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In Defence of Fifty Shades of Grey

Interesting take on “50 Shades of Grey”, which I have just finished reading. Will deliver my own thoughts in a blog later.

Inconsistent Pacing

50 Shades of GreyWith 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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Thursday 18 October! My live reading from “Blood Summit”

What does reclusive author Robert Pimm look like in the flesh?  Great news.  You can find out when I read from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit on Thursday, 18 October in Vienna.

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

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Smoking in cafes: a Viennese speciality

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.

What changed?

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…)

The 3 greatest Vienna cafes???

‘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…)

Where to write

So. 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.

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: Reading group questions

People have asked if my Berlin Thriller Blood Summit is suitable for reading groups or book clubs.

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 in a reading group or book club.

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?  

How would you feel about living with Helen?  Or with Nigel?   If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one or the other, which would you choose?

Nigel and Helen are competitive with each other.  He is a top journalist.  She aspires to be a top diplomat.  Are they too competitive?  Is competition in a relationship positive, or negative?  Helen is repulsed by the fact that Nigel is too controlling, and does not listen.  Are these typical male behaviours, or exceptions?

Nigel phones Helen before the Children’s Summit starts, in the hope that she will give him confidential information he can use in a story.  Is it reasonable for him to ask her in this way?  Should she give her husband such information, if doing so will not threaten lives, in the public interest? (more…)

Vienna and Istanbul: the best cities on earth?

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…)

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