Latest updates

IMMORTAL: my new Beethoven novel, coming soon...

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Beethoven in 1803 painted by christian horneman 561x640


Dear friends and supporters,

If you enjoyed the historical musical mystery of 'Ghost Variations', you'll love - I hope - my new book currently in the works.

For the past few years I've been reading obsessively about Ludwig van Beethoven's 'Immortal Beloved' - the unnamed addressee of an impassioned love letter that he wrote in July 1812. Supposedly nobody knows exactly who she was,…


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Meeting odette blue   white

(This isn't the cover and it probably isn't the title either, but a kind and creative author friend came up with the image on Canva and sent it to me)

I used to have a recurring dream. I was in the library, looking for a book. I knew I'd seen it once before. I couldn't find it. It was a book of Swan Lake. I would always wake up knowing there was something inside it that I wanted, or needed…

Merry Christmas! And here's my nicest present ever...

Monday, 26 December 2016

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Dear friends and supporters,

A very merry Christmas to you all and my very best wishes for a wonderful year in 2017! I can't thank you enough for your enthusiasm for GHOST VARIATIONS through the year that is now ending. At a time when the world has left me with a few serious questions to ask someone, sometime, about what on earth was going on, you have helped me hang on to a bit of faith in humanity…


Monday, 31 October 2016

Jelly daranyl in exotic dress

Above: Jelly d'Arányi at her most exotic


Dear friends and supporters,

Do please join me, David Le Page and Viv McLean at the Barnes Music Society, London SW13, on the evening of Thursday 3 November for a last chance this year to hear the 'Ghost Variations' concert. All details and booking here.

The Leighton House concert went like a dream the other week and I was overjoyed afterwards…


Friday, 30 September 2016

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Dear Ghost Variations friends,

It was lovely to see so many of you at St Mary's Perivale the other week for the first in our autumn series of Ghost Variations concerts. Thanks for joining us on that gorgeous Septumbral evening!

The good news is that there are three more chances to come and hear the show this year. In it, I narrate with extracts of the book plus some explanation, background and…


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

St mary's perivale

Dear Ghost Variations friends, tomorrow my performance partners David Le Page and Viv McLean - an absolute knockout of a violin and piano duo - join me for the first of four concerts we are giving through the autumn based upon 'Ghost Variations'. I narrate, they play the appropriate music and thus we tell the story together. 

The first concert is on Wednesday 7 September at the exquisite 12th…

How to succeed as a writer in tough times...

Thursday, 18 August 2016

My dear friend Joanna Pieters, who used to be editor of The Strad magazine, now has her own creative life-coaching company. She has recently launched a series of podcasts in which she quizzes creative types from all fields about how and why they do what they do.

Since I've been finding the discussions absolutely riveting, I was tickled pink to be included. And I found her asking me about matters…

An A-Z of GHOST VARIATIONS continued: J– L

Monday, 15 August 2016

It's high time we carried on with the A-Z, otherwise the book will be out before it's finished! Just a couple of weeks to go now, and counting down hard... 

So, without further ado, here is...

J IS FOR JELLY D'ARÁNYI. Our heroine, pronounced Yelly, is a true-life legend in the musical world. The great-niece of the violinist, composer and professor Joseph Joachim - best friend to Brahms - she…

An endorsement from Sir András Schiff!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Sir András Schiff is one of today's greatest pianists. Born in Hungary, he now lives in London and Italy and is celebrated the world over for his interpretations of the Austro/German heartlands of the piano repertoire, the music of his fellow countryman Bartók, and much more besides - though perhaps he has always been most associated with Bach. As a Hungarian emigré in London and someone who reveres…


Monday, 11 July 2016

Philippe's cd

My friend and colleague Philippe Graffin, the fabulous French violinist, has just released his new recording of the Schumann Violin Concerto. As you know, this is the work that lies at the heart of Ghost Variations. The CD also features Schumann's Phantasie in D minor for violin and orchestra and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor. Philippe is partnered by the Orchestra di Padova e del…

Why this, why now?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I started writing Ghost Variations about five years ago, in 2011, struck by the country's volatile mood and widespread interest in the 1930s. We'd had the 2008 crash, innumerable people were struggling, life was changing at an extraordinary rate as an ideologically-orientated government decided to hammer the country further by introducing "austerity" and big business cashed in for all it was worth…


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Dear friends,

I hope you've had an excellent bank holiday. I'm up to my eyeballs in the second edit at the moment, so not having a break, though I'm in need of one. 

Our A to Z of Ghost Variations continues today with G. Which is easy. Or is it?


