“It was emotional and shocking, and one of the better cliffhangers I’ve ever read…”

A review of THE INVISIBLE HAND from Carchardon Books, Australia.

Hartley has provided a perfect gateway for children and teenagers to experience Shakespeare from a young age. Shakespeare isn’t remedial literature and certainly difficult at times, but with a strong character and a realistic environment, Hartley has created a conduit that gently introduces complex themes that parallel the life of a young teenager. While some of Shakespeare’s more severe themes are sacrificed to appeal to a more juvenile audience, a strong sense of mystery, a time-travelling twist and an unexpected conclusion come together to satiate the reader’s expectation.

The historical aspects of the story resonate strongly, and with each shift back to Shakespeare’s past, I found myself giddy with anticipation. Hartley’s simplistic prose captures the aesthetics of an ancient world with surprising ease, and scenes of endurance flow with a nature flair that left me in awe. Timeless scenes from Macbeth are reiterated with hypnotising exposition, and some curious and titillating theories—such as the reason behind Lady Macbeth’s lack of children, and the motive of the three witches—are proposed to keep the gears in the reader’s mind turning. These theories add relevance to the narrative, and with the focus on a younger audience, they offer a critical point of view that will encourage readers to think outside of the box, a mandatory skill when approaching Shakespeare.
Although the modern school scenes are grounded in out reality, the castle itself is no less mysterious. When Hartley takes the reader on an expedition through the school, there is a reminiscent quality that harkens back to Rowling’s Harry Potter, which offers moments of tranquility between the madness of the past. A small romance also blossoms between the two core characters, and it’s sweet sprinkle of sugar that adds just enough to the story without taking away from the focal narrative.
At the risk of nitpicking, I have two minor complaints I must bring to the table. Firstly, I would have loved for more time to have been spent in the past, delving into extended Shakespearean elements. Secondly, the age of the characters while in our world is far too limiting. At the tender age of thirteen, they are allowed to be more curious toward their mysterious circumstances, though it also stretches the imagination too thin. Sam, our main protagonists, often acts far wiser than any adults around him. Perhaps if they had been a few years older, with a little bit of expected maturity, it wouldn’t have caused such a dissension. I understand their ages are intended to reflect the target audience, which keeps this issue a minor one, and it never reacts corrosively upon the rest of the story.
The conclusion was excellent, and while I was convinced I had unravelled the inevitable twist early on, I was still taken by surprise—a rarity for a young adult novel. It was emotional and shocking, and one of the better cliffhangers I’ve ever read. The epilogue also offers a charming and poignant taste of the narrative to follow, and I have to be honest: I’m excited! Hartley has established a complex and intriguing world with many threads neatly woven together, and his adept ability to tell a convincing frame story should allow future instalments to impress in all the right ways.
This book earns four stars easily, with full stars for its great World Building, Story and Writing Style.
Buy THE INVISIBLE HAND from Amazon US or Amazon UK
Read 3 Chapters FREE at INSTAFREEBIE.COM here.

World Book Day

Had a brilliant World Book Day, starting at the Oak Centre for Young People, which is part of the Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital and has wards run by the Teenage Cancer Trust. Was an absolute pleasure to meet some of the talented young people being treated there and talk books and ideas with them. This is me with Ella Hallpike who, like everyone at the Centre, does a brilliant, brilliant job.

After that it was on to Box Hill School, my old stomping ground for some workshops with Year 7 and 10 students, making up stories and enjoying their imaginations. Again, inspiring stuff. Many thanks there to Miss A, Ms B and Sam B – and everyone at the school, which is a great place in a lovely part of the country.


Yes, indeed! It´s now available everywhere!

Yes, now you, too, could be as thrilled as my kids with this fantastic, internet-smashing news. This morning I had to force them to put the book down so they could go to school and learn about less interesting, useless things! Grab a copy before Amazon breaks and you are left with a feeling of gut-clenching desolation.

They´re actually thinking, “Now maybe dad´ll shut up about it”.

