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What if the cure for coronavirus is worse than the disease? What if after COVID-19 we have COVID-21, COVID-35 and COVID-42? How will coronavirus change society, and the world?
Lockdowns, flight bans, quarantine, school closures, contact tracing – coronavirus has changed society in ways that would have been inconceivable twelve months ago. What will a post-pandemic world look like?
I told my gal the future looked a scary place to be.
She said, don’t worry Dad, it’s cancelled.
I saw it on TV.
Coronatime is a thriller, a comedy and a love story. In a future world where universal contact tracing and advances in medical technology have created a society of oppression, corruption and injustice, one man and one woman must defeat a system which makes 1984 seem as menacing as a teddy bears’ picnic in a kindergarten. (more…)
You can now see a selection of videos of Robert Pimm in action on my new YouTube channel.
Who knows? Perhaps one or two of them can keep you entertained for a bit during the coronavirus lock-down.
- my reading of a complete Hotel Story, “The Two Rooms” (pic below). The video is just under 40 minutes long. Sit back and enjoy it!
- my reading of substantial excerpts from my Hotel Story “Gents” (warning: contains alligators);
- a video of my first ever reading from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit (were you there?) at the Cafe Korb in Vienna, in March 2018. This video was made professionally by top film-maker Sibylle Trost;
A recent reading from “Seven Hotel Stories” (more…)
The first of the three February readings included a Reichstag tour and was organised by film-maker Sibylle Trost.
Someone did an interview with me the other day using the “60 Seconds” format. I found the questions searching, and had to invest a little time to answer them. Here is the result.
Walking the Pennine Way, 2017
Who was your first celebrity crush?
That would be Claudette Colbert in Cecil B de Mille’s Cleopatra which came out in 1934. I saw it at the King’s College Film Society in 1976 and swooned, especially at the famous seduction scene with Mark Anthony and the slave galley. (more…)
What to do, when you are stuck at home because of the #coronavirus outbreak?
Read Middlemarch, by George Eliot.
George Eliot’s real name was Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880
I read Middlemarch recently and posted on its wisdom about sex and relationships (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).
Middlemarch is also full of splendid epigrams. Here are 25 beauties which caught my eye: (more…)
At a recent reading from my blackly comic “Seven Hotel Stories” in Vienna, a man asked me:
‘These stories seem explicitly feminist. Is that intentional?’
This led to a discussion of “can a man be a feminist?”, to which most of the women present clearly answered “yes”.
My recent reading at “Shakespeare & Co” in Vienna. Great bookshop!
My answer was equally simple: yes, the “Hotel Stories” are intended to have a feminist flavour.
Indeed, an early reviewer of the story “The Two Rooms” commented: “dark, feminist and fun – not three words you often hear together”.
I would be delighted to hear your views. To the question: “Are the Hotel Stories Feminist?” would you say:
(iii) why does it matter?
(iv) some other answer.
If you do not yet own a kindle or paperback copy of Seven Hotel Stories (click on link for Amazon) you can find excerpts from all the stories in this blog – have a browse – including a free copy of The Two Rooms.
Let me know what you think!
Incidentally, another thoughtful person asked me whether I thought the title of my story “Seven Ukrainian Girls” (Hotel Story no.8) could be politically incorrect. I urged her to read it and see what she thought. Comments welcome on this, too. You can read the first part of “Seven Ukrainian Girls” at the link.
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button). Check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths.
My two live readings in Berlin are coming up.
I shall be reading from my thriller Blood Summit in Berlin on 21 and 22 February. I will also be doing a tour of the Reichstag and nearby locations where the action in Blood Summit takes place.
A video by Sibylle Trost of me reading from “Blood Summit”. Now you can see the real thing.
Unfortunately, the tour, first publicised last month, is sold out. But the readings still have places available:
- 21 February 18.00, a reading from Blood Summit in a room with a view of the Reichstag generously provided by Mazars GmbH & Co Berlin, Alt-Moabit 2, 10557. Full details of how to register, plus help with planning your weekend in Berlin, are at this link. This is a free event. I will be signing copies of my books Blood Summit and Seven Hotel Stories.
- 22 February 19.00, a reading from Blood Summit at the salon of Christiane and Ari Großkopf, Bamberger Str. 56, 10777 Berlin. This is a free event which Christiane and Ari are kindly hosting. If you would like to attend, please e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org with your name(s). I will also be signing books.
I am listening to literary folk on the Queen Mary Literary Festival at Sea (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). After a powerful Martini in the Commodore Club, a well-read literary editor admits he has never read George Eliot’s classic 1872 novel Middlemarch.
This depiction of Dorothea and Will Ladislaw does not make “Middlemarch” look a fun, contemporary read
Like some other 19thC fiction, Middlemarch has provoked negative responses or indifference over the years – yet critics now see it as one of the greatest novels in the English language.
I agree, and I don’t. Middlemarch is a daunting read – over 900 pages in most editions. Not much happens; there is an immense cast-list of characters; and some of the issues with which it deals, such as the 1832 Reform Act, have faded from memory.
Yet the wisdom (more…)
It is time to plan your weekend in Berlin.
I shall be doing two readings from my thriller Blood Summit in Berlin on 21 and 22 February.
A video of me reading from “Blood Summit”. Now you can see the real thing.
- 21 February 18.00, a free reading from Blood Summit in a room with a view of the Reichstag at Mazars GmbH & Co Berlin, Alt-Moabit 2, 10557. Full details of how to register, plus help with planning your weekend in Berlin, are at this link. This is a free event. I will be signing copies of my books Blood Summit and Seven Hotel Stories.
- 22 February 19.00, a reading from Blood Summit at the salon of Christiane and Ari Großkopf, Bamberger Str. 56, 10777 Berlin. This is a free event which Christiane and Ari are kindly hosting. If you would like to attend, please e-mail me on email@example.com with your name(s). I will also be signing books.
What are the Top 10 Vienna cafes? How can you find the best Viennese cafe for you? Start here with Robert Pimm’s fun, objective and characterful Vienna cafe reviews.
Vienna is full of cafes. But which are best?
The entrance to the Cafe Hawelka – photo Robert Pimm
Many Viennese cafes are rather good. I like the fact that most of them use old-fashioned Viennese coffee types (kleine Schwarzer, kleine Brauner, Verlängerter, Franziskaner) instead of, or sometimes in addition to, the world-conquering Italian descriptors (Cappuccino, Macchiato, Latte & Co).
Some Vienna cafes have a wonderful, unrenovated charm, often accompanied by service which varies from the friendly and efficient to the traditional clockwork stop-motion effect where waiters emphasise by their every action the fact that they will not deviate from their intended, inexorable plan of action under any circumstance.
But then, what do you want? Would you rather, in Vienna, have a traditional-looking Austrian waiter, who maybe doesn’t speak English and isn’t conspicuously polite, or a fast-moving identikit youth who could be in Seattle or Siena?
I even mention the service of Viennese waiters in my novel Coronatime.
Viennese cafes also often serve terrific cakes; and other food and drink, from sausages to breakfast and beer. Check the menu; and choose your cakes at the counter if you’re not sure.
All of the cafes reviewed are ones I would to return to. If a cafe does not appear in the list, that means either that I haven’t tried it yet; or that I have tried it and am not desperate to return.
Welcome to the opening chapters of my Berlin thriller, Blood Summit.
I wrote Blood Summit from my personal experience, after years of working with real terrorist incidents and real intelligence agencies. I have exercised with special forces and fired live rounds at their training facilities. This is the real thing.
What if the leaders of the eight most powerful countries in the world were taken hostage by terrorists, who then starting executing them live on-line in a facility designed to be impregnable?
What if you knew how to stop the slaughter, but no-one would listen to you and those you loved were amongst the hostages?
“Utterly gripping: I devoured it” – Edmund de Waal, author of “The Hare with Amber Eyes”
“Blood Summit is a cracker. Pimm has hit the ground running” – Matthew Parris.
You can find Blood Summit on Amazon as a paperback or, for instant download, an e-book. For a sample, read on.
A novel by Robert Pimm
Two years earlier
There were children playing in the street outside her door. Turkish, Uli Wenger guessed from their dark skin and bright clothes. He walked around them. The first insect Uli ever killed had been a child. Today, he had more important business.
The surface of the door was rough with dirt and spray paint. Sixteen buzzers studded the wall. The target lived on the third floor. Uli pressed the button by her name.
There was a crackle. ‘Yes?’
‘Post,’ Uli said. ‘A package.’
‘OK.’ The door popped open.
The hallway was cool and dark and smelled of damp stone. Two bicycles (more…)
My blog of January 2016 recorded the discovery of a handwritten list of ten rules of behaviour amongst my father’s papers, two years after his death in December 2013. The title of the list was: “How to work better”.
You can see the list itself, in my father’s handwriting, at the link above.
The rules seemed profound – or were they?
Research revealed a mystery around the words and whether they represented, as some believed, wise slogans from a Thai factory; or were actually a project by some Swiss conceptual artists.
A reader, @mrRooBKK, has brought to my attention this photograph:
What are the John Connolly “Charlie Parker” novels about? Should you read them, and where should you start? My answer, based on reading four novels and meeting John Connolly, is an unqualified “read them”.
“They come now, the dark angels, the violent ones, their wings black against the sun, their swords unsheathed.“
Does evil exist independently? To read this quotation from the third of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series, The Killing Kind, one might think Connolly believed in malice independent of man.
At the Erich Fried literary festival
I had the privilege of interviewing John Connolly at the Erich Fried literary festival in Vienna last month. A writer of prodigious output, his recent works include he, a literary imagining of the comedian Stan Laurel, and A Book of Bones, the 17th in the Charlie Parker series.
In preparation for interviewing John I read the first novel in the Charlie Parker series, Every Dead Thing, followed by Dark Hollow and The Killing Kind. I found Charlie “Bird” Parker a fine creation: disturbed, vengeful, tough, (more…)
I wrote the following story as flash fiction at a writing course I attended recently at Loutro on Crete (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). Unlike my recently-released collection, Seven Hotel Stories, it is not a comedy.
Taxi to London
I had my head down over my exam revision when the hospital called.
‘Is this Dave Ellingsworth?’ The girl’s voice was so calm I felt my adrenalin spike.
‘This is Dave.’
‘You are in a relationship with Joanne Jones, is that correct?’
‘JJ, yes, Joanne, I know her, yes.’
‘In a relationship? I can only speak to next of kin.’
I felt a sense of despair, and weightlessness. Was I in a relationship? JJ had said she thought we were. But I thought I had ended it last night.
‘Sure. In a relationship.’
‘She took some pills. She is out of danger now. She asked if you could come and see her.’ The woman on the phone sounded like she thought I should go. (more…)
Five great ways you can turn your own experience – whatever it is – into compelling storylines, story ideas and writing prompts.
