Thursday, 20 July 2017

"M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster" could be my non-fiction book of the year - superb!

The best of the three spy books I've read recently - one of the best I've ever read, in fact - is M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster by Henry Hemming, which came out in April. Knight was one of the most fascinating Britons of the 20th Century. A rather dissolute young man, he played clarinet in his own jazz band in London in the '20s, populated his flat with exotic animals, couldn't settle to anything, and, after his father died, was forbidden any contact with his highly respectable family by his older brother. He started his spying career (for a businessman who unofficially fed whatever information his agents gleaned to the government) by joining the British Fascisti in 1924, reporting on their activities, and simultaneously infiltrating half a dozen of his fascist colleagues into the British Communist Party...

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Can anyone help the Financial Times by making the democratic case for NOT stopping Brexit?

Oh wait - I think I can help with this...

Synchronicity - or coincidence - strikes again... twice!

On Saturday, I checked the proofs of a lengthy interview I've done (via email) with an American horror writer and historian of the genre for a specialist publication. The writer had originally contacted me to confirm some details for his forthcoming book on the history of the late 1970s/early 1980s horror boom, in which I played a tiny role as a writer and as publicity manager for New English Library, the publisher which did more than any other to create that boom in Britain by publishing James Herbert and Stephen King and a slew of others - including yours truly, under the name Nick Sharman. (The book is due out in September, and I'll publicise it noisily then.) Our correspondence, and my chronic addiction to sharing anecdotes, led to a request from the writer for an interview, which, of course, I was delighted to agree to - after all, I don't get many requests for interviews (well, none, to be honest). No sooner had I checked the proofs and emailed my suggested emendations back...

Monday, 10 July 2017

BBC Wimbledon: please replace Andrew Castle and Boris Becker with Simon Reed and Frew McMillan

I'm sure the BBC's main Wimbledon commentator, the former player Andrew Castle, is a very nice man. But he makes my flesh crawl. As for the bankrupt former champion Boris Becker - I'm sure he's an extremely entertaining dinner companion, but the Gert Frobe-lookalike is a dreadful commentator. My preference would be for Simon Reed and Frew McMillan - a really superb double-act on Eurosport - to commentate on important matches, with John McEnroe filling in for McMillan when he's available.  McEnroe works well with Simon Reed, but can't stand McMillan, according to the champion South African doubles specialist. This antipathy presumably stems from their playing days, when McMillan partnered Bob Hewitt, a spectacularly nasty piece of work, whom the British No. 1 player Roger Taylor once punched to the ground after a match during which words had been exchanged...