If you´re still undecided and fancy the bookish equivalent of window shopping – or if you´re just plain tight – you can read 3 free chapters at Instafreebie or join nearly 900 people at the Good Reads Giveaway or – sod it! It´s Friday! – you could buy the damn thing from Amazon UK here orAmazon US .

It´s also in many good bookshops and a few disreputable ones, plus there´s a few copies lying about my house if anyone wants them. I live in Madrid so warn me first if you´re coming. I´ll put some coffee on. Be warned, though, Spanish coffee is strong. Which reminds me, I´ll have to clean the bathrooms later.

If you´re still reading, what´s the weather like where you are? And what about Trump, eh? And those seven new planets? Imagine if this exact post is being read by someone there – how depressing would that be?

Get onto Facebook to win a signed copy which I will kiss for luck before I send out – and you can also win 50 pounds, dollars or baht for a charity of your choice.

Remember, all new subscribers to my page get sent a FREE St Francis´ School story. The form is to your left. It´s well worth it. The story is nuts and it makes some of the stuff in the book make sense.

Young Writers!  Give up now, while you can. Do something worthwhile! No, I´m joking: look out for new competitions to be posted here shortly. Sign up to my newsletter to make sure you don´t miss out. Keep writing. Keep reading.

Is anybody out thereeeeee?

Win 50 dollars, euros or pounds for a charity of your choice!

This Friday marks the worldwide publication day for THE INVISIBLE HAND, the first in a new series of Young Adult novels from Lodestone Books.

Launch events are planned at Shakespeare´s Schoolroom in Stratford Upon Avon, Box Hill School, in Surrey and at the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit at the Oak Centre in Sutton.

On the launch day there´ll be a competition on Facebook to win a signed copy of the book and 50 euros/pounds or dollars to the charity of your choice. All you have to do is like and share one of the posts put up on James Hartley Books on Friday for a chance to win.

Like and join my page on Facebook now by clicking here or by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

You can read 3 free chapters at Instafreebie or join nearly 700 people at the Good Reads Giveaway or pre-Order the book from Amazon UK here orAmazon US here. All new subscribers to my page get sent a FREE St Francis´ School story. The form is to your left.

Young Writers look out for new competitions to be posted shortly. Sign up to my newsletter to make sure you don´t miss out.



The Invisible Hand is now being stocked in bookshops around the world, including the National Theatre in London, Shakespeare & Company in Paris and Christopher´s Books in San Francisco.

In the UK it´s at Heffers in Cambridge, Blackwell´s in Oxford, Mrs B´s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, the Totnes Bookshop in Totnes and the Edinburgh Bookshop in Edinburgh.

You can read 3 free chapters at Instafreebie or

Join the Good Reads Giveaway or

Pre-Order the book from Amazon UK here or

Amazon US here

If you are a bookseller, please get in touch about ordering for your store. The book is available through Gardners and all the major distributors.

Mrs B´s Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath

THE INVISIBLE HAND – Giveaways, Freebies, Goodies

Very atmospheric, very readable, and in the best sense very educational.  Charles Nicholl, author of The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street

THE INVISIBLE HAND, the exciting first part of a new Young Adult series about children who get involved in the plots of Shakespeare´s plays, is released in a month. Find out what happens when Sam, a pupil at St Francis´ School, travels back to medieval Scotland and gets wrapped up in the plot of William Shakespeare´s Macbeth.

Get a FREE copy by entering the Good Reads giveaway here.

Get 3 Chapters FREE from Instafreebie here.

Pre-order the book on Amazon UK here

Pre-order the book on Amazon US here

Visit my Good Reads page here


Some reviews:

“Time travel, Scotland and Macbeth? Oooh…yes please!!! I love all three to tiny pieces and was totally interested when I started reading this book. The story takes place at a boarding school in Britain where the main character, Sam, has basically been dumped as his parents are either too busy working or too ill to look after him. One night, Sam awakes to find himself in another person’s body and in the middle of a Scottish battlefield. Is it a dream? Will what happens in the past affect the future? I really liked Sam! The poor thing…I just really wanted to give him a million hugs throughout the story, especially as more was revealed about his family. He was shy, adorable and quite brave considering the circumstances that he constantly found himself in. There’s a scene where he finally makes a connection between his own time traveling and the events in Macbeth that made me smile. He shouts out about how he was there and everyone thought he was absolutely crazy. And why wouldn’t they? But that just endeared him to me even more. Super cute! I am interested in seeing how the author will mix in the other plays. I also just realized there’s a prequel set at the school during World War II called Heart of Winter. Gothic tale about the macabre? OK! Let’s do this…” ~ Jacquie Atamanuk, Rattle The Stars

