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Madrid, Spain
Hack turned flack living in Madrid with three kids hoping one day to be able to read Arturo Perez Reverte in his native Spanish...
Interests: wine, cooking, family, historical fiction, rugby, crime fiction, us civil war, biography, cricket, american football
Recent Activity
Over the years, I've been asked many times whether a particular novel is appropriate for a particular child when the content is potentially scary or adult. Since July 2000, my response to this has been determined by the death of... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Material Witness
Stranger Things grabbed me by the throat from the first episode of Season One back in 2016. Its combination of homage to the kids' movies of my youth, the effervesence of the writing and the sheer exuberance of the young... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2022 at Material Witness
Just as I reached the critical moment in The Clockwork Girl, as the book's final secret was being revealed, the voice of a young girl, crystal clear but also oddly ethereal, came over the hedge and into the garden. I... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2022 at Material Witness
Henry Porter’s Firefly trilogy of spy novels begins in Syria with the flight of a young boy and his family from the brutal and repressive ISIS regime that wins control of his village, replacing the brutal and repressive government regime.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2022 at Material Witness
There is a moment in Real Tigers, the third of Mick Herron's Slough House novels, that almost perfectly encapsulates the awfulness of Jackson Lamb. With his team of misfits in action, Lamb needs a ride to the scene and has... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2022 at Material Witness
About halfway through Sarah Winman's unforgettable novel Still Life, I began researching whether or not any airlines still flew direct from Madrid to Florence. A few pages later I was googling recipes for arrabiata sauce and then cooked it for... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2022 at Material Witness
There is always something a little off beam about Charles Cumming's spy thrillers. Neither the Alec Milius nor Thomas Kell books are particularly conventional, and both series proved to be both entertaining and compelling. If the Box 88 series were... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2022 at Material Witness
In the introduction to his first contemporary novel in a decade, Ken Follett writes that during the course of research for a previous book he had discovered that the First World War was a war that nobody wanted or intended,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2022 at Material Witness
With a day to go, and having just started a couple of new titles, it looks like I will have read 61 books over the course of the year. And while I say read, just under half of this total,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2021 at Material Witness
Finding a news series you like is one of the great thrills of crime fiction. I love that moment, halfway through book one, when you realize you've found a keeper and click on to the writer’s bibliography to see another... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2021 at Material Witness
Something I've thought a lot about in recent weeks is the role that fiction can play in bringing ideas to life - and specifically climate change. If you look at the main body of dystopian work, either in print or... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2021 at Material Witness
In 1979, McDermid has created an atmospheric and memorable novel that carefully recreates a lost world, not just the newsroom of The Clarion, but also the Glasgow of her early career. Menace lurks on street corners, intrigue in pubs and political meetings and ambition and ruthlessness in the hearts of her reporters and the people they chase down. Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2021 at Material Witness
"What actually happens in this book?" I am asked after my son feels he has listened to Middlemarch with me for long enough on our long drive north a week ago. It is a good question and one I had... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2021 at Material Witness
The middle of the Kabul airport evacuation turned out to be a good moment to talk to spy* novelist Peter Hanington. The crisis in Afghanistan provided a perfect backdrop to talk about two of the key themes in his excellent... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2021 at Material Witness
The palace intrigues of the Royal Courts of Europe provide the most fertile ground for historical novelists. In the daily shifts in power and influence of noblemen, priests, financiers and courtiers there lies enormous opportunities, for fortunes to be made... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2021 at Material Witness
Only once have we taken my wife to watch football with us at Atlético de Madrid, where my youngest daughter and I have season tickets. On a freezing cold December night in the upper reaches of the new Metropolitano, she... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2021 at Material Witness
The question I ask myself of historical fiction is: "Does this pass the smell test?" The best historical fiction is totally immersive: it takes you straight to the heart of the adventure and brings everything about it alive conjuring an... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2021 at Material Witness
Do you know what the tech giants are doing with your data? Do you read the fine print in the agreement you make with Google when it updates its privacy notice or with Apple when you buy a new iPhone?... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2021 at Material Witness
In times past, the reading for a two week holiday required a box to fitted to the roof of the car, in which about six kilograms of hard and paperbacks were installed. These days the Kindle slips comfortably into a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2021 at Material Witness
Putting together a reading list for the annual summer holiday is one of my favourite occupations each year. No matter that this year's summer break, already shortened to less than a week by logistical challenges, is now threatened by child... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2021 at Material Witness
My formal education in history ended in 1985 when I was just 13, despite it being my favourite subject, if not at that time, then certainly since. Owing to a quirk in the syllabus at my senior school, studying history... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2021 at Material Witness
A lot of dystopian fiction is stronger in the first half of the story than the second. The narrative of the unfolding disaster itself is so powerful and critical, once it's been told the air goes out of the story and it loses its way. Not here. In fact the second half is probably even more compelling than the first (that kept me up to 3am) as Sweeney-Baird allows her characters to develop their own stories and to tell the story of a world coming to terms with men as a micro-minority. Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2021 at Material Witness
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” The final line of A Tale Of Two Cities is one of the most celebrated in literature. It is an exquisite piece of writing that strikes the perfect chord at the end of a truly great novel. I knew the line long before I read the book for the first time, which was about a month ago. What I didn´t know was just how tumultuous, how dramatic and how emotional the final quarter of the book is. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2021 at Material Witness
A historical thriller set in the Marshalsea debtors prison, and recommended by one of my favourite writers, was always going to be difficult to resist just a few weeks after finishing Little Dorrit. As Antonia Hodgson points out in the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2021 at Material Witness
It´s been dreadful, hasn´t it, this absolute disaster of a year? Few of us will look back on it with any great fondness and the overwhelming memory of it will be confinement, masks and hand gel. It´s fitting then that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2020 at Material Witness