I’m going to be on BBC Radio Oxford next Tuesday at around 11am discussing all things Rochester and Blazing Star. No swearing or smut, but if you don’t mind that, you can listen to it athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/radiooxford or on 95.2 FM if you’re anywhere near Oxford itself…
Somewhat to my faint surprise, the reviews continue to come in. There’s a lovely piece in today’s Daily Mail which describes the book as ‘the most comprehensive portrait of Rochester yet’. They’ve also made it their book of the week. I was also thrilled to see the book covered by the great Denis Donoghue in a recent Irish Times review.
There will be some more talks and signings soon – details to follow – and I’m also appearing on BBC Radio Oxford next week, and will be sure to have a few things to say about Rochester.
I’ve written a lengthy piece about Rochester and his strained relationship with Charles II for last weekend’s Telegraph.
The book’s been reviewed incisively in the Erotic Review, and glowingly in the Mail on Sunday (‘Larman does a splendidly entertaining job of detailing Rochester’s debauchery…a witty and elegant biography’) and Scotland on Sunday (‘a very good, assiduously researched and well written book….a very accomplished debut.’)
Also a nice piece in last weekend’s Observer. I’m thinking of writing a blog soon about being reviewed – for good or ill…
I am lining up some more appearances in person and on the radio – full details to follow in due course.
And I’ve done a short piece about Rochester’s enduring appeal for the August issue of Absolutely Putney and Wandsworth.
Thrilled that I’m doing my first talk on Blazing Star this Wednesday (9th July) at the excellent Society Club in Soho – scene of last week’s epic launch – at 7pm. Tickets are free from Babette@thesocietyclub.com and I’m going to be talking about Rochester, his life and legacy, and then answering questions afterwards. It promises to be a hugely entertaining night.
I’ve also done an interview with them and it can be found here.
Delighted to see that there’s been a good amount of interest in the book since its publication. We had a barnstorming launch at the excellent Society Club in Soho on July 1st – it was a great night, with a packed house that included everyone from architects and writers to restaurateurs and filmmakers. I hope that this picture gives a very small flavour of it…
Anyway there have been several more reviews, which have been generally very kind. There have been a couple in the Times and Sunday Times (both paywalled alas), and a nice piece in The Book Bag as well. Hopefully there will be more to come soon!
I did a blog for my publisher Head of Zeus about what it’s like to research and write a biography of this type.
And I’ve also done another interview with The Resident magazine, which was great fun.
Plenty more to come, but a few noteworthy things:
- An interview with Corner magazine about Rochester, my influences and those I’m reading (and not reading) at the moment
- A piece in the Erotic Review about what a present-day Rochester would be up to
- A mention in Heywood Hill’s summer reading list
- And a lovely early review in the Daily Express.
Although it isn’t officially released until July 3rd, there are a few advance copies of Blazing Star available in bookshops near you, just to whet your appetite. The excellent Society Club in Soho has some exclusively signed by me – and keep an eye on this space as regards an exciting event that I’m going to be doing with them next month!
Apologies, anyone who still reads this, for the lack of updates this year. As hinted at in a previous post, I’ve been hard at working writing a biography of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl Of Rochester, for Head of Zeus books. I finished the book earlier this year but edits and introductions and what-have-you have taken their time. However, we now have a book that I’m extremely pleased with in every regard; it’s been a pleasure to write it, and I hope that it’s rather different both to earlier biographies of Rochester and some of the fustier works about Great Writers that throng the shelves. It’s due to be published in July 2014, and I look forward to keeping you updated about any activity taking place around its appearance.
I’m currently writing the follow-up, 1666, which is a shorter work that HofZ are going to be bringing out in 2015 as part of a series of ‘Year In England’ books, so if you wanted to find out what the cures for syphilis were, which jail was known as ‘Hell’ on account of its squalor or what Charles II’s favourite food was, all shall be revealed.
I shall see you all next year, with many surprises in store. Until then, one more Rochester anecdote:
Charles was, by and large, open-minded when it came to personal comments made about him. He regarded it as sport, one that he was as complicit in as his favourites, and he took pride in coming back with a well-timed riposte. One night, at dinner, Rochester was asked to provide an extempore poem about Charles, and he replied, perhaps after a glass of wine, with the following:
‘God bless our good and gracious King,
Whose promise none relies on;
Who never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.’
Charles, taking the sally in good spirit, answered ‘That’s true; for my words are mine, while my actions are those of my ministers.’
The first thing to say about Sam Mendes’ tremendous Skyfall is that it makes its predecessor in the James Bond series, Quantum Of Solace, look even worse. Whereas the first film of Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007, Casino Royale, was one of the very best Bond films, Quantum was dull, uninspired and gave every indication that Marc Forster didn’t have the first idea how to direct an action sequence or co-ordinate an interesting plot. With further havoc caused by the temporary cessation of MGM, who own the Bond rights, it looked for a while as if Craig’s excellent, engaged interpretation of Bond would, like Timothy Dalton’s, be left at two films, one good and one poor.
Thankfully, all was made right, and the resulting picture is an exhilaratingly brilliant romp that simultaneously furthers everything Casino Royale did right and cleverly redefines James Bond for the 21st century. The plot – a revenge saga, mainly set in London – is beautifully simple, containing no spaceships, world domination or plots to take over oil franchises. Instead, it contains a near laundry list of good things, from one of the best baddies in the series in the shape of Javier Bardem’s blonde, insinuating psychopath with a very personal grudge against Judi Dench’s stalwart but also fragile M, to Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography which makes this not just the best-looking Bond film ever, but also one of his finest works.
A fantastic cast, including everyone from MI6 mandarin Ralph Fiennes to gutsy field agent Naomi Harris, is given a very strong script to work with, which judges the fine line between seriousness and playfulness just right – it’s a good deal less intimidatingly sober than Craig’s previous two films. It isn’t perfect - the climax is somewhat underwhelming after the brilliance of many of the other set-pieces (including an Istanbul set-to and explosive destruction on the London Underground) and a scene in Macau casino involving giant lizards feels like it’s come out of another film – but it proves, inter alia, that a cerebral director like Mendes can make this sort of pulpy fun both serious and seriously entertaining. Expect it to be a massive, massive hit, and don’t bet against many of the same team returning for the next one.
Since I started writing this blog, I can’t think of very much that has given me more pleasure than learning that David Bowie – my musical, and indeed literary, spiritual, cultural and much more besides, idol – is releasing a new album, after a decade-long break. Rumours have circulated about ill health and retirement – but all I can say is thank you, Mr David Jones, for making me, and no doubt millions of others, very happy. It’s his 66th birthday today, and what a very fine way to mark it.
The video for the superb, elegiac comeback single, ‘Where Are We Now’, can be watched here. It’s especially good from about 3 minutes in.