James Kidd Indulges in some light reading

SHORT STORY James Kidd is a books journalist, specialising in crime, popular and literary fiction. He is 50% of Lit Bits, the literary podcast and Resonance FM Radio Show alongside Adam Smyth.

When he is not writing about himself in the third person, he contributes regularly to the Independent on Sunday and the Literary Review. His (my?) interviews, reviews and features have also appeared in the Independent, Daily Telegraph, the Observer, Time Out, Square Meal, the Sunday Herald, the South China Morning Post, The National, Jerusalem Post, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Asia Literary Review, the Hampstead and Highgate Express among others.

In 2013, he wrote a 3000 word profile of Mark Billingham which appeared in his latest novel, The Dying Hours: available here.

In 2010, his 7000 word profile of Patricia Cornwell appeared in the 21st anniversary edition of Postmortem: available here.

Since 1999, he has been the Friends Secretary of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, the charity that looks after the Keats-Shelley House in Rome.

LONG STORY I have written for papers in the UK and across the world, mainly about literary matters, but also film, art, theatre and moments of utter nonsenses. Interviews include Salman Rushdie, Patricia Cornwell, Jeffrey ‘the Lord Archer” Archer, Keira Knightley, John Connolly, Mark Billingham, John Banville, Ma Jian, Zadie Smith, Alex James, David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas not ‘and Webb’), Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Lydia Davis, Michael Parkinson, Cherie Blair, Malcolm Gladwell, Ian Rankin, Sarah Waters, Nicole Krauss, Howard Jacobson, Alexei Sayle, Niall Ferguson, Melvyn Bragg, Ken Follett, Charlie Higson, Ranulph Fiennes, Michael Connelly, Pankaj Mishra, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Ian Banks, Sara Paretsky, Peter Robinson, Paul Theroux, Fareed Zakaria, David Nicholls, Simon Schama, Wilbur Smith, Amos Oz, Richard Thaler, Hanif Kureishi, Hilary Spurling, John Lanchester, Richard Russo, Sophie Hannah, Craig Raine, Adam Mars-Jones, Manju Kapur, Dennis Lehane, Patrick Flanery, Amity Gaige, Adam Haslett, Andrew Miller, Charles Frazier, Ellen Feldman, Jean Auel, Courtney Sullivan, Lloyd Jones, Jonathan Trigell, Gaynor Arnold, and Mika among others.

I have met some heroes: Sue Townsend springs to mind. I have been given lunch by Esther Cheo-Ling, who told me what it was like to be fancied by Chairman Mao, I  interviewed Christiane Amanpour at CNN, and interrogated a distinctly bemused Gwen Stefani, who refused to answer a question about her use of allusions to Milton’s Comus. I have been mothered by Cherie Blair and made Brian Moore cry.

Interviewed by himself for this website, Kidd said: ‘I love my work. I would do it for free if I didn’t need the money to buy books.’ His favourite quotation about his trade occurs at the beginning of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman and the Tiger, when our moustachioed hero recalls an old acquaintance Blowitz. ‘But I liked him, you see, in spite of his being a journalist.’

James Kidd at home. Celebrates his 145th draft, with cigar and dressing gown

Born and raised in London, he currently lives in Oxford. Kidd wasn’t born a writer. Growing up in Wimbledon (now better known as MK Dons), he was for many years a child before moving into adolescence. He caught the literary bug early,developing a yen for Roald Dahl, Stephen King, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler and Jilly Cooper – the latter pilfered from his mother’s stash.

He considered changing his name to Rupert Campbell-Black-Kidd, but thought that by the time he had introduced himself, any girl worth her salt would have run for the hills. Ask him today which book left the most lasting impression, and he will  say Susan Hill’s I’m The King of the Castle, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Asterix the Gaul.

After school he studied English at Liverpool University. Inspired by bravura teachers who believed literature was important, he settled on the Romantic poets, who didn’t seem unduly bothered. He wrote his MA dissertation on word play in the poetry of John Keats.

Armed with his degree in English literature, it seemed the world was his oyster. Having toyed with academia, Kidd began to write for newspapers. His break came courtesy of the Hampstead and Highgate Express, initially as a book reviewer and then interviewing writers and occasionally even more interesting humans.

These often make for unlikely pairings: Boy George and Norman Lebrecht, Julian Barnes and China Mieville. Along the way, Kidd interviewed Michael Palin, Nadeem Aslam, Alexander MacCall Smith, Helen Simpson, Geoffrey Robertson QC, John Julius Norwich and James Mottram. He once almost maimed Al Alvarez, and conducted a phone interview with Greil Marcus which was so faint that it should have been transcribed in font size 0.5.

For a selection of his interviews, reviews and features, please search under the Journalism banner.

To contact James Kidd:

Twitter: @ajskidd