James Walton is a frequent contributor to many magazines in the UK, including The Spectator.
 (December 2016)


Shake Those Dice Again

A Gambler’s Anatomy

by Jonathan Lethem
One of the main characters in Jonathan Lethem’s 2009 novel, Chronic City, is a cultural critic called Perkus Tooth, who carries out his critic’s duties largely by sitting in his apartment smoking a lot of pot and sharing his theories on, among many other things, Semina Culture, J. Edgar Hoover, …

Noble, Embattled Souls

David Mitchell, New York City, 2010

The Bone Clocks

by David Mitchell

Slade House

by David Mitchell
“As an experienced editor,” says the pompous publisher Timothy Cavendish in David Mitchell’s third novel, Cloud Atlas, “I disapprove of flashbacks, foreshadowings, and tricksy devices; they belong in the 1980s with MAs in postmodernism.” But this declaration is, of course, a tricksy device—and not just because Mitchell’s own MA was …

Star Fiction

Eleanor Catton, Paris, June 2011

The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton
“I do not come out of a literary tradition,” said the Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan in his acceptance speech after winning this year’s Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. “I come from a tiny mining town in the rainforest in an island at the end …


Sean Connery, his wife, Diane Cilento (left), and Queen Elizabeth II at the premiere of You Only Live Twice, London, 1967

Solo: A James Bond Novel

by William Boyd
If, at the end of 1953, you’d asked almost anybody in Britain what had been the year’s most significant national events, it wouldn’t have been hard to predict their replies: the Queen’s coronation and a British team conquering Everest. (Never mind that the two men who made it to the …

‘Fascinating, Fearless, and Distinctly Odd’

Tim Parks, Milan, 2011

Sex Is Forbidden

by Tim Parks
Tim Parks has never been a man to take any received wisdoms for granted, however blameless they might appear. Perhaps his best-known novel, the Booker-shortlisted Europa (1997), had the regular refrain “every man is an island,” as the academic narrator Jerry Marlow gave everything from the environmental movement to the …

Writing on a High Wire

Colum McCann, Paris, 2006


by Colum McCann
In June, during his first-ever visit to Northern Ireland, President Obama gave a speech to two thousand young people at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. Of the two Irish writers he quoted, one—perhaps inevitably—was W.B. Yeats (“Peace comes dropping slow”). The other was Colum McCann: “Peace is indeed harder than war, …