The Syrian Civil War – Made in Britain and the USA

  We started this. That's what I can't help thinking every time I hear about the latest death and suffering in Syria. When the US and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, we set off a chain of events that led inexorably to the killing fields of Damascus and Aleppo. I watched it begin when I was working as a reporter in Iraq. I remember going to an interview at a hospital south of Baghdad: the moment I stepped into his office, the doctor told me "You have to get out of here. They're … [Read more...]

The Burden of the Desert

  NEW EDITION OUT NOW "This tense, thought-provoking and extraordinary book is an absolute must" Daily Mail  The new edition of The Burden of the Desert, published by Short Books, is available now in all good bookshops  Zoe Temple, a young British journalist who dreams of being a war correspondent... Lieutenant Rick Benes, an American officer trying to get his platoon home alive... Adel, an Iraqi, who wants revenge for the death of his father... Mahmoud, an Iraqi … [Read more...]

The Great Gatsby-blanca

Poor Jay Gatsby. If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one. What with everyone talking about the new Leonardo di Caprio film of The Great Gatsby of late, I decided I'd reread the book instead. And reading about poor old Jay Gatsby and Jordan Baker and all the rest for the first time in 20 years, in occurred to me that Hollywood didn't really need to spend all that money and razzmatazz on a new movie. Because it already made the best … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith) ★★★★★ It was a clever idea of J.K.Rowling's to publish this book in secret, under an assumed name. Because The Cuckoo's Calling is all about identity -- and specifically the way in which we mistake people's real identities, especially where the famous are concerned. Of course, on one level it's blindingly obvious that it's a book about identity: it's a whodunnit, after all, a detective story in which we are supposed to keep … [Read more...]

Book Review: Back to Blood

[amazon_image id="0316221791" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Back to Blood: A Novel[/amazon_image]   Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe ★★★★ There's a scene towards the end of Back to Blood when we finally get inside the secret studio of the elusive Russian artist Igor Drukovich. In public an arch-devotee of realism, Igor has hidden away in his studio a series of copies of modernist, surrealist, abstract and cubist masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Kandinksy and … [Read more...]

Book Review: Final Mercy

[amazon_image id="B00B9PJT20" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Final Mercy[/amazon_image]   Final Mercy by Frank J Edwards ★★★★ There's something appealing about the idea of a madman being charge of a hospital and nobody realising it. That's the premise of Frank J Edwards' Final Mercy: everyone thinks Bryson Witner, the new dean of a once prestigious teaching hospital in rural New York that has fallen on hard times, is a breath of fresh air. But Dr Witner is seriously … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Cover-Up

The Cover-Up by Dana Griffin ★★★★ The Cover-Up  is a thriller set around an air accident investigation. That's an inspired choice: while there are plenty of thrillers set upon hijacked or saboatged airliners, here the crash takes place right at the start, and the real action starts after an Omega Airlines 737 has gone off the end of the runway at La Guardia airport and all the survivors have been picked up, as investigators sit down to try to work out why a routine take-off went … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Honourable Schoolboy

The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carre ★★★★ The middle instalment of the 'Karla Trilogy' is very different from the two books that take place either side of it, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and Smiley's People. In both of those the central character, George Smiley, is a retired outsider investigating the mistakes and betrayals of other men. In The Honourable Schoolboy, we get to see Smiley doing what he is supposedly best at, running an intelligence service. It means we get to see him … [Read more...]

Book Review: Bleak House

Bleak House by Charles Dickens  ★★★★★ Quite simply the best novel I have ever read. From the first page, with its astonishing evocation of a fog-bound London -- "Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners" -- Bleak House draws you into a world and … [Read more...]

Burden of the Desert…from a Baghdad Hotel Room to a Novel

The proofs for the cover of my first novel, Burden of the Desert, arrived this week. It was a strange experience to see them -- exciting, certainly, but humbling too, to think that this story I have carried in my head for so long will soon be a book. Looking at them, I thought of that night long ago when the idea for the novel first came to me in a hotel room in occupied Baghdad. It was 2004 and I could hear the sounds of the city outside my window, the traffic, the constant gunfire, the … [Read more...]