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About this blog

This blog is a place for my non-fiction writing.

There will be posts promoting my writing, in all its areas. I will talk about my writing in general, the inspiration behind it, my writing process and several of the issues I’ve faced writing. It will also contain essays, reviews and other examples of my non-fiction writing. There won't be any politics here but there will be social commentary and personal stories.

(I have started a book reviewing project, I am attempting to review as many of the book I've read as possible, and I am going to post those book reviews here too)

Entries in this blog

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” This is the premise of Kurt Vonnegut’s greatest novel, but it is far more than that. As a middle-aged man, Billy Pilgrim is a successful optometrist, dully married to his wife with two children. As an elderly man, Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens, the Tralfamadores, and kept as an exhibit in their zoo on their home world. There he meets and starts a relationship with Montana Wildhack, a beautiful model who is abducted to be his companion. As

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Book Review: Minority Report – Volume Four of the Collected Stories by Philip K Dick

Before reading this collection of stories, put out of your mind any memory of the Tom Cruise/Stephen Spielberg film of the same name. The Cruise/Spielberg film was very loosely based on Philip K Dick’s story, taking only a few elements out of the story. The original story is far superior to the brightly coloured adventure film that bears the same name. In his best fiction, and this collection certainly contains some of that, Philip K Dick was a visionary—a dark visionary with a downbeat but

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

The View from This Window

My writing desk sits under the window in our front bedroom, though we have rarely used the room as such, and it gives me a clear view of the strip of grass on the opposite side of the road. It is that writers’ activity, doing anything else but write, and mine is staring out of that window and watching life pass by on that strip of grass. Whenever I do it, I stop myself, tell myself I should be writing, and turn away from the window, but so often some fascinating tableau out there will catch my a

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in essay

Book Review: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials was a groundbreaking trilogy of fantasy novels. They were breathtaking in their scope and originality; the concept of a person having the personification of their soul in the form of an animal called their daemon was both simple and a stroke of genius. It was also a wonderful writing device; characters could literally talk to themselves. For a long time, Pullman hinted that he was writing a second trilogy, The Book of Dust, following on from His Dark Materials. Finally, i

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Book Review: The AIDS Pandemic by James Chin

There have been many different theories about the spread of AIDS, some of them bizarre, but here James Chin returns to a very old one; AIDS is not a threat to the heterosexual population. Chin is an epidemiologist and bases all his arguments on a narrow reading of the HIV/AIDS statistics. He seems to want to turn back the clock to when we talked only of “risk groups”.  There are no political, cultural, social or psychological elements in Chin’s arguments, which leaves this book very one-sided.

Book Review: A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie

“A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.” So reads the announcement in the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette that morning. That evening, the local neighbours all dutifully turn up at Little Paddocks, all with their different excuses for being there. At 6.30 p.m., without warning, all the lights go out and… This is the beginning of one of Agatha Christie’s most intriguing novels that is firmly rooted in post-war Britain. She chose to set

“Ah, But Underneath”: Words, Music and Character Development

She was smart, tart Dry as a martini— Ah, but underneath… She was all heart Something by Puccini— Ah, but underneath... Ah, But Underneath, Follies - Original London Cast, Stephen Sondheim   Julia McKenzie, dressed in a white silk dress, walked slowly to the centre of the stage, dry-ice swirling around her feet, and picked out by a single spotlight. Then she stopped, looked off into the middle distance, and began to sing “Losing My Mind”. She stopped the s

Drew Payne

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Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick’s name gained notoriety with a string of Hollywood films, but none of them have done justice to the dark and paranoid worlds created in his books. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (filmed as Blade Runner in 1982) is Dick at his best, combining so many of his favourite themes—post-nuclear war, religion, identity, technology and dis-utopia. It is set in the near future, on an Earth that has suffered a nuclear war but at a high cost. This Earth is dying, everywhere is su

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Based on Real People

“I gave you good script,” Ma to Alan Cocktail Sticks, a play by Alan Bennett   The writer Alan Bennett has been very open about how much he is inspired by real-life events. He has written plays and film scripts all inspired by real-life events; he has written several volumes of autobiographical essays, and every year or so he publishes extracts from his diary. I’ve seen and read all of them and enjoyed them so much. In his autobiographical play Cocktail Sticks, about his relations

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Writing

Book Review: Liverpool Murders - Kirkdale Hangings 1870–1891 by Steven Horton

The premise of this book appears simple; it chronicles the 29 hangings that took place within Kirkdale Prison, Liverpool, until it was closed. But inside that premise lies a fascinating social history. In 1868, an act of parliament stopped all public executions; after that, all capital punishments took place within a prison’s walls, away from the excited crowds of onlookers, and Steven Horton uses this as the starting point of his book, ending when Kirkdale Prison was closed in 1892. He res

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Book Review: Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin

For so many of us, Armistead Maupin is known for the Tales of the City series of books. Though set in San Francisco, these books chronicled so many of the changing events of the seventies and eighties in such a personal way. Logical Family is Maupin’s memoir, starting with his birth in very conservative 1940s/1950s North Carolina up to 1970s San Francisco when he first started publishing Tales of the City as a serial in a newspaper. This is an amazing and complicated journey that Maupin tel

