Literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith.
Peter Stothard: Crassus
My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is Peter Stothard, whose new book Crassus: The First Tycoon tells the story of the third man in Rome’s great triumvirate: landlord, power-broker, Spartacus’s nemesis and leader of a hubristic expedition to the east that was to see his glorious career end in bitter failure.
Image © Teri Pengilley
Lawrence Freedman: Command
In this week's Book Club podcast my guest is the doyen of war studies, Lawrence Freedman. His new book Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Ukraine takes a fascinating look at the interplay between politics and conflict in the post-war era. He tells me why dictators make bad generals, how soldiers are always playing politics, how the nuclear age has changed the calculus of conflict and gives me his latest read on the progress of the war in Ukraine.
Rediscovering Josephine Tey
On this week’s Book Club podcast we’re talking about the best crime writer you’ve (probably) never heard of. As Penguin reissues three of Josephine Tey’s classic Golden Age novels, I’m joined by Nicola Upson, whose own detective stories (most recently Dear Little Corpses) feature Tey as a central character. She tells me about the unique character of Tey’s writing, her discreet private life, and about how she made possible the psychological crime fiction that we read now.
A.M. Homes: The Unfolding
My guest on this week’s Book Club podcast is A. M. Homes. She talks about her new novel The Unfolding, which imagines a conspiracy of angry Republicans forming after John McCain’s 2008 election defeat in the hopes of taking their America back. She talks about her history of prescience, about the deep weirdness of the Washington she grew up in, and why there’s more than one 'deep state'.
Ian McEwan: Lessons
My guest in this week’s Book Club is Ian McEwan – whose latest novel Lessons draws on his own biography to imagine an 'alternative life' for himself. He tells me about what drew him, in his late career, to using autobiography; about why there’s no contradiction in combining realism with metafiction; about the importance of sex; the rise of cancel culture – and why literary fiction by 'comfortable white men of a certain age' may have had its day, but he’s not complaining.
Francis Fukuyama: Liberalism and its Discontents
This week we spotlight our most popular episode of the last year, Sam's conversation with Francis Fukuyama about his book Liberalism and its Discontents. He tells Sam how a system that has built peace and prosperity since the Enlightenment has come under attack from the neoliberal right and the identitarian left; and how Vladimir Putin may end up being the unwitting founding father of a new Ukraine.
Douglas-Fairhurst is wonderful
The ever fascinating Robert Douglas-Fairhurst was a great guest and the subsequent episode with Borch Jacobsen was intriguing and soberly radical. Excellent podcast.
All the interviews on this podcast are typically informative and well done as a rule however I just had a good surprise today. Tessa Dunlop was interviewed about Army Girls. I didn’t expect it to be as fascinating and vivid as it turned out to be—nothing negative about her of course —it’s just that military topics are not usually what I turn to with interest. She was outstanding and I loved every minute of the interview. Can’t wait to get the book now.
can do without idiotic laughter
Generally it’s very good and by far the best of its kind available, better than radio 4’s equivalents now. Occasional slips, like Frances Wilson on Lawrence—spoiled by irritating laughter throughout.