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May 2006

I’ve finished my latest novel, but I still don’t know what it’s called. When writing a novel, it helps hugely to have a title in ones head, as it concentrates the mind. This story, however, ran away with me and overtook its own research and title as it galloped ahead.


It’s set in a lodging house in Southwark during 1918 and is rather clammy and sulphurous and sexy and dark – the story of a profiteering butcher who has a love affair with a landlady, the effect of this upon her son, and the relationship between a blind lodger and housemaid. It’s really about the effects of the First World War on those who were left behind while the men were away, being slaughtered in the trenches – the subtler casualties of the conflict.


I’m fascinated by the First World War, the way it changed the world, the way its effects are still being felt (Iraq, for instance) and how, with the deaths of the last veterans, it’s slipping from memory into history. I’ve provisionally called the novel “In The Dark” but that’s a bit underwhelming, so I’m flailing around trying to think of something else. Maybe “House of Sighs”(only just thought of that this minute).


Meanwhile I’ve been starting several film projects. One of them is about Shirley Porter. I’ve been wanting to write her story for ages, it has all the elements of a blackly comic tragedy, and now Andrew Hosken has written a brilliant book about her infamous reign at Westminster I’m hopefully going to adapt that for the BBC, which is planning a series called “Decades” – thirty films by thirty writers, about the events of the past thirty years. There are various other things in the offing.


And, hopefully, ITV will soon start production on the film I’ve written about Dawn Annandale, who worked as a prostitute whilst bringing up her six children.


I’m doing various events over the next month or so – a Book Group at Wellingborough Prison on 2 May (so if you’ve joined it, you should be reading “Tulip Fever”), followed by an event at Wellingborough Library at 7.30. On 17 May I’ll be showing clips from “Pride and Prejudice” at the Highgate Festival, and I’ll also be talking about the film, and my work, at the Harleston Festival, in East Anglia, on 3 June; the Althorpe Festival on the 17 June, and the Buxton Festival on 20 July. I’m also giving a workshop on film adaptation at the Hay Festival, probably on 27 May.


All good wishes, and do email me if you fancy, at