Hectically busy: Beckett in 1976

Samuel Beckett’s letters reveal a fiercely private workoholic

1 October 2016 9:00 am

‘Krapping away here to no little avail,’ writes Beckett to the actor Patrick Magee in September 1969. To ‘no little…

Carlton House Terrace, where Egyptian billionaire Ashraf Marwan allegedly lived (Photo: Getty)

Why are Egyptian businessmen always falling off balconies in London?

1 October 2016 9:00 am

Ashraf Marwan was an Egyptian-born businessman, a son-in-law to Nasser and a political high-flyer in the administration of Sadat, who…

Old Photographs

A son’s search for the mother he never met

24 September 2016 9:00 am

To tell this story of his search for a mother lost to mystery in early infancy, its author uses the…

Crossrail: A total of 26 miles of train tunnels are being built beneath the streets of the capital (Photo: Getty)

Time-travel along the Elizabeth line

10 September 2016 9:00 am

The year is 1963. A girl is walking around Stepney with a pack of index cards, visiting old residents in…

‘Lumps of speculation cast down from the computer of a time-starved architect’

The social cleansing of London — and other capital crimes

19 March 2016 9:00 am

You have to get nearly halfway through this book before it starts to show some life. Until that point, as…

The devastation left behind after the Blitz (Photo: Getty)

Ghosts of the past haunt Pat Barker’s bomb-strewn London

29 August 2015 9:00 am

If the early Martin Amis is instantly recognisable by way of its idiosyncratic slang (‘rug-rethink’, ‘going tonto’ etc) then the…

Michael Moorcock (Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty)

Michael Moorcock’s ‘autobiography’

8 August 2015 9:00 am

Michael Moorcock has put his name to more books, pamphlets and fanzines than, probably, even Michael Moorcock can count, but…


A novel to cure fear of missing out

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Who’d be young? Not 25-year-old Tamsin, if her behaviour is anything to go by. A classical pianist who’s never quite…

Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair and me — Michael Moorcock meets his semi-mythical version

20 June 2015 9:00 am

In the late 1980s Peter Ackroyd invited me to meet Iain Sinclair, whose first novel, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, I…

William Hogarth’s ‘Night’, in his series ‘Four Times of the Day’ (1736), provides a glimpse of the anarchy and squalor of London’s nocturnal streets

Dickens’s dark side: walking at night helped ease his conscience at killing off characters

21 March 2015 9:00 am

James McConnachie discovers that some of the greatest English writers — Chaucer, Blake, Dickens, Wordsworth, Dr Johnson — drew inspiration and even comfort from walking around London late at night


Cybersex is a dangerous world (especially for novelists)

14 February 2015 9:00 am

Few first novels are as successful as S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, which married a startling and unusual…

Winston Churchill leaving Westminster Pier, with Harry Hopkins, John Winant, and William Bullitt Photo: Getty

Powers of persuasion: how Churchill brought America on side

7 February 2015 9:00 am

In time for the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death comes this pacy novel about his attempts to persuade the Americans…


Why you shouldn't keep elephants

8 February 2014 9:00 am

On 15 September 1885, the world’s most famous elephant, Jumbo, was killed by a train. Jumbo, the star attraction at…

The London terminus of the North Western Railyway in the 1860s, showing a busy scene in front of the Euston Arch, which was demolished a century later

The men who demolished Victorian Britain

23 November 2013 9:00 am

Anyone with a passing interest in old British buildings must get angry at the horrors inflicted on our town centres…

What a coincidence

12 October 2013 9:00 am

If you are going to read a novel that plays with literary conventions you want it written with aplomb. In…

The figure of the flâneur, captured by Degas in ‘Place de la Concorde’, had its origin in Mr Spectator

Tales of Two Cities, by Jonathan Conlin - review

15 June 2013 9:00 am

In Jonathan Conlin’s Tales of Two Cities the little acknowledged but hugely significant histoire croisée of two rival metropoles gets…

The symbolism of the cemetery: the draped urn, popular among the Victorians, is usually taken to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its journey to heaven

How to Read a Graveyard, by Peter Stanford - review

4 May 2013 9:00 am

Peter Stanford likes cemeteries. Daily walks with his dog around a London graveyard acclimatised him, while the deaths of his…


Rus in urbe

2 June 2012 7:00 pm

One of the pleasures of my week is walking across St James’s Square. The slightly furtive sense of trespassing as…


Bookends: … and the inner tube

28 April 2012 10:00 am

In the early 1990s, when Boris Johnson was making his name as the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, Sonia Purnell was…


Last of the swagmen

17 March 2012 10:00 am

I have hitherto resisted my wife’s frequent recommendations that I should read a daily blog about the life of the…


The making of the modern metropolis

18 February 2012 11:00 am

Kate Chisholm describes 18th-century London in all its beastly magnificence


The past is another city

14 January 2012 12:00 pm

This absorbing book is — in both format and content — a much expanded follow-up to the same author’s very…

The Ritz in the Blitz

3 December 2011 10:00 am

‘It was like a drug, a disease,’ said the legendary Ritz employee Victor Legg of the institution he served for…

Chagrin d’amour

19 November 2011 10:00 am

The horror of love: Nancy Mitford’s first fiancé was gay; her husband, Peter Rodd, was feckless, spendthrift and unsympathetic, and…

Don’t blur the lines

30 July 2011 12:00 am

Did you know that on the Central Line’s maiden journey to Shepherd’s Bush, one of the passengers was Mark Twain? Or that The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Sign of Four were both commissioned by the same publisher at the same London dinner? Or that Harrods dropped the apostrophe from its name in 1921, a full 19 years before Selfridges followed suit? My guess is that you probably didn’t — which is where Walk the Lines comes in.