“This first in the new series Shakespeare’s Moon looks to be a great way to get younger teens enthralled by Shakespeare as they’ve never been before. The fast-paced first installment The Invisible Hand follows a boy called Sam as he finds his rather monotonous life at boarding school suddenly interspersed with vivid dreams set in medieval Scotland, and he can’t stop thinking about these flashes of colour dragging him from his grey life in England. When Sam’s class start studying Macbeth and a new girl arrives at school who he recognises, he realises that there’s more to his dreams than he thought. The parallels between his dream travels to Scotland and Macbeth are too strong to ignore, and he soon becomes entangled in a gripping plot that not only brings Shakespeare’s play to life but also teach him about his family’s past. The gloomy feel of medieval Scotland and a dreary English boarding school were perfect for reading during December, when the weather where I live was taking a step toward a true wintery cold snap. Seeing Sam go on a personal journey rather than just living out the events of Macbeth really helped to bring this book to life, and I think will certainly engage younger readers. An interview with the author that I read recently mentions his love for stories within stories, and I have to say it shows in this book, with the way that events are retold, and all of the characters have a link back to either Macbeth or some other literary origin. I’m certainly interested to see what the rest of Shakespeare’s Moon will be like, as each one is apparently set in the same boarding school as Sam’s, but based upon different Shakespeare plays.” ~ Lucy Russell , Parasol Pirate

“In my opinion,  as a classroom text the book would be most suited to Key Stage 3 children (11 to 13).  Whilst there are lots of twists and turns that require the ability to follow a complex plot, the language is accessible and there is an old-school charm and innocence to it.  The boarding school setting would appeal to those who already enjoy Harry Potter stories. I also think that it could be used as an extension text for Key Stage 4 students to read in their own time and support their understanding of the play.

I really enjoyed how you have captured the sense of place and enjoyed spotting references.   You have created an original narrative whilst embedding elements of the play’s narrative throughout.  I worried that the two would clash or that, knowing the play as well as I do having taught it so many times, there would be little room for inventiveness with your plot but I am pleased to report that wasn’t the case.  There was still room for mystery and ambiguity e.g. Leana as Lady Macbeth’s daughter.  I also think that both Sam and Leana are strong characters who would appeal to both boys and girls.”

Katharine Bryson, Head of English, Box Hill School, Surrey, England.

Eve´s Christmas FREE for 5 days on Kindle

Eve´s Christmas is a new, bittersweet short story about a young girl at a magical boarding school who finds out she´s not a real person but a character in a story.

It forms a prelude to the Shakespeare´s Moon series of books which will begin in February with The Invisible Hand.

For the next 4 days Eve´s Christmas is FREE on Kindle – click here to get your copy now. It´s perfect for Christmas. If you would like to read the beginning of the story, read on…

It´s Christmas at St Francis´s School…

I was alone one day at the furthest end of the empty, frosty playing fields when a hole in the ground opened before me. A strange man who would later identify himself as Master Maia appeared from the frosty hatch and beckoned me over. I glanced back at the fogged-over fields and the ghostly image of the school and walked across to where the Master was clapping his gloved hands together.

“Quick as you like, my dear,” he was saying, his breath rising in a cloud.

Below the playing fields, at the foot of the ladder, was a cavernous tunnel warmed by glowing electric railings. The Master pointed out a small wooden table and asked me to sit on the stool tucked beneath it. When I´d done so, he passed me a piece of paper. On this I read:

She is lonely and weird. No-one likes her. She prefers characters in books to real people. She prefers being alone to being in the world. She

The piece of paper was smaller than my hand and torn at one diagonal edge. There were some faint blue lines beneath the text which I recognised as those in the notebooks we used at school. “I´m sorry, I don´t understand what you want me to do,” was the only thing I could think of saying.

