William Boyd

Martin Amis and the hunters’ lunch

Dordogne, France Down here in southwest France, the ripple effect of the war in Ukraine has become oddly visible. Normally the fields around our house are planted with sunflowers and maize – but not this year. Wheat and barley stretch to the horizon. As you drive around, the roadside fields all bear witness to the

What the Russians thought of James Bond in the 1960s

Last year I wrote a piece about James Bond for the ‘Freelance’ column of the Times Literary Supplement. All true Bond lovers — of the novels, I mean — know that he lived in a ‘comfortable flat in a plane-tree’d square off the King’s Road’, as Ian Fleming described it in Moonraker. Further internal evidence

The joy of a French Christmas

I am heading off to rural south-west France for Christmas. This is the 25th Christmas running that I’ll have spent in France. One of the attractions is that Christmas is a one-day holiday there. Everyone is back at work on Boxing Day. You have a large meal with your family and that’s it. I have

Writer’s Notebook

Just back from a few days in Rome — the perfect small metropolis for ‘street-haunting’, as Cyril Connolly described his love of strolling through cities. I first went to Rome in 1976, aiming to interview — for my university magazine — three of the writers who lived there or thereabouts at the time. I duly

Christmas Short Story: The Road Not Travelled

Today Meredith Swann is driving in her new car under the M40 flyover checking on her GPS system to see if she’s following the flowing arrows correctly. She has switched off the woman’s voice — ‘Turn left in 200 yards’ — because it reminds her uncannily of her mother, all calm, quiet advice with a

A is for Artist, D is for Dealers

‘S is for Spoof.’ There it is on page 86, a full-page reproduction of a Nat Tate drawing, sold at Sotheby’s in 2011 for £6,500. A sum which, it is added, with all due respect to [William] Boyd’s ability as an artist, probably proves the point about promotion being more important than talent. It’s always

Diary – 31 March 2012

Vienna. I’m here on the first leg of a short three-city tour for my new novel — Eine Grosse Zeit in German. The weather is sensational, warm and sunny, and even though we’re still firmly in March and there isn’t a leaf on a tree, Vienna’s cafés have their tables out on the sidewalk wherever

Christmas short story: The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth, by William Boyd Illustrated by Carolyn Gowdy Bethany Mellmoth is in a quandary — and she doesn’t like quandaries. It’s December 20th. Five days until Christmas. The fact that this is a Christmas quandary makes it no more bearable. In truth she thinks that this fact makes it more unbearable.


London is the first city of humiliation: London does it better than anywhere else. I should know, its latest victim. First my divorce — you would think, what with war in Korea and the death of King George — that the Times would have more newsworthy events to report than my decree absolute from my

The artist as a middle-aged man

It’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves at the outset, as we reach the third volume of John Richardson’s stupendous biography of Picasso, exactly where we are. Picasso died in April 1973, aged 91, and it comes as something of a shock to realise that at the end of this volume, in 1932, he’s a middle-aged man

All at sea

On 2 July 1816 the French frigate Medusa, en route for Senegal, ran aground on the dreaded Arguin sandbank off the west coast of Africa. Incompetent seamanship had landed the vessel there and attempts to refloat the Medusa over the next couple of days proved to be in vain. The decision was therefore taken to

Tough is the night

‘Mostly we authors repeat ourselves,’ Scott Fitzgerald observed late in his life. ‘We learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories … as long as people will listen.’ There’s a lot of truth in this remark (though some authors have more than two or three stories to tell),