The Clown King

For The Guardian: The long-running German satirical show Extra 3 recently featured a sketch with the following voiceover: “From the people who brought you The Crown – the epic saga of the Queen – now comes the ridiculous story of this guy, a notorious buffoon at the head of a country … The Clown.” The…

Trio by William Boyd review – superbly wry and wise Set on a Brighton film set in 1968, this showbiz story is intricate and funny – but should William Boyd be taking more risks?

Written for The Guardian   Trio is William Boyd’s 16th novel – and that’s before we get on to the dozen or so screenplays for film and television. How does someone produce so much work? I don’t know the man’s personal circumstances, but he must have angel armies who ring his desk and fend off…

Obituary: Philip Roth was one of America’s greatest novelists – his real subject was not Jewishness, or New Jersey, but the human condition

OBITUARY WRITTEN FOR THE ECONOMIST:   IF THERE is one detail of Philip Roth’s biography that is worth knowing, it is not that he was Jewish or that he had no children or that he was born in New Jersey—it is that he preferred to write standing up at a lectern. There are pages of…

Are we Sleepwalking to Brexit?

Written for Prospect Magazine:   The European Union referendum now lies splayed across the political event horizon like a giant jellyfish with which we are all soon going to have to wrestle. History will explain how Nigel Farage, whom I have interviewed for this magazine, tortured the Conservative Party into wasting the nation’s time and…

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry review – a darkly wry trip to Beatle Island

Written for The Guardian:   My favourite interview with John Lennon was by “whispering” Bob Harris in 1975. Throughout, Harris is the opposite of incisive, but his warm, respectful, almost innocent presence seems to relax Lennon into being unusually open and collusive; sure, the acerbic wit and that compulsive self-awareness are there as always, but in the last few…

Formula One: the limit of human skill

Written for Prospect Magazine:   The greatest sporting spectacle that I have ever witnessed live took place on a day of freezing rain, bitter winds and unimaginable mud in Leicestershire in April 1993. I had come seventy miles across the Pennines with my brother and a friend to camp for the weekend in a wind-ravaged…