“That note was written this morning,” the Master told me.

“But what does it have to do with me?”

“It is you,” he replied. The Master was a strange man, calm but nervy; young and old at the same time. He looked familiar but, as I examined him closely, became a total stranger. I realised that his face was constantly, subtly, changing. This was odd but not frightening. Up above him I saw hundreds of worm tails wriggling from the tunnel ceiling.

“Me?” I looked down at the scrap of paper again.

“There´s no more to the note, only what you have in your hand,” the Master told me. He leaned across to pick a magnifying glass off a shelf suspended by chains from the clay wall. “That scrap was thrown into a rubbish bin. We retrieved it, identified you and brought you here.”

“So…what? You´re saying I´m invented?” I laughed. “I´m not real?”

The Master nodded. “That´s right. But don´t be alarmed. I´m not real either.” He swept a hand around behind his head. “Rest assured, my dear: you´re among friends here.”

The Guru and The Kid


The Guru is standing with his arms crossed, watching the sparring. The gym is dingy, lit by artificial light. Outside it´s autumn, upstate New York. Downstairs is the town police station. In comes The Kid, led by a huge Irish man with a broken nose held together by a thin white plaster.

The Kid is a bundle of darkness. He´s small and thick with a lisp, thirteen years old, a petty thief, sociopath, damaged goods. He´s got pigeons and hasn´t been to school, except to eat, in years. Last few months he´s been boxing with the Irishman. It was he who broke the big man´s nose. He´s come here to spar.

The Guru can´t believe The Kid is thirteen. He has a weird tingling somewhere in his soul. Could this be the one? He´s been waiting too long. He gets a momentary taste of what it must be like to lose the bitterness he´s been feeling for the last thousand years. He watches his trainer lace up The Kid´s gloves. The Kid´s short but stocky. Hole eyes.

Over the sound of ropes whipping the boards and heavy bags clanking, the bell rings and The Kid and Irishman go at it. They´ve been working together in The Kid´s last-chance correctional facility for a while. The Irishman was cynical at first but he´s never been hit by such power. The Kid is full of rage and evil heart. They exchange blows and The Kid´s face gets cut up and The Guru calls time but The Kid begs to finish the three rounds. They do.

At the end of it, the room stinking with rising, visible sweat, The Guru says to the Irishman: “This is the next heavyweight champion of the world”.


The Kid moves to upstate New York to live in a house with The Guru and his wife, an old Ukrainian woman who cooks well and calms The Guru down when he shouts at the TV. The Guru gets straight to work on The Kid, telling him, “I hope you know your mind is not your friend”. The Guru´s from the streets, too. He´s taken punches. He has enemies, internal and external.

The Kid continues to rob, drink and smoke, sometimes from his new friends, but he also gets addicted to the fight game. He trains hard. He studies the greats. He starts to build a persona for himself, stand outside himself and see himself, see how he wants to be when he´s remembered, when his name will echo down through time.

He wants to be immortal. He wants to be feared and loathed. He wants to strike terror into the hearts of his opponents.

Every time he steps into the ring he´s the little kid with the lisp who got bullied and humiliated. That anger, born of total humiliation, will never go away and he clasps it to his soul like fire and makes his fists burn with it. Like a Pitbull he comes out of the corner at the bell flying, swarming, blasting punches into the body and face of his opponent. After his first fight he stands on the prone body of the fallen boxer and salutes the crowd.

The Guru is always watching. He wants no show of emotion. Destroying other fighters is what should happen. The Kid should not be surprised when his supreme skills and ferocious force fell the weaklings put in his path to global renown. This is what should and must happen. This is not to be celebrated, this is simply to be achieved. This is what we know happens. What is going to happen. What has to happen.

“You´re keeping me alive,” The Guru tells The Kid one day. “I never thought I´d get second chance like this. I´d be dead now if it wasn´t for you. Watching you do this is keeping me alive. You´re what I´m living for.”

