Cover of Midland

Latest updates

Midland launched on the Thames

Monday, 28 January 2019

Hi everyone,

well, the long journey that began back in January 2006 is finally over. The Midland paperback was launched on Friday night from Pier House, the beautiful little community centre belonging to Hermitage Moorings, constructed on a pontoon just east of Tower Bridge.

Friends and family gathered to eat sushi and raise a glass or three, and the incredible Harry Harris came all the way…

Midland is out there... plus launch party details

Sunday, 9 December 2018


Hi everyone, 

and the very best of the season to you all. As many of you will know, copies of the hardback of Midland have been mailed out in the last week or two, and so if you pledged for a copy you should have received yours by now. If you haven't, do check your account to double check your address and follow up with Unbound if there has been a problem.

The books look absolutely…

Last opportunity to pledge for Midland!

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Hi everyone, 

just a quick one to let you that the Midland funding drive will formally end at midnight on August 14th. The book is finished, proofed and copy-edited, the cover is designed and finalised, the blurbs are written, and soon the whole package will be sent off to the Unbound mountain to be carved into giant marble tablets for our descendants to ponder and squabble over for aeons to come…

My work here is done

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Finally, it's done. Last weekend I sent over the final round of corrections for the page proofs, and so ended a journey I began back in January 2006, in that dreamy era when Facebook was not yet a thing and Mark Zuckerberg wasn't a multi-billionaire and social media hadn't resculpted the media world as we know it. Well, Zuck may have made enough money to make a Rothschild blush in the time it's taken…

Page proofs are here... and early ideas for the cover

Thursday, 19 April 2018

I came home last night to find a hefty package in the hallway... the page proofs of Midland! It's always an exciting moment in the life of a book when these arrive, as it's the last chance the author gets to check over the text. It's both a hello to the book as it's actually going to look, and a goodbye to the work - when these pages go back along with any red marks I make on them, that really…

Progress report... and moving to Medium

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Hi everyone, 

as you may - or may not - have noticed, I haven't posted on this blog for a while. That's partly because the work on Midland is now tailing off. The book is now funded, of course, so I've less reason to bang on about it, and as you'll know if you read my last post, I put the finishing touches to the final draft at Christmas. Over the last couple of months the Unbound team have therefore…

Happy new year, from Midland

Sunday, 31 December 2017

A couple of months ago I had the final set of editorial notes on Midland from my editor at Unbound, Rachael Kerr, and I've spent the relatively distraction-free lull between Christmas and New Year working hard on the final draft. It's always tricky to know when you've finished a book, especially one that's taken twelve years to write, but I'm pretty sure that it's now done.

There were quite a few…

Habitus histories - fabulous fanmail and peculiar premonitions

Thursday, 2 November 2017


I know, I know, I haven't posted for a while. I've been very fully occupied getting Hospify up and running now that we've closed seed funding and pushing on with my machine learning course, about which more at some point in the not-to-distant future, though the future never seems very distant, these days. In fact, it seems like it's been here for a while.

But in the midst of all that,…

You wait two years for a funding round to complete, then two close at once

Thursday, 7 September 2017

For the last couple of years, as you all know, I’ve been slowly but steadily raising the funds to publish Midland with Unbound. Thanks to your incredible kindness, patience and support, that day is finally here. It’s been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do, has taken twice as long as I thought it would, and has shown me what an incredible set of friends I have out there. 


81% funded - and a song to celebrate

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Well, we're not far off now. Last week I did a big push out to all my connections on LinkedIn, and a lot of people were very generous and gave the campaign a big boost, carrying it over the 80% mark. It really feels like we're getting some momentum now. I'm almost getting demob happy! 

I wanted to post something suitable to celebrate, and I thought this video of Stephen and Hannah O'Driscoll playing…

I knew that trading course I did would come in handy

Saturday, 27 May 2017

As you’ll know if you’ve read the opening section of Midland on my Unbound homepage, one of book's lead characters is an investment banker. Midland is in many ways a book about money - or debt, to be more precise - and the story is set shortly before the financial crash of 2008. So, in the interests of research, and because I’ve had a long-standing interest in the financial markets and found myself…

Francis Upritchard returns to the Venice Biennale... and you can still pick up her work at a bargain price via Midland!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

I was really pleased to see an email from the Kate MacGarry gallery fly into my inbox yesterday, carrying the news that my friend and supporter the artist Francis Upritchard will be exhibiting at this year's Venice Biennale  (I think Makiko, pictured above, will be part of the show). It will be Francis's second appearance in Venice - she represented New Zealand at the 53rd Biennale in 2009 - and…

Click here for prescience (with free shipping till Sunday)

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

I’ve been thinking about prescience recently. Or maybe that should be: I was thinking presciently some time ago.

