, often at the same time – especially if you have a relative with this terrible and distressing condition.

It’s won a number of awards, has hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon, and has just been featured in Living With Dementia magazine, the official magazine of the Alzheimer’s Society.


The magazine asked for comments from readers. Here are a few of the best:

‘I’ve finished the book in a day. It’s utterly absorbing, funny, heart-breaking and recognisable.’

‘I defy you not to laugh out loud or be reduced to tears while reading it.’

‘Where this book differs is that it beautifully illustrates how funny, beautiful and heart-expanding living with dementia can be too.’

‘This book is certainly the best one I’ve read on the subject of dementia.’

‘His mum used to talk to a little girl trapped in her radiator – when she moved to a care home, it moved with her… It took him years to understand that the little girl was his mum in younger years, helplessly trapped in a situation she did not understand.’

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Our favourite carol, sung by our local choir:

Coincidentally, it was written a few miles south of our office by Gustav Holst. (The Black Horse is well worth a visit; you can walk through the woods to work up a thirst.)

A Lapland Webcam.

Last minute present ideas.

Vintage Christmas cards.

Jesus of Nazareth:

Life of Brian:

A 24-hour Christmas TV channel.

Joe Tex makes an unlikely promise vis-a-vis his woman:

1.2 million stock images of Christmas.

My Treedom‘ – celebrating freedom from persecution and the right to Christmas everywhere around the world.

Christmas in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. And in Brooklyn, New York, and in Rozzano, Italy.

Mulled wine and other Christmas drinks.

The best opening lines to any Christmas book ever:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Though I suppose this is the original:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The best Christmas movies ever.

Steve McQueen:



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SOME TIME AGO we started work on a book called CONTACT WAIT OUT. It was going to be a follow-up to IN FOREIGN FIELDS, but other projects and MoD bureaucracy got in the way and it was put off for a while.

It’s now very much back on the agenda, and we have been carrying out interviews with former soldiers and Marines for some time.

When finished it will (we hope) provide the most complete picture yet of what it was like to live and fight in Afghanistan, from private to company commander level.

In Foreign Fields paperback_InForeignFieldsPaperback-cover blog

The men and women we are interviewing are telling some of the funniest, saddest, most frustrating, most frightening, most dramatic and most horrifying stories you can possibly imagine.

We still have room to include more interviewees, so if you are interested in getting involved and telling your story please do get in touch via info@mondaybooks.com – all contacts will be treated in confidence, of course.

We’re looking not just for stories of heroism and derring-do but for tales of down-time, boredom and irritation. As with In Foreign Fields, this is a not a political book particularly – we’re really interested in telling the soldier’s story.

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RIP Jonah Lomu. I watched the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final in the Cock Inn in Hatfield Broad Oak. The barman, Sam, was so confident that England would win that he said he’d streak round the village if we lost.

If memory serves me, he was naked and running by half-time.

How to help your editor.

Bad advice on writing, a sad truth, and the way round it:

[H]ow do writers achieve… excellence?
Certainly not by following another piece of writing advice: Just keep writing, you’ll get better. Really? Can you imagine a hitting coach saying to a kid who wants to be a professional baseball player, Just keep swinging the bat, you’ll get better?
…When you’re working on a draft or a revision, does your mind give you the words, the sentence structures, you need to accomplish this? And, if not, why not? The default answer to this last question is “talent”: Some people have it; others, less fortunate, do not.
But the default answer, happily, is not true. Researchers have discovered that innate talent has very little, if anything, to do with expertise. Instead [it is down to] practice.
This approach requires (among other things) breaking down a complex skill – like writing – into its component sub-skills, then practicing each skill separately until it’s mastered, then putting them all together.

I’ve just finished reading David Nobbs‘ memoir I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today. David was a comic novelist and screenwriter whose most famous creation was Reginald Perrin (the title is taken from the catchphrase of Reggie’s boss, CJ). I tend not to talk about books unless I can be really positive, because I know how it feels to both authors and publishers, but David is now dead and Random House are doing okay so I’ll admit that I found it slightly disappointing. In the ‘con’ column, it’s often rambling – at nearly 500pp in the paperback edition, it could have been hacked back – and in places it feels like a series of discrete and not enormously interesting anecdotes. Often he simply admits that he can’t remember relevant details, though I suspect that he kept back some very good stories for reasons of propriety or good manners. In the ‘pro’ column he’s interesting on early showbiz – writing for That Was The Week That Was and The Two Ronnies and others – and on the business of writing for TV, albeit some years ago. There are lots of places where his slightly surreal, gentle humour shines through. He had a great ear for dialogue, and some lovely one-liners, but if you haven’t read his stuff before (and you should) I’d start with Henry Pratt and Reggie Perrin.

Now reading:



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