One day, The Guru tells The Kid, he´d been in a mean fight and had come close to getting destroyed. First few rounds he´d been down and out but his trainer had lifted him off the stool and pushed him out onto the canvas. Something had happened in the third round. Suddenly he´d been up above the ring, looking down, watching the fight. He´d sensed the punches, watching them as if in slow motion. He´d separated his mind from his body; become a machine.

“That is what I want from you,” he told The Kid. “Keep working on it. Automatic. Keep talking to yourself. Telling yourself the things we´ve been saying. You´re gonna have crowds cheering your name. Royalty is gonna want to meet with you. People will fight with each other to carry your mother´s shopping bags. Your name will be known across the globe. You will go down as the greatest fighter who ever lived!”

The Guru, only human, dies with the finish line in sight. His lungs throw in the towel.

The Kid is a fierce mix of grief, determination, momentum and rage. There is no way he will be stopped. He becomes the youngest heavyweight champion of the world but his Guru is not there.

The Kid stands on the top of the world but it´s cold. The view is great but it´s lonely. There´s no-one up there with him. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do.

He stays for a bit, shadow boxes a while, hopes his Guru can see him – although now the clouds are below him, not above – and starts down.





The Shakespeare Wars: 150 years of vicious conflict

My experiences in the Stratfordian-Oxfordian conflict, including a meeting with infamous Oxfordian rebel Alan Tarica.



A few days past I received an unsolicited email with the subject line “Writers Fun”. It was from someone called Alan Tarica. “I thought you might enjoy know about my Shakespeare Sonnets exegesis/adaptation,” it read. There were links to various webpages, one of which looked like a heavily annotated version of Shakespeare´s Sonnets.

I wrote back: “Thanks. Who are you and how did you get my email address?”

The reply came swiftly, that same day.

Mr Tarica thanked me for my appreciation – I had said his theory looked interesting – but added, “in truth, I already can´t remember how I came across you”.

Alarm bells ringing, I Googled Tarica and up came a list of derogatory comments and references to his ´theory´ dating back to 2013. I sent off some messages and emails to friends, colleagues and trusted strangers, asking for further clarification on who this man was, and went to bed thinking him a strange crank or internet troll.

I should declare at this point that I have a novel for teenagers coming out early next year. The book is about children at a school who become involved in the plot of Shakespeare´s Macbeth. Self-promotion and an interest in all things Shakespearean mean I have of late been connecting with various people across the usual social networks. This is, I supposed, how Mr Tarica had got hold of my name and email address.

The next morning brought a flood of information from various sources.

Tarica was infamous, it seemed, in academic circles. He was a “megalomaniac”, a “sexist” and “deluded”. From what I could glean, Mr Tarica was an amateur Shakespearean scholar who had formulated a theory describing how, by reading the Sonnets from the end to the beginning, the last poem first and the first poem last, certain truths were revealed, one of which was that the Earl of Oxford, not Shakespeare, was the true author of the bard´s cannon.

On another forum, where I had posted a thread asking for help, I was advised to speak only in private messages as “he might be watching”, he being the all-powerful Tarica.

Once hidden from this sinister, omnipotent figure, I learned that Mr Tarica was an Oxfordian, a label unfamiliar to me. Another academic wrote to tell me I was simply the latest in a long line of people Mr Tarica had bothered and that “he was just an internet ghost” who enjoyed abusing scholars via anonymity. “Welcome to an extremely large and pissed off club,” my informant added.

Far from being put off by all this, I became even more interested in the mysterious Mr Tarica. I wrote to him and asked him if he would like to do an interview for me. I had a look at his Twitter account, an odd, masked photo accompanying various shouted exhortations about the truth of what he had uncovered. Where any academic had dared to respond to Mr Tarica, insults had flown. I stroked my chin and said, “Hmm…”

He agreed to talk and I sent him a list of questions.



Unbeknown to me I had stumbled across the SACT War, which has been raging for over a hundred and fifty years. SACT stands for Shakespeare Authorship Conspiracy Theories.

