The final flake of snow

My short book on snow is being read on Radio 4 this week, and it sounds more like an elegy than ever. I wrote the text over a five months period, through the winter of 2015. The news of climate change throughout 2016 only serves to reinforce the underlying theme of the book – the warming of…

Top Ten Books about Borders

This article first appeared in The Guardian, October 19th 2016. A border is a question. In fact, a border poses a whole series of implied questions; such as “can you cross me?”, “will you cross me?”, “what am I doing here in the first place?” and maybe most importantly: “Will you be someone else on the other side?”…

The Enigma of Snowflakes

This post first appeared on the Waterstones’ blog.  There’s a scene in my favourite book, Thomas Mann’s epic The Magic Mountain, in which the protagonist, a young patient at a Tuberculosis sanatorium named Hans Castorp, is caught in a snowstorm on a mountain and nearly freezes to death. This is no great surprise, because Hans…

So many skulls, so little time…

Being a quick photo tour of Mexican skeletal iconography… It possibly all started with these guys: On the left, we have Mictecacihuatl, and on the right, Mictlantecuhtli, goddess and god of death to the Aztecs. They weren’t the only deities of death for the Aztecs, but were the most prominent. They don’t look so skeletal here, but here’s…

(Un)happy endings

I wrote before how, upon launching a new book, the same question starts to be asked about said book. With Saint Death, set in and around the somewhat infamous city of Juárez on the Mexican/American border, the first question that came up was ‘have you been there?’ Now that the book is published, and actually…

Why we all need a drink with Siggy and Carlos, on ‘The Couch’

I’ve already received a (less than charming) email asking why I have a gay couple running the bar in Saint Death. So here’s my answer: why not? That ought to be the end of the story, I think. But of course, it isn’t. There may come a day when such a thing causes no fuss but I fear…

Books, and where to buy them…

Today sees the launch of this year’s @booksaremybag campaign, (and by happy coincidence is publication day for my two new books; Snow, and Saint Death, which I have already mentioned here. The launches of both these books will happen in great indie bookshops: Mr Bs in Bath and John Sandoe of London.)   I’ve always tried to…

Why Mexico?

This post is a long answer to a short question: Why Mexico? That was the simple question asked of me last Saturday night by a lady in the signing queue after an event at the always excellent Bath Children’s Literature Festival. (It’s on for two more weeks – have a look at the other events). Why…

Narconomics: an interview with Tom Wainwright

Everyone loves economics, don’t they? So I asked @t_wainwright, of The Economist, for his personal views on some of the political and economic issues behind the Mexican drug wars in general and the situation in Juárez (setting for Saint Death) in particular. Tom, first of all, thanks very much for agreeing to answer a few questions, and…

Calavera

The central sections of Saint Death revolve around a card game, called Calavera.

If you’d like to try playing it, here are the rules…:

Two very different books..?

Snow and Saint Death are two very different books on the face of it, but aside from the fact they’re both published a month from today and that they both came out of my word processor, there’s something deep inside each that links them. – Saint Death plays out in and around the city of Juárez, Mexico,…

Pigalle, then and now…

I have a new book coming out this week, set in Paris in 1899, and as a fair old chunk of it is set in the district of Pigalle, I thought it would be worth sharing one or two interesting things I came across during what I prefer to pass off as ‘research’. Paris, as…