This Is How Five Eyes Dies

I've written an article for Foreign Policy imagining how Donald Trump's presidency could adversely affect the intelligence world. You can read it here.

An Excerpt From Free Agent

Sunday, 23 March 1969, Hampshire

As I edged the car onto the gravel, the front door of the house swung open and Chief's steely grey eyes stared down at me.

"What the hell took you so long?" he hissed as I made my way up the steps. But before I could answer, he had turned on his heels.

I followed the sound of his slippers gently slapping against the floorboards, down the dark oak-lined corridor. I knew from years of working for him that the best thing to do when he was in this sort of mood was not to react...

Cold Male

This is an assessment of Ian Fleming's first novel, Casino Royale. It first appeared in Issue 1 of the magazine KKBB in Autumn 2005, in advance of the 2006 film adaptation starring Daniel Craig. I have also written about the novel and attempts to film it in Rogue Royale.

‘The one with the carpet-beater...’

The Healing Years

It’s Wednesday afternoon: schoolchildren out for the holidays careen along the promenade in cuisse-tax buggies, while pensioners buffeted by the biting North Sea wind struggle to keep hold of tubs of shellfish bought from seafront stands. Gulls circle overhead, and there is an inescapable fishy smell in the air...

A Powerful Blog On Flouncing Off Twitter Dot Com

I've left Twitter. Woo. Don't read this boring blogpost if you find that boring (which it is).

I left last year, too, for around three months. My reasons this time are a little different - mainly, it just seems utterly futile for me to complain about antisemitism while using a website that has decided to verify the accounts of two Nazis. Seriously. Actual Nazis.

But I also feel much as I did last time I left. Twitter is Argument Tetris. It's very addictive, and using it makes me feel increasingly unhealthy, anxious and depressed. It's an easy distraction to get sucked into for a full-time writer, because we work from home, alone, and so don't have quite the same 'water-cooler' valve during the day that people working in offices do. Since I started writing my second novel in 2009 my coffee breaks - to discuss a film I enjoyed or the state of the world or just to have a laugh - have mostly been online. It helps break up sessions of heavy research or trying to come up with a story people might eventually want to read.

But in an office, you can't spend hours on your coffee break. Your boss will come into the kitchen and give you a brief look, and you'll get the hint and head back to your desk pretty sharpish. But, like other writers, I don't have anyone to do that to me, and my self-discipline's never been great anyway. I'm also an argumentative bugger, and often a persistent one. (Sorry about that. It's just the way I am.)

So while I think Twitter deciding to legitimize Nazis is a very bad idea for our culture in general, entirely selfishly it is going to be good for my health. I have other stuff to do, and whether it's antisemites or Nazis or just People Being Wrong On The Internet in general, arguing with strangers online is one of the stupidest, most self-defeating wastes of time around. It also makes you feel like crap, and behave like a worse version of your usual self. Twitter in particular has that dynamic for me, because there is no 'last word'. As a result, even the most trivial of disagreements seem to just spiral into meaner and crueller and more cynical places, and there's no end-point to it. That's been my experience, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

So, yes, I've 'flounced', as I've no doubt some people who I've criticised or argued with will gleefully point out. But I will instead try to have more coffees in town with friends, and just have a healthier, more productive life. 

Thank you for reading my powerful blog about leaving Twitter dot com.