War was declared in 1857 when Delia Bacon wrote a book suggesting that Shakespeare´s plays might have been written by a group of people, rather than one, the famous Will of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The attack might be visualised as a noble’s revolt against the King, in a country which had hitherto been at peace for almost two hundred years.

It was not until the Looney Uprising of 1920 that a schism truly developed. Looney´s Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, 6th Earl of Derby enshrined the basic philosophy of those who would become Oxfordians: that Shakespeare was too unworldly and uneducated to have written the plays; that there were examples in the extant handwriting samples that the plays were written in Oxford´s hand and that a close reading of the plays linked phrases and actions with Oxford´s own life, thoughts and political condition.

This anti-orthodox approach quickly gained popularity and became an uprising against “entrenched authority” whom, its followers claimed, seeked to silence their views and protect vested interests. As the war heated up, the Oxfordians – some under the banner of Marlowe, some Raleigh, many under Oxford´s colours – became entrenched in their position and began to make ground.

Among the ranks of the “doubters” marched famous names such Sigmund Freud, Orson Welles, John Gielgud, Charlie Chaplin and Charles Dickens. More recently, the first artistic director of the Globe Theatre, Mark Rylance, and the actor Derek Jacobi, have stood up and been counted.

Faced with this mounting barrage, cracks have appeared in the previously pristine façade of the Stratfordian citadel. The Oxford University Press recently named Christopher Marlowe as co-author of two of Shakespeare´s history plays and over the last thirty years there has been an acceptance that parts of other Shakespeare plays may have been co-authored and speeches scratched out by quills other than Shakespeare´s own.



Mr Alan Tarica is a fifty-year old married computer software engineer from Maryland in the United States. He gained a Master´s degree in Management Information Systems from the John Hopkins University and lives quietly with his wife in a nice neighbourhood of Bethesda. But he is also an Oxfordian foot-soldier, firing off internet broadsides and regularly engaging in viscous tweet skirmishes with an enemy he accuses of dirty tricks and “a real and demonstrable lack of ethical behaviour”.

What could possibly have radicalised this otherwise ordinary, American male?

Mr Tarica says he had an uneventful childhood and is grateful for his father, who promoted critical thinking and wasn´t afraid to question orthodoxy. “That led me to a fascination with paradigm shifts,” he says, “and the people who were responsible, like Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and those responsible for Quantum Mechanics.”

He says writers like Asimov and Stephen J Gould helped form his “foundations for thinking and questioning.”

Tarica´s personal theory links the Earl of Oxford with a conspiracy of silence reaching right up to the velvet hems of the British royal family. He says that a close reading of the Sonnets reveals that the Earl of Oxford, the real author of the poems and plays in his eyes, was begging, publicly, the then Queen of England to acknowledge their illegitimate son Henry as the rightful heir to the Tudor throne. Oxford had maintained an illicit affair with his Queen.

When King James I took the throne, beginning the Stuart line, it follows that it was in the crown´s interest to hush up Henry´s existence and so a certain William Shakespeare, bit part actor and owner of a useful surname, was coerced into becoming a “front” for Oxford, keeping the troublesome Lord out of the picture. Thus was one of the greatest acts of dissemination of false information in history perpetrated.

But why is the world, particularly the academic world, so unwilling to even listen such views?

“Because,” Mr Tarica answers, having Shakespeare as the author of the plays, “is so ingrained in our social consciousness and has become such a tenet of so many people´s views with respect to meritocratic and democratic views.” He likens people who question Shakespeare´s authorship of the plays, in the eyes of the orthodox, to people who, in his eyes, question the shape of the world.

“I would suggest that my efforts at promulgation and dissemination have resulted in very few people that are even willing to acknowledge my work. And I would further suggest that this is both revealing and there is likely collusion in this regard.”

And his online persona and behaviour? His chosen guerrilla tactics, lobbing emails onto unsuspecting bystanders in Shakespeareland? His vitriolic tweets?