One of the two. Or both.

Two events combined to trigger this. The first was a cocktail-fuelled conversation with the latest maniac - ehm, I mean Midland supporter - to sign up for my crazy-arse “come fly with me” parajet funding option. He lives in New York, and after the third Manhattan…

The newsletter newsletter

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The news this week that HSBC has been involved in laundering Russian money will come as little surprise to any habituees of the Midland Shed who read the section of the novel (“Gull”) that I circulated to pledgers in February. “Gull” makes heavy reference to HSBC’s money laundering activities in the Caribbean, well-documented over the last few years by Private Eye.

Thinking about news - as I have…

We had a night of incredible music, got to look astonishingly moody and cool - and raised £100!

Monday, 6 March 2017

What a night! I'm in awe of the incredible musicians who turned out to help support Midland at Ryan's Bar in Stoke Newington on Saturday - and in awe of the audience who turned out, bought entry tickets (and raffle tickets) and generally gave their support. 

First up was singer-songwriter Jeremy Tuplin, who laced the little basement venue with a series of darkly funny ballads.

The next act…

Midland Benefit Gig, Saturday 4th March: The Full SP

Monday, 13 February 2017

This picture is from the cover of Will Phipps’ wonderful new album Fly Away, Crazy Days. It would also make a pretty good cover for Midland, given the book’s themes of flying, loss and escape.

Fitting then, that Will is going to playing the Midland benefit gig at the excellent Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington on Saturday March 4th.

And it’s not just Will. He’ll be joined by singer-songwriter…

Alternative Valentine's Day now confirmed for Saturday March 4th

Saturday, 4 February 2017

It's on, it's off, it's on again... is it one of Donald Trump's executive orders? NO! It's the "Midland Alternative Valentine's Day Benefit Gig in partnership with (which is to say, completely organised by) Hackney School of Folk" (to give it its full title).

And it is now absolutely definitely 100% confirmed to take place on Saturday March 4th at the lovely Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington Church…

Alternative Valentine's Day... now even more alternative!

Monday, 23 January 2017


Remember that post I pinned up here in the Shed back in December, telling you to keep 4th February free coz there was going to be a special alternative Valentine's Day gig-type thing happening up in Stoke Newington to raise money for Midland?

Yeah, well... in the tradition of all the best Valentine's Day dates, turns out we couldn't get the venue we wanted, EVEN THOUGH WE WERE DOING OUR…

The canal that led me to the real Harry Potter and a small pot of gold

Monday, 16 January 2017

This post is dedicated to the memory of Tim Edsall, a Midland pledger whose energy and enthusiasm helped me to get this funding project underway, and a very dear friend of both my father and myself. Tim passed away last weekend. He will be sorely missed.

This is the story of two great grandfathers but it was precipitated, as stories about the past so often are, with a new beginning. Back in…

Alternative Valentine's Day... Save the Date!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Forget about Christmas for a moment and cast your mind forward to that most evil of months, February. You know: the month that’s miserable and wretched, from which all the festive warmth has evaporated but upon which spring has yet to make any kind of impression; the month in which despite all that you’re supposed to muster the energy to wow your loved one with a Valentine’s Day surprise and whisk…

STOP PRESS: Midland is now 50% funded!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Well... when I blogged on Monday that I was hoping to hit 50% funded by Christmas, I certainly didn't expect to hit that target within 48 hours. But thanks to the extraordinary generosity of a certain someone who asked me to speak at his cultural event back in October and who signed up for the £1,000 sponsorship pledge just this morning, that has happened.