I have finished reading from my book Seven Hotel Stories when a guy in the audience raises his hand.
‘How many of your story ideas are made up, and how much is real?’ he asks. ‘And in general, how do you use your real life to create storylines and fiction?’
This struck me as a great question. How much of fiction is the writer’s experience, and how much is made up? Suppose you work as a lawyer, or in an insurance office, and are not an astronaut, a detective, or an assassin? Can you still write about something thrilling?
Marilyn Monroe trained hard to become an actress
Here are five ways you can turn your own experience – whatever it is into compelling storylines and story ideas:
(i) anyone can write great stuff: don’t worry about who you are, or what you do. All you need is a paper and a pen, or a screen and a keyboard. The trick is to get started (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site);
(ii) do use what you know to help write your story: whatever you can do and however you live, you can draw on your life experience to create rich, multi-layered fiction. John Grisham started out repairing roads, then became a lawyer – he used his legal knowledge to write The Firm. Tom Clancy worked in insurance: his hero Jack Ryan is, like Clancy, of Irish Catholic stock; (more…)
Have you seen the classic 1949 British thriller The Third Man (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site)? If not, watch it immediately! Either way, consider the following nuggets I recently unearthed about possibly the best film of all time.
My review at the link above sets out 8 reasons The Third Man is movie magic. But did you know:
(i) The Third Man was nearly never made. In early discussions, producer David O Selznick said a film called “The Third Man” could never be a hit. You can find out more in Frederick Baker’s 2004 documentary Shadowing the Third Man;
(ii) the classic ending to the movie, which I shall not reveal here, was nearly changed. Graham Greene, who wrote the screenplay, initially planned for an upbeat final scene with Anna and Holly Martins forming a relationship. How this could have squared with the rest of the story, which leads inexorably to the magnificent ending as it was eventually released, I have no idea;
What do you think a reading with Robert Pimm looks like?
I was delighted on 18 October to read from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit in Innsbruck.
The reading took place at the magnificent Stadtbibliotek
Q&A afterwards with Andrew Milne-Skinner
Questions were incisive and challenging
Afterwards I signed copies of “Blood Summit” and “Seven Hotel Stories”
As I mentioned in my curtain-raising post (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site), the reading was organised by the excellent English Reading Circle in Innsbruck. I am particularly grateful to Maria Kandolf-Kühne, who brought the book to the Reading Circle and suggested I do a reading in Innsbruck; and to Andrew and Sandra Milne-Skinner, who were instrumental in setting things up.
If you want to know more about Blood Summit, see my blog Blood Summit: the US President in the killing chair. It is available from English language bookshop Shakespeare & Company at Sterngasse 2 in central Vienna, or from Amazon. If you have a book group, you may like to read my blog post Blood Summit: Reading Group Questions.
I also presented in Innsbruck my recently-published paperback of Seven Hotel Stories. It seemed to go down well.
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please follow me on Facebook. Or you can join my mailing list – I’ll be delighted to give you a free “Hotel Story” to say thanks. Check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths.
I wrote the following story as flash fiction at a writing course I attended recently (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). Unlike my recently-released collection, Seven Hotel Stories, it is not a comedy. Comments welcome.
I was born in sadness. My mother, bless her soul, was not killed by my arrival on this world. But she was ruined, my father said.
The doctors agreed. My head was too big, they said. I ruined her.
Maybe the doctors in our village were not too great, either.
I never knew my father before I was born, of course. I never knew whether he hated my mother before I ruined her. I never knew if he hated me, either, before I arrived.
What I do know is that after I arrived, he wanted neither me nor her.
Maybe my mother tried too hard to please him, after he said she was ruined. It made him angry that she could no longer climb the stairs of our small house, to where the bedrooms were. She made the front parlour sparkle and the kitchen smell of bread and herbs and put wine on the table for when he came home.
Still, my father was angry.
One of my first memories was of her, dragging her poor broken body (more…)
The paperback version of Seven Hotel Stories is now out. It looks like this:
I’m pretty excited about this, so all shares, retweets etc welcome!
The text on the back reads:
“Funny, pacy and sexy” – Matthew Parris
You’ll never make a fuss at a hotel again. (more…)
Hello to all you readers out there.
I shall be reading from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit at the Stadtbibliotek (city library) in Innsbruck at 1900 on 18 October. Come along!
The reading has been organised by the English Reading Circle in Innsbruck at the magnificent Stadtbibliotek, whose rather good slogan is “Innsbruck’s biggest living room – a place for everyone”. This seems a splendid description of a library. You can read about the event at the site of the Stadtbibliotek. I shall read from Blood Summit and will be happy to answer questions, as well as signing copies. (more…)
Vor kurzem war ich zu Besuch in Berlin. Ich habe den Reichstag besichtigt: die Kulisse für meinen Berlin-Roman Blood Summit.
Blood Summit gibt es noch nicht auf Deutsch – ich suche einen Verlag. Aber wenn Sie gern wissen würden, worum es geht, schauen Sie bitte dieses Video an. Und wenn Sie noch mehr Infos möchten, schreiben Sie mir! Oben rechts, “Contact me”. Das geht ganz einfach.
Blood Summit ist ein echter Thriller: viel Blut, viel Action, unterhaltsam und schnell zu lesen. Die perfekte Lektüre, wenn Sie English einigermaßen beherrschen, und auch für Buch- und Lesegruppen gut geeignet.
Happy reading! Viel Vergnügen beim Lesen!
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please follow me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see blue “click here” button). Or you can join my mailing list – I’ll be delighted to give you a free “Hotel Story” to say thanks. My 5 pleasure paths provide a site-map and guide to the more than 300 posts on robertpimm.com.
P.P.S. Thanks to the lovely Sibylle Trost for the video and the lovely Andrea Linecker for teaching me German. Excellent professionals.
P.P.P.S You can get hold of a copy of Blood Summit thus:
(i) go to Amazon.de (or your local Amazon if you live somewhere else). You can order a paperback or download a copy for your Kindle or e-book;
(ii) if you live in Vienna, stroll along to Shakespeare & Company at Sterngasse 2. It’s a terrific bookshop and stocks many other books in addition to Blood Summit;
(iii) come to one of my readings.
A recent reading at Cafe Korb in Vienna
I usually have books at my readings (see piano in the picture above) which I will be delighted to sign for you. At the readings, I usually read a couple of chapters and then answer questions; up to now, people have seemed to enjoy them. If you buy a paperback elsewhere and bring it along, I’ll be happy to sign it, too.
(iv) if you want to read the book for free you can take a 30-day trial membership of “Kindle Unlimited” which permits you to read books on Kindle, including Blood Summit, for free. Or you may already be a member of Kindle Unlimited. I’ve been surprised how many readers access the book this way.
To brush up your writing ideas and technique, a good writing course is unbeatable. I attended a short story writing week in Loutro, in Crete, and found ideas and prompts on every side.
In the shade of a quiet taverna, eight people sit writing. Crickets chirp on the fragrant hillside. A glistening kebab rotates; as fat hisses in the embers, mouthwatering aromas tickle our tastebuds. A fishing boat nudges across the bay, ripples gurgling in its wake. My pen scrapes across the page.
The village of Loutro has no roads or vehicles.
The “Poetry and Writing” courses organised by espirita.org.uk in the tiny Cretan village of Loutro are a unique way to focus for one, two or three weeks on your story ideas and writing techniques in a sparkling Greek resort. Stewart Wills is the delightfully unclassifiable spirit being behind espirita – slogan: “A not-for-profit travel service for the cultural traveller”. Other espirita offerings include Taiko Drumming in Japan, The Oriental Garden in China, and Aromazzata in Italy. Tempting stuff.
I attended the “One Short Story” course on Loutro in summer 2019, tutored by Christopher Wakling, author of seven fine novels and lead fiction tutor at Curtis Brown Creative. I’d been on an Arvon writing course led by (more…)
Writing a book? See how story ideas and story location come together when I visit the city where my Berlin thriller Blood Summit is set. The visit also unleashed the idea of doing a reading in the Reichstag.
The primary goal of my visit to Berlin was the Reichstag, where much of the novel takes place. It is a sombre building with a tragic history of arson, destruction, occupation and dereliction. In Blood Summit it takes more punishment. Yet on a sunny day it can look quite innocuous:
The lawn in front of the Reichstag suggests accessibility and openness: features of the building which are problematic in “Blood Summit”
I was delighted to meet film maker Sibylle Trost at the Reichstag (click on the link for her website, also available in German). Sibylle, whose documentaries for German TV receive audiences of four million and who also works freelance for companies and others, is a fan of Blood Summit and made a top quality video of my first reading from the book, in Vienna in 2018 (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). (more…)
How beautiful can a footpath be? Austria’s are amongst the best.
I particularly enjoy the country’s system of footpath signs. Over the past three years here I have photographed many of them. I reproduce a selection here.
You may wish to pay attention to:
- nature – many signs are worn or overgrown or both, as wind and weather reclaim them. This is usually a good thing;
- texture: the interplay between sign, tree (or rock) and background is often sublime;
- seasons: some, but not all, footpaths can be enjoyed all-year round.
Each of the following pictures represents a moment of perfection, somewhere in Austria. If you know where, feel free to comment.
This squirrel is urging people to care for nature (more…)
Exactly ten years ago, when I was living in Kyiv, I visited Chernobyl for the first time. Following the HBO TV series “Chernobyl”, I thought people might be interested to see what the real place looked like. Here are 25 of my pictures, with captions.
In 2009, 23 years after the catastrophe, the town of Chernobyl itself was still functioning – 4,000 people worked there. The nearby town of Pripyat, a place of 50,000 souls where workers and families were evacuated the day after the explosion, generated the spookiest “ghost town” images.
Comments and shares welcome.
In 2009 there was a small but thriving tourist business taking visitors to Chernobyl from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, around two hours’ drive away. To enter the area of Chernobyl and Pripyat you had to pass through a control point. (more…)
When you are writing a book or selling a book, rejection is likely to be a constant companion. Seven tips on how to cope – and maybe turn rejection to your advantage. These techniques may also help you tackle writer’s block.
You click open your e-mails. Your heart leaps.
The agent to whom you sent your cherished work in progress has replied to your letter pitching your story ideas.
Could it be that she liked your work? With trepidation, you click on the e-mail.
She has rejected you.
Many authors long to see their book in a bookshop
What should you do next?
Here is my seven-stage plan for dealing with rejection.
First up, I know a lot about rejection. Every writer does. Stephen King had a lot of rejections. So did J K Rowling. How do they – and I – stay motivated when things are looking bleak? Here is my seven stage plan. (more…)
It was a wonderful evening. The hosts were the fine Vienna Storytelling Collective: you can read about the event at their Facebook site. If you are interested in writing, reading, or listening to new talent and live in Vienna, I encourage you to join them.
