Tim Martin

My plan for reopening Wetherspoon pubs

The ancient Babylonians and Hebrews would have been excellent publicans or restaurateurs, since they knew, as did John Wesley, that cleanliness was next to godliness. By prioritising mundane cleaning tasks, the number of things that can go wrong in a pub is dramatically reduced. Clean beer lines and glasses ensure good beer. And clean kitchens,

Water, sky, wind and cold

Dystopian fiction continues to throng the bookshelves, for all the world as though we weren’t living in a dystopia already, and the latest entrant to the glum-futures category is John Lanchester’s The Wall, about which much can be divined from a glossary of the capitalised nouns that throng it from the title onwards. The Wall

Commies and comics

Its Booker-longlist nomination meant that Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina (Granta, £16.99) was the comic that everyone has heard of this year, even if it’s also the one most likely to give them post-traumatic stress. Drawn in deliberately bland colours and small, often wordless panels, this story about the human aftermath of a grisly American killing takes

Highway to hell

A lingeringly strange atmosphere hangs about Benjamin Wood’s third novel, in which the settings and paraphernalia of a new wave of British weird fiction — old children’s TV series, rustic bloodletting, the starkness of the northern landscape — encroach steadily on a retrospective story of childhood murder and deceit. The setting is northern England in

Should he stay or should he go?

This remorselessly slow-moving, hazily allegorical drama about ageing and xenophobia is Jim Crace’s 12th book, and the first to appear since he announced his retirement from writing in 2013. Like much of his other work, it lays its scene in a topographical and temporal bubble of the author’s own devising, where recognisable aspects of society

A dense, angry fable

Set partly in a future surveillance society, partly in ancient Carthage and 1970s Ethiopia, partly in contemporary Greece and London and partly in the synaptic passageways of the human brain, this huge sci-fi detective novel of ideas is so eccentric, so audaciously plotted and so completely labyrinthine and bizarre that I had to put it

Unearthly powers

This delightfully good-humoured novel is the sort of genre scramble that doesn’t often work: there’s a bit of 1990s family saga, a bit of mobster crime thriller, a bit of Cold War goat-staring spy story and really quite a lot of psychic/psycho-kinetic fantasy. And yet Daryl Gregory, who won several impressive prizes a few years

Madness in Manhattan

Life has far more imagination than we do, says the epigraph from Truffaut that opens Salman Rushdie’s 12th novel — as though, these days, anyone needed reminding. Set in New York and running between the start of the Obama administration and the rise of Trump, this book about gangsterism, art, dynastic ambition, secret identities and

Self’s obsessions

This 600-page, single-paragraph novel shuttles back and forth across time between the perspectives of an elderly and confused psychiatrist, a tank commander in Iraq, an autistic computer genius, the autistic computer genius’s mother and a closeted MI6 spy who thinks his cock is talking to him — which, for this stage in Will Self’s writing

On the way to a lynching

Southern trees bear a strange fruit in Laird Hunt’s seventh novel, a dark historical fiction filled with dreams and visions that has one very disconcerting trick of style to play on the reader. The setting is Indiana in 1930, where a white woman called Ottie Lee Henshaw is on the way to a lynching in

The cryonics game

Cults, the desert, natural disasters. Artists, bankers, terrorists. Cash machines, food packaging, secret installations. Mediaspeak and scientific jargon. Crowds and capital. Language and death. Just as it used to be possible to play Ballard Bingo with the work of the late 20th century’s other great literary monomaniac, so Don DeLillo’s themes have remained astonishingly consistent

Foreign body count

China Miéville’s work is invariably clever, inevitably dense and usually interwoven with hard-left political and social concerns, but its author rarely loses sight of the delightfully mind-warping possibilities of his chosen genres. Last year’s story collection, Three Moments of an Explosion, offered brief slices of imaginary futures in which icebergs floated above London streets, archaeologists

The atheist delusion

Dan Rhodes apparently had trouble finding a publisher for this short novel, and it’s possible to envisage a certain amount of sorrowful head-shaking in legal departments at its theme. In the dead of winter, accompanied by his long-suffering ‘male secretary’ Smee, a ‘thrice-married evolutionary biologist’ named Richard Dawkins gets stranded in rural England while en

Two serious ladies

‘You understand, Lenú, what happens to people: we have too much stuff inside and it swells us, breaks us.’ The line comes from the third of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, but it offers a fair summary of a sequence that concludes in this fourth volume. Set in Italy between the 1950s and the present, and

Things left undead

In the afterword to this sixth book, Aleksandar Hemon dedicates a word of thanks to his agent for keeping a straight face ‘when I told her I’d written a book she’d known nothing about’. I doubt she kept it for long, because one of the many ways in which The Making of Zombie Wars differs

LA runs riot

Ryan Gattis’s novel All Involved is set in South Central Los Angeles in 1992, during the riots that began after four white police officers were acquitted of beating the black taxi-driver Rodney King. The inadvertent coup that the book’s publishers have scored by bringing it out in the wake of the Baltimore and Ferguson riots