“My outrageous behaviour always had the intention of revealing that the scholarly establishment is familiar with me.  I would suggest it is far more familiar with me than you are likely aware.  But only time will likely reveal that…”



Up in the old citadel on the hill, deep in the remains of the once-impregnable fortress, the Stratfordians regroup and sigh wearily, drawing close to each other for comfort. The war has been long and hard and there looks to be no end to it. It is a war against intelligence, they believe: an assault on knowledge.

What doubt can there be about Shakespeare being the author of the plays? Is not the man´s name written on the title pages of many originals? Are there not countless contemporary testimonies? Is there not the evidence of those who knew him?

But how to fight on a field which is constantly changing? Where the enemy is seventy-headed, constantly changing, whose only aim is to do away with history and truth? Why, the Oxfordians are even setting up their faith schools, running expensive degrees, courses and seminars, encroaching on the Stratfordians own turf. They will not listen to reason! They are not interested in conciliation!

Yea, think upon those weary guardians of true history as a minstrel´s tune from the marketplace drifts up over the ramparts and echoes through the hallowed yet peeling English Department-like halls of the beleaguered scholars.

Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon, the Coward sings,

The author of Lear remains unshaken.

Willie Herbert or Mary Fitton,

What does it matter?

The Sonnets were written



After I´d written the above, in the interests of balance and not wanting to kick a man when he was down, I contacted Mr Tarica and sent him a copy of the text, asking him to consider it and tell me if there were any inconsistencies or points he would like to clarify. His answer, in full, is quoted below:

James I think you were a bit selective but probably better than can be expected from someone whose view apparently reflected in characterizing myself and others motivation (assuming yours) as “whose only aim is to do away with history and truth?”.  

 Perhaps one day you’ll learn only mythology remains constant and unchanging and that actual knowledge is provisional and subject to evidence.

 At least happy to have learned of how much I’ve pissed off the intellectually cowardly simpletons whose aim appears to be a vast conspiracy to ultimately make me look brilliant.




I hereby declare myself a Stratfordian.



What´s your favourite film about writers?

There are plenty of good movies about writers. Adaptation, Sunset Boulevard, Barton Fink, the Before movies – Ethan Hawke´s character is a writer – Before Night Falls, The Shining and The Hours are all up there for me, but none quite capture the awkwardness and sensitivity of the wannabe writer better than Sideways.

Paul Giamatti´s Miles is made to suffer. Not only has he poured his heart and soul into a novel which it looks like no-one wants but he has to suffer the daily torment of being asked about it and suffering the sympathetic reactions of those who hear his answer. Then, during his week-long piss-up with Jack things get worse: he´s made to lie about being an author, about his book being published, and has to accept congratulations and toasts for something which he knows is untrue.

Worse: publication is his dream – the one thing that, Miles thinks, will validate his life, bring him recognition and get him started on the path of what he thinks is his true vocation; being an artist: a real writer.

The pain continues as Miles´ drinking is barely kept in check. Writers and booze are interlinked: mind-altering substances used alternatively for conjuring up and silencing the voices in their heads. When Miles finds out his book has been rejected again he goes mental at a wine-tasting, finishing up glugging the contents of a spit bucket. But who cares? The world has rejected him and he´s angry with the world.

Perfect scene: after an awkward late-night semi-romantic encounter with a girl he knows called Maya, they stop at a crossroads to say goodbye, each in their own car. Maya offers to read Miles´ manuscript and Miles, uttering the time-honoured phrases about honest opinions and not minding if she doesn´t like it, or finish reading it, reaches back to get the prized work. Up comes a box – size of a shoe box – which he hands over to Maya. As she takes it and prepares to leave he says, “wait!”, reaches back and lifts up another shoe-box: Volume II.

For me the movie captures the loneliness and desperation of the unpublished or unloved writer. One respected and admired by the outside world but also constantly punished and made to suffer by that same world. It is the torture of a writer seeking an audience, seeking a breakthrough which they must continue convincing themselves will come but which seems always just out of reach.

To go on with the punishment? To continue with the torture? To reach for the bottle? To keep going, trying to find that one reader? That one connection?




And what about you? Which do you think is the best film about writers, and why?