I started off talking about this blog (NB for some reason the videos are previewed sideways before you click on them; but they appear the right way up when you click “play”).
Congratulations! You have finished writing your novel.
First step: celebrate. You’ve achieved an awesome feat.
Now what should you do?
You should do lots of things, and quickly. This post looks at how you can make your novel as good as possible, before you send it out to seek an agent or a publisher.
Of course, you may want to send your novel out as soon as you have written “The End”.
Feel free. Perhaps you are a great writer (see below) and your first draft is of such quality that it needs no further improvement. Well done.
Signing a copy of your printed book is a great experience
Most first drafts of novels, however, will be improved by editing. This raises the question of how you, the author of a book, can best edit your own manuscript. Some of this post is based on a course I attended at the Arvon Foundation (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). I found both Arvon and the two tutors excellent and would recommend them.
Here are my recommendations on seven steps to improve the first draft of your novel. I illustrate the steps with experience of my new Istanbul-based thriller Palladium, which I revised for several months a year after finishing the first draft. (more…)
How to beat writer’s block? Beating writer’s block is easier if you have clear strategy and routines.
I recently wrote on how to write a novel: plan in advance or not? (Links in bold italics are to other posts on this site.) I quoted Stephen King, and Stephen Donaldson, whose main tip on how to write a novel was “start today”.
Maybe you would like to write a novel, or a story. But you haven’t started yet. You often say, or think “I’d like to write a story”. But you never quite find the time.
People. Start today.
Starting to write a novel can be difficult
Of course we all feel obstacles to writing. We are busy. We worry that what we write may not be good enough. We don’t have the right computer, or the right software. We are waiting until we have finished another project, until a child is older, until we change job, until the stars are aligned. Starting to write is hard.
Here are five ways to get in the habit of writing. (more…)
Good news for story-lovers.
Click on the cover if you’d like to buy a copy from Amazon
The hosts are the excellent Vienna writers’ organisation “Write Now”: you can read about the event at their Facebook site. The evening starts at 19.00 on 17 June in the rather fantastic Art Lounge of the Cafe Korb at Brandstätte 9 in the First District. I should be reading sometime after 20.00, although timings are flexible.
All are welcome! I hope to see you there for an evening of creativity, entertainment and, perhaps, a few laughs.
Where can you read a few Hotel Stories before the event? Option 1 is to download them from Amazon. Option 2 is to read the introductions to a few of the stories right here on this site – see my post The Hotel Stories – 7 reasons you should read them (links in bold are to other posts on this site). Option 3, if you want to read a complete story and can’t bear Amazon, is to download one free here.
Also on 17 June, I shall be signing copies (more…)
Excellent piece from Wodehouse specialist Plumtopia marking the centenary of “My Man Jeeves”.
My Man Jeeves was published 100 years ago in May 1919.
Jeeves–my man, you know–is really a most extraordinary chap. So capable. Honestly, I shouldn’t know what to do without him. On broader lines he’s like those chappies who sit peering sadly over the marble battlements at the Pennsylvania Station in the place marked “Inquiries.” You know the Johnnies I mean. You go up to them and say: “When’s the next train for Melonsquashville, Tennessee?” and they reply, without stopping to think, “Two-forty-three, track ten, change at San Francisco.” And they’re right every time. Well, Jeeves gives you just the same impression of omniscience.
May 2019 marks 100 years since the publication of My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse’s first Jeeves story collection.
Well, sort of. It’s complicated.
Wodehouse chronology always is, because many of his works were published in magazine format on both sides of the Atlantic before appearing…
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What is the best way to write a novel? Should you plan a novel in advance, or not? A few tips for writers.
Let’s explore two common methods. I’ve tried both. Each can work well: which is best for you will depend on how you write and what you are writing.
Before we look at that, let me cite the US fantasy author Stephen R Donaldson, who was once asked by an admirer how to achieve success in writing. “Start today,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson’s advice is great. If you want to start writing fiction, don’t wait until the conditions are perfect and all the stars are aligned (“I’m waiting until the kids grow up”; “I have to get some new writing software”; “I’m too busy right now”). Set aside some time tonight, this afternoon or even this morning; get out a pen and paper; and start writing.
How do you begin?
How to begin? There are different ways of writing a novel
The first method is taught in writing courses and top universities across the world. You should plan your story around a standard structure. This structure is set out in a thousand primers – try googling “narrative structure” or “three act structure”.
This plan goes back to the ancient Greeks. That’s no bad thing: it has stood the test of time. In brief:
- the first part (or “act”) of your story introduces your main characters and describes their situation, usually including a problem or conflict;
- the second part involves an “inciting act” (eg: a letter in the post; discovery of a body; a glance across a crowded room) leading to, or highlighting, a conflict or problem. This then escalates, perhaps via a series of mini-crises, to become a crisis;
- the third part sees the main character or characters developing and changing (“digging deeper than ever before”) to a climax where they overcome the crisis, often preceded by a section where it seems that “all is lost”. This leads on to the end of the story, with the main character in a new equilibrium.
Should you edit your writing as you go along? Or should you write a first draft and then edit once you’ve finished?
I once visited a wonderful friend who was a successful writer (DF – it was you!).
At the time, I was struggling to complete my first novel.
When she suggested we go for brunch at her local cafe to read the New York Times and the Washington Post, I was delighted. As I waited to go out, I glanced at her writing desk, filled with admiration for her hard work and achievement.
On the desk was a book about writing technique. Intrigued that she, a well-known author, should need such advice, I leafed through it. A sentence leapt out at me.
You can see the results of all this in my Berlin thriller Blood Summit
“Don’t keep writing and re-writing the same chapter or the opening to your book,” the guide said. “Doing that risks preventing you from completing the task. You must keep moving forward.”
At that point my friend was ready and we went out for a terrific brunch in Alexandria.
But I never forgot that sentence. I have found it invaluable in helping me to complete many novels.
“Wait!” I hear you cry. “Surely I shouldn’t write (more…)
The technique of “scenes and sequels” is a great way to build tension in your writing. Some practical examples of how to use them.
An experienced commissioning editor told me recently that one of two main reasons she rejected manuscripts was “no story”. The other was “overwritten” – I’ll write about that another day.
How can you make sure your fiction has a strong story, that people will want to read?
To put it another way, how can you make sure your fiction has bite?
‘How the hell do I apply these techniques to my writing?’
Swain said that to have a cracking good story you should start with a scene in which someone is trying to achieve a goal. The sub-elements are:
(i) goal: the character is trying to achieve something;
(ii) conflict: something prevents the character achieving that goal;
(iii) disaster: the quest to achieve the goal ends in catastrophe. (more…)
I need help.
I need help from Wodehouse experts, or Kenner as we call them here in Austria.
For years, I have been relishing my father’s Folio Society collection of Jeeves and Wooster stories. I have so far read 14 of them, as reported in my blogs Aunts aren’t gentlemen – 10 quotations, Jeeves and the feudal spirit: 20 delicious quotations, and Right ho, Jeeves – 14 fruity quotations (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).
I have now reached the final boxed set of my father’s collection, which I find comprises six volumes set at Blandings Castle: Summer Lightning (1929); Heavy Weather (1933); Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939); Full Moon (1947); Pigs Have Wings (1952); and Service with a Smile (1961).
The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Summer Lightning”
My problems are: (more…)
The lights go down.
Heavy metal chords ring out.
It is clear that Deep Purple have lost none of their ability to rock.
I’ve seen the loudest band of all time (Guinness Book of Records) twice: in Kyiv in 2011 and in Vienna in 2017. I was fortunate enough to share a beer with Roger Glover and other band members after both shows. (more…)
I recently read East West Street by British law professor and international human rights expert Philippe Sands.
If you have any interest in the cataclysm which overtook eastern and central Europe between 1933 and 1945, I recommend East West Street. It explains the development of the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” against the background of the Second World War and the appalling crimes which took place in the run up to, and during, that conflict.
It also considers the relevance of what happened in 1933-45 today.
My copy of ‘East West Street’. The endorsements ring true
Sands humanises and illustrates his account by focusing on four individuals. Hersch Lauterpacht was a professor of International Law who developed the concept of crimes against humanity. Rafael Lemkin was a prosecutor and lawyer who developed the concept of Genocide. Hans Frank was Hitler’s lawyer and later governor-general of German-occupied Poland from 1940-45. Leon Buchholz was Sands’s grandfather, who died in Paris in 1997 (‘He took Lemberg to the grave, along with a scarf given to him by his mother in January 1939. It was a parting gift from Vienna, my mother told me as we bade him adieu.’) (more…)
I am Pilgrim has a compelling plot, rich characters, horrifying jeopardy and seat-edge cliff-hangers. Here are 8 reasons I recommend it.
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes is an epic, breathtaking chase from New York to Afghanistan to Bahrain to Gaza to Bodrum to Bulgaria and back.
Hold onto your hats – I am Pilgrim is quite a ride
Here (no spoilers) are 8 reasons I am Pilgrim will thrill you: (more…)
Is “50 Shades of Grey” brilliant, entertaining erotic literature, or misogynistic horror-show? Either way, the technique of the author is outstanding.
‘I only finished the first volume,’ my friend says. ‘It was so badly written. And boring.’
‘I disagree,’ I say. ‘I think the writing is brilliant. It hits every target for a best-seller. I read all three volumes. But I ended up hating it.’
What to make of 50 Shades of Grey? Last time I looked, it had sold 150 million copies in 52 languages and spawned a hit movie series. The book has 85,000 reviews on Amazon.com with an average of 4*, and a further 21,500 on Amazon.co.uk – also averaging 4*. A lot of people love it. Why?
The following review contains spoilers. Links in bold italics are to other blog posts on this site.
Each volume of “50 Shades” is substantial
Here are 5 things I found brilliant about the 50 Shades trilogy:
(i) everything is big. In her book “How to write a blockbuster“, Sarah Harrison says a bestseller must have glamour in the sense of absolute, undeniable, gobsmacking allure… with all the maidenly restraint of Joan Collins on speed. It’s got to be BIG, she says. Everything about 50 Shades is big – Christian Grey is not just rich, he’s mega-rich. He isn’t just talented; he is a concert-quality pianist and outstanding skier and linguist who excels at martial arts. He’s not only a good person: he wants to help poor people around the world. He’s not just handsome – every woman he passes is entranced by his charisma. As Ana sums him up:
A writer compares turnips and sex. Is he wise, or daft? Can we use his wisdom – if any – to make ourselves happier?
I have written often about happiness on this blog. You might like to look at a summary in my piece The one with the links to happiness.
W Somerset Maugham considers happiness and the meaning of life in his essay The Summing Up, written in 1938. Perhaps we can learn from him. Try not to be put off by the old-fashioned way in which he often refers to “men” when he means “people”
W Somerset Maugham is most famous for his short stories
In The Summing Up, Maugham asks whether writing itself is enough for a happy life…
From time to time I have asked myself whether I should have been a better writer if I had devoted my whole life to literature.
