My Literary Top 10
Best short story I re-read recently:
Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Gardener’. Everything happens under the surface, but it is heart-breaking, finally, and you have to read it again at once as comprehension dawns. A perfect use of the form.
Book I finished reading but wanted my time back afterwards
I never regret finishing a book. I only regret the ones I left half-finished. At least if you complete the experience, you can judge it properly.
What I would blush to be seen reading on the tube
Why would I blush about anything I read? I’ve earned the right to read whatever I like. Maybe I should be embarrassed to be seen reading the National Enquirer, but I’m not, and I do.
Best ‘film of the book’ I've seen
Howard’s End. Rich, sympathetic, eccentric book; patiently moving, beautifully acted film. And the film of Girl with a Pearl earring is even better than Tracy Chevalier’s very good book.
Best recent novel in verse
Bernardine Evaristo’s dancing, witty The Emperor’s Babe
, set in Roman London but written in a wonderfully readable, fluent mixture of 21st century slang and tags of Latin.
Most embarrassing author photo
I am going to tell you about the author photo on my first novel, Dying in Other Words. I was horribly poor, working weekends as a hotel receptionist off Baker Street, and the publishers asked me for a jacket photo. I went with all my diamanté on (which was a lot) to the photo booth at Euston, and sent the stoned-looking, starry result to my publisher. I told them it was by the society photographer, ‘U.Stone-Booth’, and that is how it appears on the jacket.
Most famous author I’ve met who acted like a prat
Jack Higgins (The Eagle Has Landed) name-dropped endlessly on a panel I saw him on 20 years ago. BUT the other writers on the panel were more ‘literary’ than him, and they were not being very nice to him, so in retrospect I think he was probably doing it out of insecurity. The literary world is a snobbish and snide one (viz this question.) Popular authors probably comfort themselves by saying ‘People read us, not those miserable buggers.’
My favourite bookshop
It’s a tie between all my locals: the Willesden Bookshop (next to the Library), the Kilburn Bookshop (opposite Kilburn High Road BR) — both have cheery, informative staff who are passionate about books — and the excellent, brand new Queen’s Park Books, Salusbury Road, where my beloved daughter works on Saturdays.
Author I’d like to see win more awards: Me
Though festivals, journalists etc often refer to me as ‘award-winning’, and I rarely contradict them, I have never actually won one, and I wouldn’t want there to be an oversight…
Author I’d like to see beaten with a stick, then never again
The question is funny, but to answer it isn’t.