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Graham's Question and Answer session with the Portsmouth News

1) What would be your ideal weekend destination, and why? (maybe somewhere you've always longed to go but haven't yet)

A tiny, never-to-be-revealed settlement on the Sinai shore of the Red Sea, ideally in March/April before the desert heat becomes unbearable. Why? Because this hidden gem is one of the few surviving throwbacks to the vanished world of solitude, sunshine, and a total absence of shops.

2) Not counting your loved ones, who would be your dream companion (they could be alive or dead or even fictional, but please say why you'd choose them)?

Michelle Obama, because she looks sassy and fun, and because she’s one of the few people on this earth who probably knows whether her husband really means it.

3) What music would you take with you? (please name specific artists and say why you'd choose them)

Ainsley Lister, for the perfect R&B soundtrack. Haydn’s “Mass in Time of War” for the Sinai setting. And the Verdi Requiem for the sunsets.

4) What about something to read? (please name a specific book/author and say why you'd choose them)

Barack Obama’s “Dreams of My Father”. This is a re-read, chiefly to try and work out just how he managed such a perfect marriage of fine writing, emotional resonance, and implicit political message. Can you think of any other contemporary Western politician with gifts like these?

5) What would be your ultimate way to relax?

Early swim, back to bed, leisurely breakfast, stroll on the beach, afternoon in the sun, pile of books, more swimming, chilled beers, lots of chat, lots of laughter, more bed.

6) If money were no object, which shop would you head for? (please name a specific shop/label and say why you'd choose them)

I fantasise about the shopless world (see above).

7) We're buying the drinks tonight - what's your poison?

A pint or three of Devon-brewed Otter Ale. When we lived in Pompey I’d have nominated Gales’ HSB but after they closed the Horndean brewery it never tasted the same. Otter, with that same bitter-sweetness, comes remarkably close.

8) What would be your perfect meal? (please say why)

A mezze of falluful, hummus, Palestinian salad, with grilled anchovies and a side plate of chips: a glorious mix of the prosaic, the peasant, and the divine.

9) What weekend TV do you enjoy - and hate? (please say why)

Hard to say because we don’t have a telly just now but the favourite used to be Match of the Day (especially after a Pompey evening on HSB), and the all-time no-no was Big Brother, which drove me nuts. How come I’m making someone rich by watching people do nothing?

10) What's your all-time favourite film? (please say why)

Just now it’s “Frost-Nixon”. I remember the day Nixon left the White House, and the years of dogged sleuthing that chased him out of office, but even as a writer it never occurred to me that two hours of incredible drama lay in David Frost’s pursuit of the voice from the political grave. It’s a truly unforgettable movie, all the more so for Frank Langella’s performance (as Nixon). You even end up feeling sorry for the man.

11) Sport - do you play, watch or avoid it? (please say which sports)

I used to play a lot of football and squash but the knees have let me down a bit (I also blame the Pompey Half-Marathon). Over the last couple of years I’ve taken up offshore rowing, which has become a bit of a passion. I used to sit on Southsea beach and wonder how guys operated a taxi row-boat service to the Isle of Wight and back. Now we do that kind of distance every weekend (see below).

12) Are you a bit of a clubber, or is it an early night with a cup of cocoa?


13) What are you doing this weekend?

Saturday morning, weather permitting, five of us are off on a 22 kilometre row to Teignmouth and back with a recreational pit stop at a favourite pub en route. Otter, naturally… On Sunday, I’ll be preparing for a number of interviews and signings to mark the new book (“No Lovelier Death”). See you at the Commercial Road Waterstones over Tuesday lunchtime? Or the Fareham branch on Wednesday (12.30-13.30)?

14) Tell us about your best weekend ever. (where and when it was - just the area and year would be OK - and what happened to make it special)

Istanbul, very recently. It was slightly longer than a weekend but it offered an astonishing mix of thin sunshine (dancing on the waters of the Bosphorus), busying ferries, waterside meals, haunting skylines, the untouristy buzz of a big working city, and a selection of jaw-dropping architecture. Fabulous place, soaked in history.

15) What's a favourite local destination for a weekend day out? (somewhere readers can get to within an hour by car/train - and please say why you've chosen it)

Tennyson Down, on the Isle of Wight. You take the hovercraft to Ryde and catch a bus to Freshwater Bay. The walk west across the down to the Needles and back is unforgettable. For further clues, see the opening page of my crime thriller “Blood and Honey”.