… and concludes:
Somewhat early, but at what age I cannot remember, I made up my mind that, having but one life, I should like to get the most I could out of it. It did not seem to me enough merely to write. (more…)
The Arvon foundation offers some of the world’s top writing courses. Find out why here.
Ahead, in the kitchen, everyone seems to be laughing. As I approach, the noise swells. I push the door open to find ten people sitting around a long wooden table, drinking tea and eating lemon drizzle cake. In an instant, the din dies down as everyone turns to look at the newcomer – me.
What have I left myself in for?
The prospect of attending a writing course holds both fascination and dread for would-be authors. I recently attended the Arvon Foundation’s “Editing Fiction: Turning First Drafts into Publishable Books” at The Hurst in Shropshire. So what actually happens on a writing course? Do they help your writing? And what if you don’t get on with the other participants?
I long to sit longer on this bench in the grounds of the Hurst
The Arvon course I attended, in November 2018, lasted from Monday afternoon to Saturday morning. It consisted of morning workshops, followed by afternoons free for writing, walking, or attending 1:1 seminars with the tutors. Workshops included sessions on how to edit a novel (including the advice “enjoy a moment (more…)
Should you use a computer or pen and paper to write fiction? How about if you are writing the first draft of your novel? Practical tips on how to get started.
I sit down at my desk in Vienna to continue writing my current novel, code-named The Boyfriend. Outside, birds sing in the trees; all is well in the world.
When I start to write, do I reach for my computer? Or for my pen and paper?
Many authors write first drafts direct on their computers, or always write on paper, without thinking too much about which works best. Here are a few things you might want think about.
In 1986 my then-employer acquired its first computer. I was thrilled by the idea that I could move words around on a screen, and only print them out when I was happy with them. It seemed to make the creative process less daunting. I started to write my first novel on that computer the same year – after work, of course.
In this pic I am writing the first draft of a blog direct on an iPad in Austria
In 1987 I bought my first home computer, an Amstrad PCW. Later I bought PCs; then Macs. But over the years, I stopped writing fiction on the screen. I write all my short stories and novels in long-hand.
How do I do that? And why?
How: I like to use a ring-bound A4 pad, (more…)
Interesting take on “50 Shades of Grey”, which I have just finished reading. Will deliver my own thoughts in a blog later.
With the new film just released, Fifty Shades of Grey is being savaged everywhere again – everyone seems to have an opinion, no matter how poorly informed, and those opinions are almost uniformly scathing. Everywhere I look, I see Fifty Shades of Grey being used as a byword for leaden prose, abusive relationships, sordid pornography, and any other evil the author cares to lazily name.
That all irritates me. Not because I love Fifty Shades, but because I believe rather strongly that you shouldn’t criticize things that you don’t understand. I bother, before venturing opinions on books, to actually read them, and I don’t think that that is an unreasonable standard to hold others to. If you are going to criticize something, gain at least a limited understanding of it.
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This time the hosts are the excellent Vienna writers’ organisation “Write Now”: you can read about the event at their Facebook site.
I am grateful to Write Now for allowing me to join their “Open Mic Night”, which is open to all creative types – as “Write Now” say, “we look forward to hearing your stories, songs, poems, stand up comedy and other creative enterprises”. The evening starts at 1900 on 18 October in the rather fantastic Art Lounge of the Cafe Korb at Brandstätte 9 in the First District of Vienna. I should be reading around 2030, although timings are pretty flexible at these events.
All are welcome! I hope to see you there for an evening of creativity, entertainment and terror.
A video of my previous reading at Cafe Korb, courtesy of Sibylle Trost
This blog is now historic! Austria banned smoking in bars and restaurants on 1 November 2019. I published this in September 2018, and can claim zero credit for the change.
How long will Austria retain its unusually permissive attitude to smoking in bars and cafes?
Back in the 1970s I used to ride on the top deck of a double-decker red Routemaster bus to school in Manchester, an hour each way. On winter mornings the air was thick with cigarette smoke, and the windows would mist up with condensation on which we would draw pictures and scrawl messages.
No-one thought twice about the health hazards to children sitting in a smoky bus for two hours a day.
Campaigners are trying to introduce a smoking ban in cafes in Austria
In 2003, New York introduced a ban on smoking in all enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Ireland followed in 2004, becoming the first country in the world to do so. In 2006 Scotland followed suit, followed by Wales, Northern Ireland and on 1 July 2007, England, including bars, restaurants, and buses.
I remember entering a pub for the first time after 1 July 2007 and finding that the removal of the permanent haze of smoke made it possible (more…)
‘Hey,’ your friend says in Vienna. ‘Let’s meet up for a coffee’.
‘How about a cup of tea? Or a beer? Or a glass of wine?’ you say.
‘All good. We could grab a bite to eat, too.’
‘Where shall we go?’
‘How about Cafe X?’ your friend replies.
A fine cup of coffee in Vienna
You have a nanosecond to decide how to respond.
Vienna is crammed with world class cafes. I review my favourites (so far) on my “Best Vienna cafes” page. You may think my judgement sucks; but I welcome comments and suggestions.
So I was intrigued to see the Austrian newspapers rejoicing last week that a list of the “50 greatest cafes on earth” featured three from Vienna. The list itself is in the British newspaper “The Daily Telegraph”: I thought it a good effort, particularly for attempting a genuinely global list, ranging from Swansea to Hanoi. I also like the fact that the writer, Chris Moss, says he has visited 40 of them himself (more…)
The rather awesome J K Rowling wrote swathes of the “Harry Potter” series in cafes in Edinburgh.
Can other writers do this?
With iPad at the Wolfgangsee.
Writing techniques vary. When I am writing major pieces – such as a novel – I write in longhand, in an A4 pad. While typing straight onto a keyboard is in theory quicker, I find sitting staring at a screen for long periods makes my brain melt. Making quick amendments to what you have already written is also clumsier, and slower, on a computer.
By contrast, on my A4 paper pad I am constantly making amendments, (more…)
Blood Summit is ideal for reading groups and book clubs. This intelligent thriller appeals to a wide range of audiences (see reviews on Amazon) and contains a host of controversy and material for discussion. Here are some questions you can use for discussion.
One publisher rejected “Blood Summit” because they said Helen, a female action hero, was insufficiently feminine or “too much like a man”. Do you agree? Is Helen lacking in feminine qualities? Would it matter if she did?
How would the plot develop differently if Helen was a man? Which elements of the story, if any, would be less compelling or make less sense?
Helen is furious that her husband refuses to leave London and come with her to Berlin. How would life with Nigel fit in with her lifestyle in Germany? Are they sufficiently compatible to live together? (more…)
People often ask me: ‘What is the best city you have lived in, apart obviously from Manchester? Is it London? Berlin? Moscow? Istanbul? Kyiv? Or Vienna?’
I usually answer with Oscar Wilde: ‘Comparisons are odious.’
Vienna has much to recommend it, including lovely countryside nearby
I thought of Oscar Wilde when I heard that that Vienna had this year taken first place in the annual Economist Intelligence Unit’s global liveability index – the first time a European city has ever won. I certainly can confirm that Vienna is a magnificent place to live, offering everything from terrific cafes (see my cafe reviews) to awesome local countryside, great outdoor pools, and – my favourite – outdoor cinemas, comparable with Berlin’s. I am very happy here.
When I was deciding in 2011 whether to try and move to Istanbul, I was influenced by a report in the Financial Times which made fun of rankings such as that of the EIU, or the widely quoted Mercer quality of living survey (where Vienna also came top in 2018 – for the ninth consecutive year). The FT said that not all of the cities which tended to do well in such surveys were actually cities where people want to live – Osaka, Calgary, Toronto or Zurich were all fine cities but not on everyone’s bucket lists. Cities where people did actually want to live, such as New York or London (more…)
The influential gallery director sits down with the visiting guest in a museum cafe. Both are speaking English but only the guest is a native speaker.
‘This place is epic,’ the guest begins, meaning the museum. ‘Back home, the Arts Council is doing its bit but they don’t have the oomph to shift the dial. ITV has done a whole series on cock-ups in UK local authority arts funding but it’s a dog’s breakfast. You are blessed!’
Anish Kapoor show in Istanbul. But the conversation could be about business, politics, or anything at all.
‘We are very lucky, yes,’ the local gallery director says, cautiously. She has understood: her guest thinks the gallery director is fortunate, and something about a dog.
We live in an age where English is spoken to a high level as a second language by large numbers of people. But native English speakers often make no allowances for (more…)
The woman at the entrance seems delighted to see me. Having sold me a ticket, she rises from her seat and accompanies me to the first room of the museum, highlighted key exhibits.
The “Third Man Museum” in Vienna’s 4th District (Pressgasse 25) is one of the finest small museums in the city. Interested in the film? Want to know more about post-WW2 Viennese history? Want to see what obsession can achieve?
Look no further.
The first surprise about the Museum is its breadth. Part 1, comprising seven rooms, is packed with fascinating detail about The Third Man: clips, shooting locations (including the sewers and the Central Cemetery), and the stars of the classic 1948 film often described as the best movie ever (see my review at the link). I noted a fine quote from Orson Wells: “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four… unless there are three other people”.
Film stills and publicity stills from Room 1
Part 2 focuses on the music of the film, including the famous “Third Man theme” played on the zither. A mighty 1930s cinema projector (more…)
All I saw was the dame standing there in the glare of the headlights waving her arms like a huge puppet and the curse I spit out filled the car and my own ears. I wrenched the wheel over, felt the rear end start to slide, brought it out with a splash of power and almost ran up the side of the cliff as the car fishtailed.
My 1960 Signet edition of “Kiss Me, Deadly”, swapped on a Greek ferry*
The opening lines of Mickey Spillane’s 1952 Kiss Me, Deadly are arresting. So is the blurb: “Mike Hammer swears to avenge the killing of a satin-skinned blonde and rips into the vicious Mafia mob to run down her murderer”.
When I first read Kiss Me, Deadly in the ’80s, I was shocked by the casual violence and sexism. (more…)
Those who know the code of the Pimms will know that the blogs on this site are consistently honest. No fake news here, or indeed fake reviews.
So I have to report, sadly, that “Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves” was not my favourite P G Wodehouse book.
In fact, of the mouth-watering shelf-full of Wodehouse I have enjoyed so far since 2017, it comes some way behind Thank You, Jeeves, Ring for Jeeves, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen or indeed Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, all of which I have reviewed on this site (click on links above) and all of which positively heaved with quotables.
The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves”
To say that Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves is less hilarious than some other P G Wodehouse masterpieces, however, is not to say it lacks humour. I feel it has less of a (more…)
It has been a good run.
