Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator.

Andrew Lycett: The Worlds of Sherlock Holmes

38 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Arthur Conan Doyle’s biographer (and historical consultant to the new BBC TV programme Killing Sherlock) Andrew Lycett. Introducing his new book The Worlds of Sherlock Holmes: The Inspiration Behind the World’s Greatest Detective, Andrew tells me about the vexed relation between the great consulting detective and his creator, and

Newsnight’s fate is a bad omen for the BBC

Newsnight, we learned last week, is losing ten minutes off its running time, more than half its staff including its entire reporting team and is dropping its investigative films in favour of cheap ‘n’ easy studio-based debates.    The BBC’s news supremo Deborah Turness calls it ‘an important BBC brand’, but said ‘we’ve made the decision to reformat Newsnight as a 30-minute late-night

Guy Kennaway: Good Scammer

46 min listen

On this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is Guy Kennaway, whose new novel Good Scammer sprinkles a protective dusting of fiction over the true story of the real-life king of Jamaica’s phone scammers. Guy tells me why telephone fraud might be considered ad-hoc reparations for slavery, why James Bond is a Jamaican, and why the island

The evolving phenomenon of ‘Brexit regret’

It was reported this weekend that the great trans-Pacific trade deal (CPTPP), the one that Lord Cameron just boasted would ‘put the UK at the heart of a group of some of the world’s most dynamic economies’, will boost our economy by practically nothing at all. The OBR reckons CPTPP will put 0.04 per cent

Jonathan Jones: Earthly Delights

56 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the art critic Jonathan Jones. The term ‘renaissance’ is out of fashion among scholars these days, but in his new book Earthly Delights: A History of the Renaissance Jonathan argues that it points to something momentous in human history. On the podcast, Jonathan makes the case for what

Can the government be trusted with free speech? 

This summer, horrified by the rising numbers of students no-platforming and harassing visiting speakers whose views they don’t like, the government anointed the Cambridge philosopher Arif Ahmed ‘free speech tsar’. Prof Ahmed said at the time that his new role, at least as he saw it, wasn’t a culture wars stunt: he was interested in protecting free expression

Terry Hayes: The Year of the Locust

34 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast my guest is Terry Hayes, author of the squillion-selling thriller I Am Pilgrim. He tells me about invisible submarines, taking advice on crucifixion from Mel Gibson, and why it took him ten years to follow up that first novel with his new book The Year of the Locust.

The dying days of Rishi Sunak’s black hole government

In my admittedly sketchy understanding of it, black holes are formed when something becomes so massive that it collapses in on itself (am I getting this right, Carlo?) … and then keeps collapsing, over and over again, until it becomes infinitely tiny and inside-out and even the rules of physics cease to apply. This applies to

Keeping the peace: the politics of policing protest

41 min listen

On the podcast: In his cover piece for The Spectator Ian Acheson discusses the potential disruption to Armistice Day proceedings in London this weekend. He says that Metropolitan Police Chief Mark Rowley is right to let the pro-Palestine protests go ahead, if his officers can assertively enforce the law. He joins the podcast alongside Baroness Claire Fox

Jonathan Lethem: Brooklyn Crime Novel

51 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by the novelist Jonathan Lethem. Two decades after his breakthrough book The Fortress of Solitude crowned Lethem the literary laureate of Brooklyn, he returns to the borough’s never-quite-gentrified streets with the new Brooklyn Crime Novel. He tells me why he felt the need to go back, and talks about race,

What can be done about AI porn?

The foul-mouthed puppet musical Avenue Q, way back in 2003, caught the spirit of the age to come. ‘The internet is for porn!/ The internet is for porn!’ runs one of its more memorable songs. ‘Why do you think the net was born?/ Porn! Porn! Porn!’ Never was a truer word sung by a copyright-skirting knockoff of The Muppet

Nicholas Shakespeare: The Complete Man

52 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is Nicholas Shakespeare, author of Ian Fleming: The Complete Man. He tells me about the astonishing secret life of a writer whose adventures in espionage were more than the equal of his creation’s; and about the damaged childhood and serially broken heart of a man far kinder and

What the Babylon scandal tells us about the British government 

One of the consistent themes of Dominic Cummings’s kamikaze mission to reform the machinery of the British state was that we urgently needed more politicians with backgrounds in science, maths and engineering, and fewer with 2:1s in PPE. As he argued, the latter sort (see also: historians like Dom, classicists like Boris Johnson and pompous

Peter Biskind: Pandora’s Box

40 min listen

My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is the film writer Peter Biskind. In his new book Pandora’s Box, he tells the story of what’s sometimes called “Peak TV” – and how a change in business model (from network to cable to streaming) unlocked an extraordinary era of artistic innovation, and uncovered an unexpected

Are Amazon’s publishing gurus doing anything wrong?

Alex Kaplo lives, apparently, the life of Riley. The 31-year-old’s website shows him roaring around in a Mercedes, and he boasts of taking ‘extravagant’ holidays and living in a high-end apartment. He has made all his dosh, as it turns out, as a ‘publishing chief executive’. He has caused hundreds of books to be released,

Katy Balls, Christina Lamb and Sam Leith

20 min listen

This week:  Katy Balls discusses the SNP’s annual conference and asks what will it take to hold the party together if things get much tougher over the next twelve months (01:10), Christina Lamb goes to Ukraine, only to be told that she’s ‘at the wrong war’ as events unfold rapidly in the Middle East (06:55),

New world disorder

38 min listen

On the podcast: In The Spectator’s cover piece Jonathan Spyer writes that as America’s role in international security diminishes history is moving Iran’s way, with political Islam now commanding much of the Middle East. He is joined by Ravi Agrawal, editor in chief of Foreign Policy and host of the FP Live podcast, to discuss whether America is still the world’s

How to win four Nobel Prizes in literature

‘Hi Jacques,’ I say as the publisher of Fitzcarraldo Editions appears on my Zoom screen with his Franz Hals facial hair. ‘Thanks for making the time.’ I explain, apologetically but cheerily, that I’m going to be asking him to give his basic ‘how I keep winning Nobel Prizes’ spiel – at which, I say, he’s

Sam Leith

Sandra Newman: Julia

38 min listen

My guest in this week’s Book Club podcast is the novelist Sandra Newman, whose new book Julia retells George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from Julia’s point of view. We discuss the spaces Orwell’s classic left for her own novelistic imagination, what we do and don’t know about the world of Big Brother, and whether the misogyny in Orwell’s original belongs

Can we be honest about Israel and Palestine?

Qui tacet consentire videtur: who keeps silent is seen to consent. That Latin tag haunts the western response to the situation in Israel. We’re already seeing, amid the rage and grief, people being called out for what they don’t say as much as for what they do. But what are those of us – the