Halfway to the finish line. It's a big…

Midland Melody

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Shed has been quiet for a while. This is because I’ve had my hands full of late with my new job, Head of Insight at a financial and business news start-up called Curation Corporation, and cranking out stories on the future of technology every day has kept me away from blogging. But my 50% funding level is in sight, and if I’m going to hit that by Christmas (which would be nice), I need to get…

Felix Dennis's Home Movie

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

I grew up in Warwickshire, where my closest childhood friend was the son of a neighbouring cereal farmer. As a boy I played on the farm and later, as a teenager, I worked on it during the summers, helping get the harvest in. During that time a wealthy businessman invested in the farm, as a result of which it expanded in size tenfold, from 500 acres to around 5000. 

A decade or so later the farmer…

On Planning the Writing of the Business of Writing a Business Plan

Thursday, 6 October 2016

On Saturday I did an event. I was invited to speak at a cultural evening organised by an economist, and as the audience included people from both business and the arts - and quite a few with backgrounds in both - I gave a talk drawn from my experiences of shuttling between these two worlds. The text of the talk follows below; you can also listen to the presentation (which was recorded on the night…

On becoming an object of study

Friday, 23 September 2016

It’s official. I’m now an object of academic study - or at least my last novel, The Book of Ash, is. This honour has been bestowed upon me by scholar Dan Grausam, whose paper on Ash has just been published by Edinburgh University Press in a collection titled Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics.

The paper is based on a talk Dan originally prepared for an Arts Catalyst…

Ursula Le Guin hits the publishing nail on the head

Friday, 2 September 2016

This week's news that Ursula K. Le Guin is to receive one of the greatest accolades that can be awarded a living writer and have her work published by the Library of America cheered me immensely. By happy coincidence I've been working my way through the Wizard of Earthsea books this year, and just last week read her classic of political science fiction, The Dispossessed.

But the New York Times…

A Radioactive Round Table (And Some Heavy Metal)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

On the way down to this year's Port Eliot Festival I stopped off in Plymouth to check out the Arts Catalyst's Material Nuclear Culture exhibition in the Karst Gallery. This is part of a summer schedule of events in which I'm peripherally involved, and as I was passing I thought I'd drop by to take a look around. What I didn't know was that I'd be greeted by the ghost of an old friend. The exhibition…

So long Lord St Germans and thanks for all the fests

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sitting down this morning to write a Shed post about my forthcoming reading at next week’s Port Eliot Festival, I ran a search so I could include a few salient details about the event. What I didn’t expect was for the search results to be headed by the Telegraph’s obituary for Lord St Germans, aka Peregrine Eliot, aka Perry, the festival’s co-founder and host and - I’m proud to be able to say…

First Midland artwork sold!

Thursday, 7 July 2016


Hello Midland posse -

My shed has been a little quiet of late, largely as a result of the Brexit referendum. If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook you’ll know I was a passionate Remainer, and making my opinions felt about the greatest constitutional crisis since the Second World War has taken precedence over blogging about my new novel.

However, despite the imminent break…

How does it feel to be a publisher?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

That's what this post's about. Exactly that. Because I'm not publishing Midland, and nor in fact are Unbound. Unbound are just enabling this book to be published. The publishers of this book are you - by which I mean the 140 of you who've pledged so far, at a rate of about 1 per day, and who collectively have got the book to a third of its funding target. 

That's right! We're at 33%. A major milestone…

My Dad, the Midlands and Muhammad Ali

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


My Dad was quite the man about town in Birmingham back in the 1970s. A go-getting solicitor (no, it’s not a contradiction in terms), in 1973 he’d been Chairman of the National Young Solicitors Group of the Law Society, a member of the Lunar Society, and a founder member of something called the International Advisors Group. Both of these involved much socialising, in addition to which he attended…

Heads up on a Midland reading and a Midland documentary

Friday, 3 June 2016

If you're free on Monday evening and feeling the need to step out in south London, then why not come down to the Brixton Bookjam at the Hootananny in Effra Road, SW2? I'll be on stage reading a short extract from Midland and answering questions about the book, and a whole bunch of other writers will be presenting their work as well, including Stella Duffy, Anna Mazzola, Dennis Monaghan, Alex Marshall…

Book Quiz: What do “Game of Thrones”, “The Shipping News” and “The Other Boleyn Girl” all have in common?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016


Okay folks, just warning you. If you’ve pledged for Midland - or plan to - and you don’t want to find out about the relationship at the heart of the book, then STOP READING NOW.