Since 12 August 2017 I have written a blog every week, usually published on a Saturday afternoon, in addition to writing my new novel and one or two other writing projects such as the Hotel Stories.
Thanks to all my readers for clicking on robertpimm.com, and sometimes the links in the blogs. It makes me happy when you do so.
And should I update my author pic from the 1981 black and white version?
It is not always easy to produce a blog every week. Today, for example, I have written my novel for a couple of hours, have 30 minutes to write my blog, then am going out for a walk and to watch the England-Sweden game.
Usually my blogs take 2-3 hours to write – time when I could be writing that novel!
So I have a couple of questions for you. You do not have to answer all or indeed any of them, but feedback would be welcome. You can find a “comments” form at the bottom of this page. Or you can write to me privately using the “Contact me” tab at the top of the page.
(i) does the regularity of my blogs, ie one a week on a Saturday afternoon, make any difference to you, (more…)
George Mikes’ “How to be an Alien” is one of the funniest books in the English language. It’s not about aliens, of course. It is about the English. Its real title should be: “why the English are absurd and hilarious – but I kind of like them”.
If you have not read How to be an Alien by George Mikes, please go and buy a copy instantly. You will not regret it.
George Mikes was a Hungarian who came to England in 1938 (as he said: When people say England, they sometimes mean Great Britain, sometimes the United Kingdom, sometimes the British Isles – but never England). He wrote dozens of books but is remembered mainly for his seminal 1946 How to be an Alien. He described the genesis of the book thus:
Some years ago I spent a lot of time with a young lady who was very proud and conscious of being English. Once she asked me – to my great surprise – whether I would marry her. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I will not. My mother would never agree to my marrying a foreigner.’ She looked at me a little surprised and irritated, and retorted: ‘I, a foreigner? What a silly thing to say. I am English. You are the foreigner. And your mother, too…’ I saw that this theory was as irrefutable as it was simple. I was startled and upset. Mainly because of my mother whom I loved and respected. Now, I suddenly learned what she really was.’ (more…)
How much cruelty can you squeeze into a 150,000 word novel?
A huge amount, if that book is Lady Anna, written by Anthony Trollope at the astonishing rate of 16,500 words a week on a voyage from England to Australia between 25 May and 19 July 1871.
The plot (no spoilers follow) revolves around a conflict: should the eponymous heroine marry a low-born tailor; or a young earl, of her own class? She loves the tailor – or does she? Almost every other character in the book, especially her mother, believes she should marry the earl; and subject her to extraordinary pressure to bring about this result.
This is heavy stuff. As so often with Trollope, his female characters are often more attractive than his men, some of whom, like Anna’s father the earl, are vile:
It must be told that the Earl was a man who had never yet spared a woman in his lust. It had been the rule, almost the creed of his life, that woman was made to gratify the appetite of man, and that the man is but a poor creature who does not lay hold of the sweetness that is offered to him… The life which he had led no doubt had had its allurements, but it is one which hardly admits of a hale and happy evening. Men who make women a prey, prey also on themselves. (more…)
‘How many people are you expecting at your reading?’
‘Well, it’s impossible to know. Maybe five, maybe 20.’
‘But how many people will you will be happy with?’
‘Well, anything over three.’
We’re on our way to my reading from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit at the excellent English language bookshop Shakespeare & Company at Sterngasse 2 in central Vienna. Not only is it a Friday night, but the World Cup has started: Portugal vs Spain, no less. I am managing my expectations appropriately.
We gather in the bookshop. It is a beautiful place, in the heart of Vienna’s old town. Outside, a cobbled street. Inside, books reach to the ceiling: a temple of imagination, stories and ideas. If you have never visited Shakespeare & Co, go today or, at the latest, next weekend. They are open until 9 p.m. six days a week.
People keep coming. By the time I start the reading, at 1930, the shop is already crammed – I count 19 people. More keep arriving, slipping in cunningly through a hitherto unsuspected back door.
A wonderful place for a book-reading – Shakespeare & Co
What does reclusive author Robert Pimm look like in the flesh?
You can find out on Friday 15 June at the wonderful Shakespeare & Co bookshop at Sterngasse 2 in central Vienna.
I will be reading from my new Berlin thriller “Blood Summit” (“a rip-roaring romp of a thriller” – Sir Christopher Mallaby). Entry is free and copies of the book will be on sale.
Come along – and bring a friend!
For a preview, see the video below, from my March 16 reading at Cafe Korb, also in Vienna.
In fact, you can buy “Blood Summit” in Shakespeare & Co any time: (more…)
What makes Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thrillers some of the best? I put it down to consistent quality; great characterisation (including fine women and minor fellers); humour; dialogue; satisfying problem-solving; and wisdom. If you like thrillers, worth putting on your list of “best books to read”.
Burly, yet brilliant. Violent, yet sensitive to the needs of women. Loyal to friends, yet indifferent to relationships.
Jack Reacher, hero of Lee Child’s thriller series, is an ex military policeman with terrific characteristics.
“The Affair” is excellent
I’ve been a Jack Reacher fan since reading my first Lee Child novel, “Tripwire” (Jack Reacher 3), over a decade ago. That book features a cunning plot; extreme violence; and a powerful, satisfying resolution.
Child has published two dozen Jack Reacher novels, one a year since 1997. They are hugely successful: “Blue Moon” (no.24 in the series, published in 2019), for example, has over 9,000 reviews on Amazon.com and over 8,500 on Amazon.co.uk.
Here are 8 reasons why people love Jack Reacher:
(i) the early novels are consistently good. In addition to “Tripwire” I enjoyed, for example, “Killing Floor” (JR1: crisp, authoritative writing and richly textured, eg Reacher’s quest to find legendary guitar player Blind Blake), “Die Trying” (JR2); “The Visitor” (JR4: an original, creepy and tricky mystery which Reacher struggles to solve); “Echo Burning” (JR5: strong, complex plot); and “Without Fail” (JR6);
(ii) great women. I particularly like the enigmatic Frances Neagley, a female equivalent of Reacher who is if anything even cooler and tougher than he is and also features in “Bad Luck and Trouble” (JR11); “The Enemy” (JR8); and “The Affair” (JR16). I also liked the improbably beautiful Elizabeth Deveraux in “The Affair”, with her remarkable appetite:
The grease from the meat made her lips glisten. She was a slim woman. She must have had a metabolism like a nuclear reactor.
(iii) in some novels, eg “The Enemy”, Reacher displays dry, ironic humour (US readers: apologies for my UK spelling tendencies), particularly in displaying insubordination. When asked “Where did he have the heart attack?”, Reacher replies “In his chest cavity”;
(iv) fine dialogue, such as this, between Reacher and Deveraux, after sex, in “The Affair” (Reacher is narrating):
Afterwards Deveraux yawned and stretched and said, ‘You’re not bad for a soldier boy.’
I said, ‘You’re excellent for a Marine.’
‘We’d better be careful. We might develop feelings for each other.’
‘What are those?’
‘What are what?’
She paused a beat.
She said, ‘Men should be more in touch with their feelings.’
I said, ‘If I ever have one, you’ll be the first to know, I promise.’
She paused, again. Then she laughed.
(v) some of Lee Child’s later works are again excellent. I recently read “The Affair” (Reacher 16) which re-introduces not only Neagley but also Reacher’s sense of humour;
(vi), Lee Child also write some strong male minor characters, such as military men Leon Garber and Stan Lowrey, of whom Reacher, narrating the story, gives this splendid account:
I leaned on the wall next to the phone… because Lowrey’s stories were usually very long. He fancied himself a raconteur. And he liked background. And context. Deep background, and deep context. Normally he liked to trace everything back to a seminal point just before random swirls of gas from the chartless wastes of the universe happened to get together and form the earth itself.
In addition to Garber and Lowrey, I particularly like Major Duncan Munro, another military policeman, who delivers some splendid one-liners, such as this exchange, as Reacher explains why he wanted to keep certain information secret:
[Reacher:] ‘I wanted Munro to go back to Germany with a clear conscience.’
Munro said, ‘My conscience is always clear.’
‘But it’s easier to play dumb if you really don’t know the answer.’
‘I never had a problem playing dumb. Some folks think I am.’
This exchange, where Munro actually gets the better of Reacher, is reminiscent of the famous “Does your dog bite?” exchange between Peter Sellers, as Inspector Clouseau, and a hotel receptionist in the 1976 film “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”, in that the hotel receptionist has the better lines:
(vii) Jack Reacher has an almost Holmesian ability to infer events from invisible clues as he, for example, reconstructs the murder of Janice May Chapman in “The Affair”;
(viii) Finally, Reacher has plenty of good one-liners and epigrams, eg:
I didn’t like him much. A snap judgement, maybe, but generally those are as good as any other kind.
Is there a down side to Jack Reacher? Personally, I think some of the middle and later novels are less good than others. My least favourites include “Bad Luck and Trouble” (JR11) and “Nothing to Lose” (JR12), where Reacher’s fine sense of humour seems to have been excised. I found “61 Hours” (JR14) slow-moving. But things picked up with “Worth Dying For” (JR15). “The Affair” (JR16) is so good it inspired me to write this blog.
My advice: if you like thrillers and want to sample Lee Child, try some of the earlier books listed above. If you are a fan but have been deterred by some of the less compelling tales in the series, keep reading!
For: solid thrillers with a hero saved from caricature by his great sense of humour (more humour in future episodes, please, Mr Child)
Against: in those books low on humour, Jack Reacher is less entertaining.
P.S. If you like thrillers, you should try my own Blood Summit (“Hugely entertaining” – John Connolly).
Franz Schubert steps to one side.
The lights go down.
Robert Pimm looks up at the packed crowd.
‘My name is Robert Pimm,’ he says. ‘First time I’ve said that.’
For those of you who were kind enough to attend my first reading from my new Berlin thriller Blood Summit at the Cafe Korb in Vienna last year, introduced by remarkable artistic director Franz Schubert (“this name is not a joke”), thank you.
The video of my reading from Blood Summit above was produced by the excellent Sibylle Trost in Berlin – thanks, Sibylle!
I was delighted to receive a good deal of positive feedback on 16 March, as well as news the next day that brilliant English language bookshop Shakespeare & Company at Sterngasse 2 in central Vienna had run out of copies of Blood Summit.
They have since renewed their supplies. (more…)
The pattern is unmistakeable.
A graph shows a financial trend-line (the price of gold) going up and down a couple of times, then declining more steeply.
Around the trend-line, someone has sketched a crude profile of a camel, its head lowered as if to vomit.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the Vomiting Camel, a spoof species of technical analysis created by FT writer @katie_martin_fx to poke fun at how so-called technical analysts attempt to predict future price movements of eg stocks or oil or gold by drawing lines on graphs to identify trends.