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Book Review: The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Alien invasion is a staple of science fiction and has featured far too many novels and films, but in The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham turns that classic theme into a frighteningly original story that is still disturbing now. The Midwich Cuckoos begins with Richard Gayford (the novel’s narrator) and his wife Janet returning from an evening in London, celebrating his birthday, to the English village of Midwich, where they have recently moved. Midwich is the stereotype of the quiet, sleepy 19

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Book Review: From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell

Its 1964 and the beginning of summer in the English market town of Kingsmarkham. Margaret Parsons, a shrewish and quiet housewife, disappears from her home. Days later, her murdered body is found in a copse of trees outside of the town. Chief Inspector Wexford leads the enquiry into her death, criss-crossing the almost quintessential Home Counties town to do so. From Doon with Death is not only the first Wexford novel by Ruth Rendell, it is very much a novel of its time. It isn’t just that

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Waiting for the Postman

It was a love affair, carried out by letters and parcels, though the love was all on my side. I would wait, with both excitement and anticipation, for each new delivery, some of which would take weeks to arrive. Aged eighteen, in suburban Liverpool, in the early 1980s, I had little chance of finding any queer literature. The big chain bookshops in the city centre only sold bestsellers and mainstream books. The independent bookshops sold the same bestsellers and sentimental books on local hi

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in essay

Boxing Day 1975 and the Rashomon Style

My latest published book is an e-book version of my story Boxing Day 1975. This story is written in the Rashomon style. This is where the same events are told and retold from the prospective of different characters, two or more. My story is about a family watching the Boxing Day film, on television, in 1975. They all have a very different reaction to the film, reflecting the changings times of 1975. The film they are watching is One Million Years BC. The style/effect is named after the 1950

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Writing

Those Pictures Mothers Carry around with Them

The first time I saw it she was visiting me and took out her purse to pay for a purchase. There it was, inside her purse, a picture of me. An old and unflattering picture of me. It was a passport photograph, taken years ago. My hair was in a style I’d not had for years, short and flat. I was staring fixedly into the camera, no smile on my face, the harsh light making my skin seem pale and unhealthy. I wondered why she had chosen that one, but I said nothing. It wasn’t an easy question to ask.

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in essay

Book Review: The House of Stairs by (Ruth Rendell writing as) Barbara Vine

It was no secret that Ruth Rendell also wrote as Barbara Vine. Writing under this pseudonym, she created many gripping psychological thrillers. They are not so much who-did-it as how-they-did-it or why-they-did-it. The House of Stairs is the best example of this. The book opens with a chance meeting between the narrator and Bell, a woman she hasn't seen in over twenty years because Bell has been in prison for murder. The story slips back and forth in time between the 1980s, as the women beg

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Jonathan Roven is Lost (The True Story)

Jonathan Roven is Lost is a story I am proud of. It concerns a subject that I have rarely seen written about, namely how a gay couple manages when one of them develops Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m also proud of the journey this story has taken. Originally, it was just 900 words long, with a different ending. It was written as a flash fiction story (stories under 1,000-words long) to a prompt of Losing Your Lover. So often do I find a left-field response to subjects. It was first published on th

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Writing

Book Review: London Urban Legends by Scott Wood

Urban legends are fascinating; they say so much about our society and the stories that it runs on.   Scott Wood certainly loves urban legends. Scott ran the Southeast London Folklore Society, and it shows in this absorbing book. He doesn’t only write about those common urban legends that have been circulating for years—though they have their space here—but he has also dug deep and found some obscure items, including those that were a flash-in-the-pan in years ago. But what lifts this b

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Never Write in the Dark

Writing is a very solitary activity; we sit there on our own, writing away on our computer or laptop, or even doing it “old school” via paper and pen, pouring out our stories and preserving our characters there in the written word. But how do we know that what we are writing is any good? We can ask our family and loved ones, but will they give us the feedback we need? They are our loved ones and so often they want the best for us and may not give us the feedback we require, or they may not

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Writing

Book Review: Arkansas by David Leavitt

Arkansas is a collection of three novellas that show David Leavitt at his best, exploring the lives and emotions of his characters. The first story is The Term Paper Artist, which is the closest he has come to writing a sex comedy. The narrator is a disgraced novelist who is hiding at the home of his professor father. He soon becomes involved in accepting sexual favours from jock-students in return for writing English literary essays for them. Soon, word spreads, and he has several jocks an

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Book review

Case Studies in Modern Life, blog

Case Studies in Modern Life is my first published book and it has been a long time in writing. I have been writing all my adult life. I was eighteen when I discovered I could write stories. At first I was writing sketches for a drama group. It was an amazing feeling turning an idea I had into something written down that worked and then watching actors perform my words. It was also the first time I realised I had an ear for dialogue. I would hear people talking in public and remember how the

Drew Payne

Drew Payne in Writing

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