Reading on Culture Laser

December 21, 2014 § Leave a comment


My novel isn’t out until August next year, but I thought I’d start the book tour early…. You can hear an excerpt from it on the Culture Laser podcast. It starts at around 10m 11 secs in….

‘Utterly Vile’

September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment


My verdict on the verdict for Ilham Tohti is on the Dissent blog.

Previous piece on Tohti here

Islamic State piece on Vice News

September 25, 2014 § Leave a comment


Iraqi sources claim to have caught a Chinese citizen fighting for the Islamic State militant group.

My piece on China’s recent claims that fighters from Xinjiang are training with IS is up at Vice News.

Blind Dating in Bishkek

September 12, 2014 § Leave a comment


The autumn issue of The Dublin Review has a long tale of the joys and sorrows (more of those) of trying to do internet dating in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Suffice to say, no weddings are currently planned.

It begins thus:

September is the perfect month for dating in Bishkek. The intense heat of the Kyrgyz summer has passed, but the days are still bright and warm. In the evening you can eat outside, then stroll through the park, without feeling the slightest chill.

Before I travelled to Bishkek, I’d been living in London for six months, and despite the many possibilities of the place I was in a dating rut. We went to the British Film Institute or the Hackney Picturehouse. We spoke sometimes of Mad Men, sometimes of Breaking Bad, always of Game of Thrones. We were witty and cutting and sometimes we kissed but even after three drinks, with our eyes shut, our tongues entwined, we remained urbane. We were youngish, smart professionals. We were polished stones.

My initial reasons for visiting Kyrgyzstan’s capital had nothing to do with dating. I wanted to do a report on a clinic that treated drug addiction by putting its patients into comas. I had nothing else planned, and knew no one in Bishkek. Three days before I was due to leave, I was checking OkCupid – not with any real conviction, more out of pathetic habit – and saw I had a message from a fifty-six-year-old woman in Uzbekistan. ‘Good face!’ she wrote, which was nice of her, but alas I had no plans to visit Tashkent. It did, however, make me wonder if OkCupid had any English-speaking women in Bishkek on its site.


First contact

August 26, 2014 § Leave a comment



April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment


I’m amazed and delighted to have won this year’s Willesden Herald Short Story Prize.

My story, ‘Ward’, is about a young girl who gets very ill and how it changes her.

You can read it and the other nominated stories by buying the anthology which is a bargain at £5.99 (incl. postage)- the best place to buy it is here.

An extract:

She’d never had so many presents. Flowers, magazines, teddy bears and balloons, a poster of two puppies wedged in a boot. Sandra was the only visitor who didn’t bring a gift. Her presence was confusing, because she and Emily weren’t friends. Emily wondered if Sandra liked her the way she liked her classmate Maxine: quietly, from an awed distance, content to sit two rows behind. After ten minutes she noticed the way Sandra’s eyes returned to the needle in her arm, the IV line, the slowly shrinking bag. She asked if Emily was in pain, if she was going to have an operation. She wanted to tell everyone about her dying classmate.



Learning the Wrong Lessons in Xinjiang

July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment


A show of force in Urumqi this week

My piece for the 4th anniversary of the Urumqi riots is at Dissent magazine.

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