You can read her brilliant article (more…)
I am quite intrigued by this movie, which I have not yet had a chance to see. Greatly hope it is as good as the rather reliable reviewers at Inconsistent Pacing make out.
Do you remember the first time you watched Jaws, and you were really hyped up, but it was kind of disappointing? And you complained about the corny acting and the special effects and someone said, hey, you’ve missed the point?
And then you watched it again, and this time you got it, because you knew the secret: Jaws is not a film about sharks. Jaws is a film about fear.
That magical moment has never happened for me. I think Jaws is a terrible, boring film, and I always will. But I mention it now because The Death of Stalin is not about Stalin. Or sharks.
It’s about fear.
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Aunts aren’t gentlemen” is one of my favourite Wodehouse novels. The the 10 quotations below are some of the funniest I have found.
The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen”
That’s a high bar: see eg my reviews of Thank You, Jeeves (click link for five wondrous quotations) Right Ho, Jeeves (click for 14 fruity quotes) and Ring for Jeeves, which also teemed with quotables.
So for all you Wodehouse aficionados out there, here are ten exquisite quotations from Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen:
- ‘Nice girl,’ I said, for there is never any harm in giving the old salve. ‘And, of course, radiant-beauty-wise in the top ten.’ [Orlo’s] eyes bulged, at the same time flashing, as if he were on the verge of making a fiery far-to-the-left speech. ‘You know her?’ he said, and his voice was low and guttural, like that of a bulldog which has attempted to swallow a chump chop and only got it down halfway. (more…)
Many people come to this site in order to read my thriller Blood Summit.
You can get hold of a copy of Blood Summit thus:
(ii) if you live in Vienna (or even if you don’t), stroll along to Shakespeare & Company at Sterngasse 2. It’s a terrific bookshop and (more…)
The Klimt masterpieces have been seen only twice in the last 127 years.
Yet they have been on show all the time.
It makes some sense.
The paintings are rendered doubly enticing by the juxtaposition of columns – Photo RP
In 1891 Gustav Klimt, at the age of 29 already a successful painter, was commissioned as one of several artists to paint murals in the mighty main staircase of the newly-built Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna – a kind of combined British Museum and National Gallery. The paintings are epic in scale, stretching from one side of the vast space to the other.
I noticed the paintings at once when I visited the KHM in 2016 and wanted to get a good look at them. But I couldn’t. (more…)
My famous Vienna Cafe Reviews note the alleged “no kissing” rule in the Cafe Malipop; and promise a story from 1986.
Here it is. It concerns the Gmoa Keller, right here in Vienna.
Back in 1986 I looked something like this
In the 1980s, the Gmoa Keller was a tenebrous place, damp with history and rich with atmosphere. It was run by two elderly sisters from the Burgenland, Grete Novak and Hedi Vécsei. Grete had been in charge since taking over from her uncle, Andreas Herzog, in the ’60s. He in turn had run the place since 1936.
Late one night, my girlfriend Nicky and I took refuge there from a bitterly cold, wet evening. We ordered beers. We were the only guests.
The beer, and the safe haven of the Gmoakeller, warmed us up. A hint of kissing arose. Nothing ostentatious: a nuzzle, perhaps, a cheek to a neck.
Grete shuffled across to where we were sitting. She leaned down to my ear almost as though she were about to kiss me herself. (more…)
Have you ever wondered what Robert Pimm looks like in person?
Now you can find out.
I will be performing my first public reading at 19.30 on 16 March at the Cafe Korb, Brandstätte 9, in the First District of Vienna. Details are at the Cafe Korb Facebook page.
The Cafe Korb is a fine cafe, as I have reviewed separately. Its glories include an Art Lounge – click on the link for a 360-degree view. The cultural programme is eclectic and sublime – upcoming events range from “Who’s Afraid of the Jewish Mother?”, through the Korb’s famous Philosophical Evenings, to a performance by US jazz, blues and soul singer Margaret Carter.
It is in this splendid space that I shall be reading excerpts from my thriller Blood Summit – a world premiere.
The Art Lounge of Cafe Korb – worth a zoom, or a visit
The Art Lounge is not fantastically large and I am hoping it will be pretty packed. Entry is free, and I will answer questions after the reading. I look forward to seeing you there.
More recently, in my blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a new prescription, I savoured the fruits of recent roaming of the Plum pastures; and cited juicy quotations from the outstanding Ring for Jeeves.
Indeed, I have been struck by the poverty of many self-styled treasuries of quotations when it comes to Plum’s oeuvre.
So here, without further ado, are a few additional succulent fruit, assembled by me with pleasure from Thank You, Jeeves.
The cover of the Folio edition of ‘Thank You, Jeeves’
Thank You, Jeeves strikes me as one of the funniest of the Jeeves tales (quite an accolade – Ed). Jeeves himself has oiled off elsewhere for much of the action, but in his absence, Bertie Wooster’s ability to get into scrapes is exploited to outstanding effect. Such scenes as a night in which Bertie repeatedly fails to find a place to rest his head are (more…)
My original Vienna Cafe Reviews story, published in March 2017, included a story about a customer having a bad experience trying to get the bill, back in 1986.
A couple of my Austrian friends sprang to the defence of the waiter. Sure, Vienna cafes had a charming, the-waiter-is-always-right serving ethos, they said. But who wanted subservient waiters? The attitude of Vienna cafe waiters was all about the dignity of labour, and standing up for the right to be treated as a human being.
I recommend the Cafe Schwarzenberg, which is not the cafe referred to below!
I was not so sure. Indeed, these comments reminded me of my 2004 Financial Times piece “When dinner becomes the last supper“, which begins: Friends from Paris, Madrid or New York often ask me: “Why are German waiters so brilliant?” It’s a satire, by the way.
Indeed, I have been in many Vienna cafes (the Sperl, the Bräunerhof and the Tirolerhof spring to mind) which are as traditional as they come, but where the waiters go about their business is an efficient and thoroughly satisfactory way.
Is there any contradiction between efficiency and tradition? I’d welcome your views.
Meanwhile, I thought readers might be interested to read the full story of that 1986 experience. It goes as follows.
I had been invited to lunch by a friend from the Vienna Town Hall (the mayor at that time was Mr Zilk). My friend suggested we go to a certain cafe, famed for its traditions. (more…)
‘One of my favourite restaurants in London is the Laughing Halibut,’ I say as we eat our lunch in Vienna. ‘When I first started eating there in 1979, it was run by this Italian guy, and one of his sons used to work there, a young bloke. Now, the son is still there, he seems to run the place, but he has become a much older man.’
’40 years is a long time, I guess,’ my friend says. ‘The Italian has aged. But you have stayed the same.’
‘Correct! It’s like that Joe Walsh song, Life’s been good to me so far. Great lyrics. It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame, he sings. Everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed. Best fish and chips in central London.’
A delicious portion of chips from the Laughing Halibut – RP
I often think of the Laughing Halibut, and would recommend it to anyone visiting or living in London. In fact, I like it so much that it features in a key scene in a novel of mine, which is on ice at present but might see the light of day in a couple of years. The scene also features a phlegmatic Italian waiter.
The scene (which I have lightly edited, for reasons too complex to explain here) is as follows. Angus Fairfax, the protagonist of the book, is meeting his wife Rosie for lunch.
Excerpt from an unpublished novel
Rosie and I had instituted regular Monday lunches when she was promoted – again – twelve months before. ‘You must be in the diary,’ she’d said. ‘Otherwise, I’ll never see you.’
She’d been right. These days, most of our conversations seemed to take place in the Laughing Halibut in Strutton Ground.
Strutton Ground was a curious street. (more…)
I was bemused recently to see a news report headed: Austria ranked by expats as one of unfriendliest countries.
I have lived in Austria for years and have numerous friends. Who are these expats who say Austrians are unfriendly? And who is doing the measuring? I decided to investigate.
It turns out that the report is based on the “Expat Insider 2017” survey carried out by the “InterNations” network.
Austria has a lot to offer – as well as friendly people – Photo RP
“Internations” is a company which works to help expats settle in and get to know other expats (slogan: “Wherever in the world life takes you, our InterNations Communities help you feel at home”).
Its full report, which you can download in full from the link above, is packed with interesting statistics. (more…)
What is the Overton window? I first came across the term in a piece by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books in July 2016.
He described it as “a term… meaning the acceptable range of political thought in a culture at a given moment… [which] can be moved.”
Lanchester said that ideas can start far outside the political mainstream yet later come to seem acceptable. He cited Brexit as an example: considered eccentric in 1997, yet enjoying large-scale support in a referendum by 2016.
Lanchester’s article, by the way, like many LRB pieces, is improbably long: set aside a bit of time if you want to read it.
A recent piece at the splendid “Flip Chart Fairy Tales” blog (recommended: often a source of illuminating graphs, charts and views) entitled “Breaking the Overton Window“, also noted how opinions can change. The author argues that for politicians and commentators the Overton Window has moved over recent decades towards libertarian, right-wing policies which do not obviously overlap with established political parties. By contrast, the views of voters have moved in the opposite direction, towards more authoritarian and left-wing ideas – likewise not corresponding clearly to existing parties. This tendency, he argues, a) is a move away from traditional “left-wing” and “right-wing” categorisations; and b) should lead politicians to shift towards those authoritative and left wing policies if they are not to leave voters alienated from politics.
What has this got to do with social media, and why does the Overton window matter? (more…)
What a brilliant movie! Full of breathtaking, blow-you-away moments, unpredictable plot-twists, and unforgettable images and ideas!
I speak, of course, of the original 1977 Star Wars.
I love movies and adore sci-fi. The original Star Wars sent me into a drug-like high when I saw it in Dolby Sensurround at the Odeon Marble Arch in 1977. So did parts of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention the hilarious Galaxy Quest. I gave a strong review to the last Star Wars outing, The Force Awakens, despite initial misgivings.
So when someone takes a massive budget, an epic back story and the expectations of millions and turns out something which is 80% as dull as ditchwater, I feel personally betrayed. Here are 7 reasons why The Last Jedi is, by the standards of what could have been, an inter-galactic train-wreck:
(i) it is beyond boring. In fact, it is the first movie in which I have actually fallen asleep in the cinema, ever. The scenes of Rey and Luke discussing obscure stuff on an island go on and on and… dear God, please can something happen soon? (more…)
In fact I have just oiled over for a further immersion in Plumtopia, notably this informative piece about P G Wodehouse societies including The P G Wodehouse Society UK.
I can verify that the site is a veritable motherlode of P G Wodehouse-related info. Recommended.
Meanwhile I have been continuing my own exploration of the oeuvre of the author known as “Plum” (short for “Pelham”, his first name). I have so far completed my perusal of Carry on Jeeves, Very Good Jeeves, The Inimitable Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters, Joy in the Morning and Ring for Jeeves. The standard is consistent, although I have taken medical advice not to binge on more than three consecutive P G Wodehouse novels, as intensive research shows this may reduce their impact.