Otherwise, read on. Midland is not a thriller; personally I don’t think it matters whether or not you know how it ends…

Shakespeare's shadow

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Over Easter I was back in Warwickshire visiting my mother, who still lives a country mile from the house in which I was born. Her nearest corner shop is the village stores in Wilmcote, a five-minute drive away, and the shop stands right opposite the family farm of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden. This is now a very slick “living museum” filled with blacksmiths and falconers and cooks and musicians…

Tony Nolan and the Panama Papers, or, How we've been bored into submission by the global "elites"

Friday, 8 April 2016

I warn you, this is a boring post. However, if you can stay with me to the end I promise you crack cocaine and hookers and other, more subtle pleasures. Really.

Are you with me? Good. We are, as George Osborne is so fond of saying, all in this together. So here goes.

Like most miserable suckers (AKA taxpayers) I've been following the fallout from the Panama Papers leak this last week with some…

April Fool's Day in Canary Wharf

Friday, 1 April 2016

April Fool's Day joke... I finished the new draft of Midland today and sent it in to Unbound. 

And the joke is... it's not actually a joke at all! It really happened, and it happened after noon so it wouldn't have counted as an April Fool's joke anyway. My actual delivery deadline was yesterday, but what's a day after ten years of toil?

A fair chunk of this draft has been written at a desk I…

Midland and the Anthropocene

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter everyone. To mark the day, a traditional time of renewal and rebirth, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

As I posted to Twitter a couple of weeks ago, I recently read Oliver Morton’s marvellous book The Planet Remade. Ollie was my editor back when I was a tyro journalist working on Wired UK, and we still keep in touch. He works for the Economist now, and his books on Mars and photosynthesis…

Why I wrote Midland...

Friday, 18 March 2016

Just a quick post to alert you to a piece I've written for the Telegraph about the origins of Midland. It's a slightly simplified version of the story of course, there are other originating factors too (some of which I'll be talking about over the next few weeks here in the Shed) and there was only limited space in the piece. But it covers off nicely my father's influence on the writing of the novel…

The Midland playlist

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Well, I’m safely back in London having survived mice and fire and have a complete draft of Midland on my computer. It needs another pass I think but before I attempt that I’ve taken the opportunity to step back a bit, do some other work that’s been clamouring for attention, and have a think about things like the Midland playlist.

Writing a book over ten years and juggling it with a full-time job…

The untimely death of Tom Thumb

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Folks, I have a sad, sad story to tell. Really sad. Brace yourselves.

It was all going so well. As related in my last post, following the fire and the release of Tom Thumb I spent last Sunday afternoon in Aigues-Mortes with my friend and the French translator of The Book of Ash, Alfred Boudry.

Aigues-Mortes is an interesting place. It sits in the middle of salt marshes, and has been a centre…

Fire at the Résidence! (Including: The fate of Tom Thumb...)

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Things have taken a somewhat dramatic turn here on my supposedly calm and productive writing retreat. Yesterday, Saturday, after a successful first week that got me pretty much to where I wanted to be with regard to progress on Midland, I spent the morning doing yoga and catching up on various bits of online admin. After lunch, the other writer here, Pierre, took off in his car to spend the afternoon…

Tom Thumb has been captured!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

There have been important developments in my relationship with the mice here in the Au Diable Vauvert writers' Résidence, after I was woken (again) a couple of nights ago by the bizarrely loud sound of Tom Thumb trying to gnaw his way into a bag of pasta. 

I got up to investigate and when I switched the light on and removed said bag from its shelf, instead of running away Tom sat there absolutely…

Les souris et les pantelons

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Right, so here I am on day three of my retreat, and it turns out I have a little more company than I'd expected. In the next room there is the very affable Pierre, whom I've just got to know a little over a couple of beers. But my own room has other residents as well, in the shape of two little field mice who have somehow found their way inside and set up shop behind my fridge, where they've clearly…

Midland's off and running... to the south of France

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Hi everyone.

Thank you for being my first group of funders and for getting behind Midland with such generosity and enthusiasm. As of today your pledges have put me at the 7% mark. The campaign has now been going for seven days, and as I've been told by Unbound that 1% a day is a good target to aim for, this means WE'RE ON TARGET!

I saw we, not me, because we're in this together. Unbound doesn…

Publication date: January 2019
100% funded
223 backers