A hymn to David and D’Arcy: men of letters

‘I’m a big fan of David Foster.’

‘Oh, you mean David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest was just…’

‘No, I mean David Foster.’

That’s how a conversation about one of my favourite living authors usually begins. Just David Foster. Not to be confused with David Foster Wallace.

I was backpacking around Australia during the mid 90s, in my early 20s, and one morning read a Sydney newspaper article in which Annie Proulx evangelised about a local writer I’d never heard of.

I’d just read and been blown away by Proulx’s own novels Postcards and The Shipping News, so she had my attention.

She told how she discovered Foster while thumbing through his novel Dog Rock in a bookshop, and this was the first sentence her eyes fell on: “Owen Evans was found disembowelled in a urinal.”

Proulx fell in love with Foster’s narrator, D’Arcy D’Oliveres, and became a cheerleader for his work. 20 years on, I’m proud to join her troupe.

D’Arcy is the hero of Dog Rock: A Postal Pastoral (1985) and of The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover (1988). He’s an Eton-schooled English nobleman, the 15th Baron D’Oliveres, who emigrated to Australia where he’s a penniless postman, beekeeper, crown green bowler and sometime detective.

Continue reading

Like father, but like son better


Martin Amis by Maximilian Schoenherr, Creative Commons

The British author I reckon writes the best, sentence-for-sentence, over the last 40 years has to be Martin Amis. As a prose stylist, he’s superb.

Amis found fame with his first book, a comic novel called The Rachel Papers in 1973 when he was just 24. Somewhat uniquely, he won the Somerset Maugham award for a first novel exactly as his father, Kingsley Amis, had with his own first novel Lucky Jim in 1954, published when he was 32. Continue reading

My book of the 90s: Trainspotting

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Irvine Welsh by Mariusz Kubik

Forget Trainspotting the movie, with its silly surreal scenes of deep diving into a filthy toilet and a baby’s head rotating through 360 degrees.

Trainspotting (1993) the novel was a darker, more disturbing story altogether, a tale told by multiple narrators that plumbed incredible lows, delivered at exhilarating pace in challenging phonetic dialect.

And reading it blew the lid off my understanding of how novels could be narrated. Continue reading

The right words in the right order

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Welcome to my site. Thanks for dropping in. Do take a look around. I hope you like what I’ve done with the place.

You’ll find blogs on my favourite writers and on the craft and graft of writing, top tips I’ve been taught about the spooky art, and things I learned myself the hard way. I hope you find some of it chimes with you.

I also write stories and sometimes they’re published. You’re welcome to read them here. And if you like what you find, or want to take me to task, I’d love to hear from you.