The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Ring for Jeeves”
The efficacy of this new reading prescription has been proven by a Wodehouse abstinence (more…)
In 2017 I published the seventh Hotel Story.
The Three Heads.
Like all the Hotel Stories, The Three Heads features the world’s most brilliant, unpredictable and occasionally homicidal hotel manager, Ms N, and her beautiful but naive ally, Tatiana. Like its predecessor, The Swedish Woman, The Three Heads presents Ms N with a crime which she must solve, reinforcing her credentials as the Sherlock Holmes to whom Tatiana, the narrator, plays Doctor Watson. I’d be delighted to hear your comments.
By way of a taster for The Three Heads, I hope you enjoy the following excerpt.
The Three Heads (excerpt)
‘Tatiana, my sugar plum. You are looking beautiful today.’
‘Thank you. But – ‘
‘I mean it, buttercup. I never forget how lucky I am to have you.’
‘Pablo. I am grateful.’ When I gaze into Pablo’s warm brown eyes and see his soft lips smiling at me, I find it hard to think straight. ‘But we need to talk about your plans to promote the hotel. Our Caravanserai Ultra Platinum is in trouble.’
‘Our hotel promotes itself, turtle-dove. It is the coolest, most luxurious and most ecological destination on earth, and the only hotel located entirely within a hollow mountain.’ He gestures around the Sunset Bar, with its outrageously exclusive (more…)
Why do sequels suck? Why does it drive us crazy? My study shows examples of what makes sequels bomb and asks why movie-makers become so lazy.
I am watching the sequel to a movie I adored three years ago. The sequel is so piss-poor that I feel violated and upset. How can a major studio spend squillions of dollars producing such trash?
Weeks later, it happens again. Another sequel, another cringe-making dose of drivel. Strangely, the two movies have much in common, including much of what makes them so unwatchable.
The movies are: Guardians of the Galaxy II (2017) and The Lego Batman Movie (2017).
Guardians of the Galaxy 2: decent trailer, execrable movie
The Lego Batman Movie: ditto
More complex than Dan Brown. More thrilling than Le Carré. Closer to the truth than either.
Counter-terrorism expert Helen Gale has one job: to protect the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the US, Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany, Canada and Italy at the Children’s Summit in Berlin.
The Reichstag is the most fortified building on earth. Yet terrorists take world leaders, tycoons, one hundred innocent children and Helen’s husband captive. Then the executions start.
Helen is suspended from duty and sued for negligence. Yet she alone sees the mastermind behind the siege. As US special forces plan a deadly assault, Helen must enter the shattered hulk of the Reichstag to stop a bloodbath.
“The genuine article: clever and melancholy: a security-pass into a world-within-a-world” – Matthew Parris on Robert Pimm.
OK, everyone. Help me. Ahead of publication of my new novel, Blood Summit this autumn I am drafting the blurb for the back page. What do you think of the above? Would it make you want to read the book? Comments welcome: do use the comments box or send me an e-mail.
I’m crowdsourcing comments and you, faithful readers, are my crowd.
And thanks for all your comments on titles. Excellent comments from different people in different senses. For now, I’m going with Blood Summit.
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – the “click here” blue button). You can check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.
I’ve added new reviews to my popular Vienna cafes: which are best? blog. The fifteen cafes reviewed are mostly in the town centre, but include several in the 3rd, 6th, 7th and 10th Districts. The latest additions are the little-known Cafe Morgenstern (charming and super grunge) and the popular Cafe Museum (much restored since the 1980s). Take a look.
If you have a favourite cafe you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments. I’m highly suggestible and always looking for something original – see eg my brand new review of Cafe Malipop.
The shabby but charming decor of the Cafe Morgenstern, complete with star – RP
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button). Check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.
P.P.S. see my piece When dinner becomes the last supper for a tongue-in-cheek guide to “why German waiters are the best”.
Can we make ourselves happy? Is there a formula for being happier? Suggestions and practical ideas for improving your mood.
Can we make ourselves happier? It is a question I have looked at so often – along with feminist issues – that I even have a category for it on this blog called Existential – and women.
Some say that a combination of a) physical activity; b) other people; and c) nature is the key to happiness, cf walking the Dales Way in England
One of my key ways to improve my mood, when things appear to be going wrong, is to take a step back and get some perspective. I wrote about this in my 2017 blog Things are getting worse, right? Wrong. Here’s why.
Other happiness-related blogs include:
‘Do you hate me, James?’
Dixon wanted to rush at her and tip her backwards in the chair, to make a deafening rude noise in her face, to push a bead up her nose. ‘How do you mean?’ He asked.
I first read Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim several decades ago. I enjoyed it immensely; and noted this exchange as summing up both how some women speak; and how some men react.
Re-reading the book recently I felt it had not aged well; but that it was still full of laugh-out-loud moments, including the one above.
What I was less sure of was how similar Kingsley Amis’s eponymous first person narrator is to Kemal, the first person narrator of Orhan Pamuk’s scary and thought-provoking novel The Museum of Innocence, which I reviewed recently.
In particular, are they similar in the way they treat women?
What do you think? I would welcome thoughts from readers.
As I am on holiday without a computer or iPad I cannot give this subject the attention it deserves for now; but will aim to do so in August when reunited with a computer.
Watch this space.
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button). Check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.
I recently inherited a splendid shelf-full of P G Wodehouse in a hand-tooled Folio edition.
My shelf of Wodehouse
But where to begin with Wodehouse?
Pondering this problem, I was delighted to come across fellow WordPress blogger Plumtopia, who specialises in, amongst other things, how to read P G Wodehouse. I discovered two invaluable articles:
- Getting started with Bertie and Jeeves: a chronological challenge considers where new readers should begin reading the series. It is a terrific piece and includes admirable advice about ignoring its own advice if you so wish.
- P G Wodehouse reading list: the Jeeves and Wooster storiesis also a splendid introduction.
Saroo, a tiny boy, arrives confused, in Calcutta. He does not speak Bengali and has no family or friends or idea where he is.
Lion is his story.
The “Lion” trailer is packed with spoilers. Avoid!
I watched Lion on a wise person’s recommendation recently on a plane to Chennai. I thought the first half, featuring the stunning Sunny Pawar as Saroo, was riveting – especially if, like me, you hadn’t seen the trailer and the plot developments came as a complete surprise. The second part, which featured amongst others Nicole Kidman, struck me as OK but relatively routine and schmalzy in parts, especially the dodgy finale. (more…)
When was the last time you punched the air and said “yesssssssssss!”?
If you want to understand me a bit, read on.
Air-punching is the stuff of small victories. You disagree? Please leave a comment below. I would argue that with big victories (child born; illness overcome) you feel a powerful inner glow and no air-punching goes on. But I digress. My recent small victory involved the mileometer (an English word, the spell-check tells me – more usually odometer in the US and probably more appropriate here also as I actually choose to measure my cycling progress in small, rapidly-mounting kilometres rather than large, hard-to-accumulate miles, a fascinating subject in itself) on my bicycle.
I bought this bike on 16 July 1998 in Bonn, along with three other bicycles which have since perished. One was out-grown. Two were destroyed when a car I was in skidded on snowy tires in my garage in Kyiv and crushed the bikes, which were leaning against the wall and thus in the wrong place at the wrong time. My own bike was leaning against a different wall and escaped.
The bike on the Rhine tow-path – before I uglified it with yellow tape for Berlin – Photo Robert Pimm
In Bonn, I cycled 14 km each day to and from work, mostly on a tow-path along the Rhine, (more…)
I know. You can’t really review a whole country.
Railway station in Chennai – all photos Robert Pimm
Especially not India: more than 13 times the size of the UK, massively diverse, and packed with history.
But I wanted to write for two reasons. (more…)
‘I saw this terrible news today.’ My friend, a sensible person, is distressed. ‘A terrorist group is breeding babies to be brought up as fresh soldiers for their cause. How can we resist such fanaticism?’
‘Don’t worry,’ I say. ‘It’s probably a mix of propaganda and sensationalism.’
I’ve written before about how the Internet is filled with misleading nonsense (“a vortex of vacuity; a crisis of kaka; a whirlwind of piss-poor polarisation”) in my blog The Internet. 7 reasons why it will destroy civilisation.
Lesotho: one of the most beautiful countries on earth has a low life expectancy – Photo RP
I’ve also written about the elegant Tuchman’s Law (hit the link for the full article), which says: “The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold (more…)
When I knew I would be moving to Vienna, but before this was widely known, I changed the heading on my Twitter account to a new image.
My intention was to hint, to those who knew either Vienna, me or both, that I was on the move.
The picture is an image from my all-time favourite film, set in post-war Vienna, The Third Man. To avoid spoilers I shall not say what it depicts, but merely to look at it gives me shivers of recollection.
Viennese customer (standing up, exasperated, after 20 minutes of trying to get the bill, in German) ‘Excuse me, Mr Waiter; I’d like to pay, please.’
Head Waiter (chatting to other waiters on the other side of the room) ‘If you’re in such a hurry, you should have stayed at home.’
This is a true story from Vienna, 1986 – I was there. If my host that day (then working in the Town Hall with Mayor Zilk) is reading this, do get in touch. Can you guess in which of the cafes reviewed below the scene occurred? Clue: it was not the Hawelka.
The entrance to the Cafe Hawelka – photo Robert Pimm
How good are Viennese cafes? Is it even fair for me to assess them, as a foreigner who has lived only four years in the city, all but the last year back in the 1980s?
Most Viennese cafes are excellent. I like the fact that (more…)
Should you feel sad or celebrate when a musical icon of your youth is no more?
Here’s a list to celebrate. Seeing others’ lists of the Shakespeare of Rock’n’Roll’s top songs, I thought readers deserved something more definitive and (dare I say?) imaginative. So here are my personal 7 favourite Chuck Berry tracks.
“I-40 heading west” – 1979 hitch-hiking photo by Robert Pimm
7. Almost Grown (1959) – a paean to teenagerhood (curiously, the word for a teenager in Russian, Подросток, means “almost grown”). As so often with this most original singer-songwriter, the lyrics are exquisite as the restless teenager grows up – and settles down (“Now I really have a ball/So I don’t browse around at all”).
6. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1956) has funny, not to say absurd lyrics about the sex-appeal of brown-eyed, handsome men – like Chuck Berry himself (“Milo Venus was a beautiful lass/She had the world in the palm of her hand/She lost both her arms in a wrestling match/To get a brown eyed handsome man”). Plus, as always, passionate guitar riffs. (more…)
“Why am I still, in the main, so zestful?
I know, but I don’t like to say
In case the gods take it away.”