First: there aren't ghosts. If you think Schumann is going to loom forth amid a fount of ectoplasm, you'll be disappointed…


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Let's continue the A-Z today with D-F. I was hoping to find a recording of Alexander Fachiri, Adila's husband, playing the cello - he was one of those frighteningly gifted people who not only had a fine career as lawyer, but was almost equally accomplished as a musician. However, nothing's come to light yet, so above there appears a recording by Adila and Jelly of a beautiful duet by Spohr, which…


Friday, 6 May 2016

Dear friends,

This is the first part of an ongoing series about who's who and what's what in Ghost Variations. I thought it might be a fun way to whet your appetites! Our A-Z will appear in chunks of three or four at a time, with listening and/or viewing material whenever I can find it. And how better to begin than with...

A is for....ADILA.

Our heroine Jelly's closest ally, her much-loved…

Schumann's May

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Dear friends,

Warmest greetings from the Ghost Variations Shed, where May has brought us some much-needed sunshine and a publication date: the book will be out on 1 September.

That will be in time for an exciting round of associated concerts in which the violinist David Le Page, the pianist Viv McLean and I will present our programme of readings and music based on the book. Dates for your diary…

The other violinist of Ghost Variations!

Monday, 25 April 2016

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Hello, dear Ghost Variations supporters! I'm up to my eyeballs in the editing process at the moment, so please forgive the Shed silence these past weeks...but as the world has been very busy celebrating the centenary of Yehudi Menuhin this month (22 April) it seems a timely moment to take a closer look at the great violinist's role in our story.

Jelly's discovery of the Schumann Violin Concerto…

Gem collecting...

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

I've been keeping a "commonplace book" for [gulp] around 30 years. It's a chunky leather notebook in which, as a student in 1986, I began to copy out occasional pieces of prose or poetry that tugged at the bellropes in the back of my mind. The first entry was from a letter by the composer Claude Debussy, despairing at the uncongenial atmosphere in which he was attempting to study in Rome. His personality…

On the awkward bit

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Of course, a book like this involves masses of "awkward bits". For the reader, it should hold the best of reality and fiction; for the writer, though, it entails the most tooth-gnashingly tricky aspects of both. 

Still, the most awkward bit of Ghost Variations - as you can imagine if you've read the synopsis - is those "spirit messages". Somehow we need to suspend disbelief to the point that these…

You are warmly invited to the first public presentation of GHOST VARIATIONS!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

On 21 March at the Hungarian Cultural Centre, London, at 7pm, I will be giving the first public presentation of GHOST VARIATIONS, together with my regular concert partners, violinist David Le Page and pianist Viv McLean. I'll start with an introductory talk about Jelly d'Arányi and the saga of the Schumann Violin Concerto, after which we will offer an alternation of readings from the book with music…

We're in The Independent today!

Monday, 22 February 2016

I'd hoped to do this article for The Independent a little closer to Ghost Variations' publication date, planned for summer, but, as you've probably heard, the paper is closing its print operations in late March and I have no idea whether or not I'll be writing for the new-look website version. Therefore I've done it now instead.

So here is the story of how Ghost Variations came to be. Enjoy! 

Mirren, Marin and me

Thursday, 4 February 2016

I was extremely fortunate - thanks to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - to be drafted in to a discussion on BBC Radio 4's "Women's Hour" this morning to talk about the Schumann Violin Concerto and how Jelly d'Arányi rediscovered it. I was sidekick to the dynamic conductor Marin Alsop, who is wielding the baton over the piece tonight (Thursday) in Basingstoke and on Saturday evening in the…

We made it - in less than two weeks!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

It's all thanks to you, if you're reading this: Ghost Variations has reached its crowd-funding target in just 12 days. Currently support is running at 104 per cent and I can't quite believe my eyes. Yes! We're there! And faster than I ever believed possible.

You see, for as long as I've been writing novels, people have been saying to me: "Oh, er, you write about classical music? We don't think…

Meeting Jelly?

Friday, 22 January 2016

Many novelists will tell you their characters are real. At least, inside their heads. Even Charles Dickens, according to Claire Tomalin's fabulous biography, used to find that some of his creations kept him company, metaphorically speaking, until the end of his life - and he hated having to kill them when his narratives demanded it.

Some writers populate their novels with actual people. I remember…

Authors should be read, but neither seen nor heard. Oops...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

First things first. Welcome to the GHOST VARIATIONS shed at Unbound! If you're reading this post, it means that you have either become a founder supporter of this rather "different" (="weird"?) book, or you might be considering it. For which, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I've woken up on Day 2 of the campaign to find that we are 11 per cent funded, which means that it's off to a flying start…

Publication date: TBC
130% funded
178 backers