As so often, Alan Clark, here aged 62, is talking about what he refers to as the other – as in “I fear that if I’d come from ‘an underprivileged background’ I’d probably by now have done time for GBH, or assault, or even what Nanny calls the other.”
An Amazon reviewer of Alan Clark’s diaries, which cover the period 1972 (when he was 44) to his death in 1999, described him as The Mr Toad of the Tory Party – vain, boastful and a lover of fast cars. No-one outside the UK has heard of him. He quotes Hitler, of whom he keeps a signed portrait in his safe, and revels in the shocking effect this has on readers.
So why read his diaries? (more…)
A couple of years ago, we first learned how big data could influence politics. The way in which we can be influenced by social media is fairly scary…
What if the team supporting a political campaign had information about the opinions, preferences and voting intentions of every individual in a country, and could tailor their campaigning precisely to each voter?
They have it already.
The Vice News article “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down” is the second scariest thing I’ve seen for ages.
It analyses how the harmless-sounding British company Cambridge Analytica uses information gathered from social media – all your “likes”; which shows you watch on TV; every quiz you ever did on Facebook; what you click on; what you buy; what you drive – in fact the whole of so-called “big data” – to build up a picture on you more detailed than anything George Orwell could have imagined.
If the Thought Police in 1984 had had big data, they wouldn’t have needed Room 101. They would have known everything already.
As others have observed, Orwell got total surveillance right. What he didn’t anticipate was people voluntarily putting on line all the information about themselves a potential authoritarian state could ever need.
A detective from western Germany, sent to investigate a murder in what used to be East Germany, finds evidence implicating a right-wing duelling fraternity.
An Austrian detective investigating a brainwashing cult which makes money preying on vulnerable young people finds his daughter targeted.
A Swiss woman working for a controversial assisted suicide programme is murdered.
A serial killer who targets people with medical or psychological problems decides to kill next the detective investigating him – who is, indeed, suicidal.
Trailer for episode 1,001 “Es lebe der Tod” (Long live death) on 20.11.16
The German police procedural Tatort has been running since 1970. Every Sunday evening at 20.15, a 90-minute episode is aired in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The series enjoys cult status partly because of (more…)
An American man tries to shield his children from society; but finds society, and children, are complicated.
A British man and woman try to make their way through life; but are tormented and defeated.
I recently saw two fine films in 24 hours. In the confusingly-named Captain Fantastic, Viggo Mortensen plays a father trying to raise six children in a remote forest according to his ’60s-oriented anti-capitalist views. When a tragedy forces them to interact with the outside world, the father’s efforts to give the children what he considers the best possible upbringing are challenged; and something has to give.
In 1979 I hitch-hiked for seven weeks around the United States. It was, with hindsight, a wild ride. Indeed, so far as I can see (but tell me if I’m wrong), hitch-hiking has since faded into history across much of the world, whittled away by rising living standards, cheap alternatives, and the proliferation of freeways with junctions where hitchhikers are not allowed to stand.
“Valley of the Rogue” is a self-contained account of what happened on 0ne night, 27-28 July 1979. I’ll be publishing it on-line on this blog at 18.08 Vienna time on 14 September. If others tell me they enjoy it, I’ll be delighted to publish a few more excerpts.
Ginny and Tanya, with whose family (including Karen and Billy) I hitched north through Big Sur earlier in July 1979 – if you’re reading this, do get in touch
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button). Check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.
A glamorous woman lies on a couch, her throat apparently cut, awash with blood. Techno music swells. Nothing happens. The music continues. Still nothing happens. The camera dwells on the woman. Hours pass.
You sometimes sit down to watch a movie and feel your heart sink during the opening scene. Rarely have I felt that sensation so intensely as in the opening sequence to “Neon Demon”. Did someone lose the editing scissors? Did no-one say: “Let’s cut this scene from three minutes to 10 seconds in case the audience loses the will to live”? If not, why not?
The premise of “The Neon Demon” sounds promising. A staggeringly beautiful young model comes to LA. In seconds, she is the hottest property in town. Other models become jealous and seek bloodcurdling revenge while engaging in acts of taboo sex. (more…)
I had the good fortune recently to attend two events at which the famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk was present.
Orhan Pamuk with British film director Grant Gee (Photo: Robert Pimm)
The second was an event to mark the closing of the rather terrific !f Istanbul Film Festival.
I recently spent a weekend in Berlin in the company of an intelligent and successful 21 year-old to whom I am closely related.
During my visit I did a bit of social media. I have two Twitter accounts, including @robertpimm; an Instagram account, a Facebook account and of course this WordPress account (also one of two – my other is at work).
It’s easy to spend a lot of time
observing my navel following my progress.
Instead of doing social media, enjoy a glass of iced Sipsmith Gin with a friend
Checking your smartphone in public drives some people crazy. But others perhaps put up with it more than they should.
I blame the telephone. (more…)
My father died on 29 November 2013.
He left behind many wonderful memories and made many people’s lives better.
But this blog isn’t about him; I’d need a book for that.
This blog is about a list he left written on a tiny scrap of paper:
In his later years my father, a biblio- and logophile, occasionally left the odd piece of paper unfiled or perhaps in a place that was not obviously logical.
So it was my mother, as she sorted through his countless documents, who – rather astonishingly – discovered the scrap of paper; and brought it to my attention recently, thinking I might be interested.
I was fascinated. People love lists.
This one is headed “How to work better” and reads as follows:
- Do one thing at a time
- Know the problem
- Learn to listen
- Learn to ask questions
- Distinguish sense from nonsense
- Accept change as inevitable
- Admit mistakes
- Say it simple (sic)
- Be calm
A massive movie looms on the star-studded horizon, turbolasers and ion cannons blasting with irresistible power. Supporting fire from a flotilla of media frigates and merchandising vessels drives millions of awe-struck film fans into movie theatres across the world to emerge, two hours and 16 minutes later, dazed, happy and desperate for the sequel.
But is it any good?
In November my blog “Star Wars 7” – 5 reasons you should Fear the Force set out how the trailers, plus the previous three Star Wars episodes, made me fear the worst for the new movie.
I was wrong. And I should know. This week I saw it twice the same day*.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fine, entertaining movie. I was wrong to doubt it. (more…)
December 2010: FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces Russia has won the competition to host the 2018 “FIFA World Cup”. Qatar will host the 2022 competition.
You can watch the announcement, should you so wish, on this 21-minute long presentation. The actual announcements are at minutes 9.10 and 15.50.
Berlin Olympic stadium – venue for 2006 World Cup final
27 May 2015: the US department of Justice indicts nine FIFA officials and five others for “racketeering, conspiracy and corruption“. The US Attorney General says: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States”.
21 December 2015: Sepp Blatter is banned for eight years from all football related activity by FIFA’s own ethics committee, along with fellow top football administrator Michel Platini. Both deny any wrongdoing. (more…)
Let’s cut to the chase. If you haven’t discovered the novelist Anthony Trollope, you should start reading him. Today. Here are 11 life-changing reasons why:
(i) the six Palliser novels, starting with Can you forgive her, are literature’s best guide to politics and power. Why did Lord Acton say “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men“? Trollope explains, long before Acton said it;
(ii) Trollope writes perceptively about relationships and sexual politics. His novels boil with strong women, from the indomitable Lady Glencora to my favourite, Miss Dunstable (an heiress who will not be pushed around by any man – not even the all-powerful Duke of Omnium). Many Trollope women feel more emancipated, or tormented by their lack of emancipation, than their sisters in some contemporary novels;
(iii) Trollope is brilliant on religion and its relationship to the state. (more…)
What if the cure for coronavirus is worse than the disease? What if after COVID-19 we have COVID-21, COVID-35 and COVID-42? How will coronavirus change society, and the world? Try Coronatime.
I wrote a while ago about “7 ways to explain the meaning of life” (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).
I said that the meaning of life would emerge around 80% of the way through my novel Coronatime; and that it involved “Come Celebrate with Us” and “The Kiss”.
Wiener Secession, 2015 – Photo: Robert Pimm
I live in Vienna. Since I lived here in the ’80s the wonderful Secession building built in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich has a new basement housing Gustav Klimt’s magnificent Beethoven frieze, (more…)
What can a post-coronavirus society tell us about love and the meaning of life? My novel “Coronatime” is a thriller, comedy and love story set in a post-pandemic world.
I wrote a while ago about “7 ways my sci-fi novel Coronatime explains the meaning of life“.
I said that the meaning of life would emerge around 80% of the way through the book; and that it involved “Come Celebrate with Us” and “The Kiss”.
Wiener Secession, 2015 – Photo: Robert Pimm
I live in Vienna, where the climax to Coronatime takes place, and was delighted to find that the wonderful Secession building built in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich had got a new basement. That basement houses Gustav Klimt’s magnificent Beethoven frieze, based on the Ninth Symphony, which, to quote Wikipedia, “illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world”. (more…)
I thought this account of how leap seconds work at “The Science Geek” was outstanding. A complex subject explained in English that you can understand, without in any way talking down to his audience. A model for science communication! I read his blog with pleasure.
I am hoping I can tempt him to write something about ageing and telomeres, a concept which lies behind the life-extension premise of my novel Coronatime.
I don’t have a leap-second-themed picture in my image bank, but here’s a picture of Wittgenstein’s grave from the Central Cemetery in Vienna – itself located, with existential irony, on the edge of town…
OK. Skip the blog.
Go straight to the photos. They’re on my Facebook page. 23 shots of extraordinary south-eastern Turkey.
It’s easy to lose your sense of wonder in this increasingly globalised planet. Advice: keep letting yourself be amazed.
Places like this inspire me to write. For an example of the results, see my novel Coronatime. Read, ponder and enjoy.
All feedback most welcome.
How will coronavirus change our world? Maybe our post-pandemic future will be like the worst features of today’s world, but much, much worse.
You know that stereotype of the starving artist in a garret producing a masterpiece?
It appeals to starving artist types. It also appeals to comfortable well-off types who think that maybe if they were skinnier and hungrier they’d be creative too.
All I need to be the next Toulouse-Lautrec/Stevie Smith/[fill in name] is a garret!
Like many stereotypes there’s a grain of truth in it. But why?
You can find a philosophical and intellectually robust exposition of why wealth and creativity don’t mix in my novel Coronatime.
Coronatime looks at how coronavirus may change our world
You can read the first part of the novel on this site. The whole novel is not yet available. So for now, here’s a summary of 5 ways Coronatime shows wealth and creativity can’t mix:
I had the honour and pleasure recently to go for a walk with a bunch of creative types on a sunny spring day near Cambridge. The landscape looked like this:
As we strolled in the bright sunshine I mentioned my Seven Hotel Stories.
I said I was proud of the stories, and that they sold in good numbers. Someone asked: why is that?
I said: “I guess it’s because the Hotel Stories can improve your life. Here’s how: (more…)