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The Best of Radio Litopia

The Best of Radio Litopia

By Peter Cox

The Best of Radio Litopia as curated by Peter Cox
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The Adversary – Emmanuel Carrère

The Best of Radio LitopiaSep 28, 2022

The Adversary – Emmanuel Carrère

The Adversary – Emmanuel Carrère

In the quiet Jura region of France, a physician goes completely haywire in a series of crimes that are hard for his friends and acquaintances to grasp. But then their grasp loosens further. And disappears altogether. Because the man at the centre, the man they thought they knew, turns out to be a dangerous and violent stranger. And now I know what it feels like to write a Dateline teaser. Non-fiction.

Sep 28, 202214:18
Latecomers – Anita Brookner

Latecomers – Anita Brookner

Hartmann and Fibitch arrived in England as refugees on the Kindertransport and then they had had wives and children and those children had families and – what was the point of this story again? Served (saved?) with a side of Sebald (how can you not) plus the flavour of Rushforth, which is the name of an author.

Sep 28, 202216:40
The Scapegoat – Sophia Nikolaidou

The Scapegoat – Sophia Nikolaidou

The real life murder mystery of a CBS reporter is foreground and backdrop for a modern day high school student trying to figure out why the wrong man was put down. Also a love story. Salonic.

Sep 28, 202213:55
Peter Englund: The Beauty and the Sorrow

Peter Englund: The Beauty and the Sorrow

His origins were humble; a working-class boy from a small military town in  northern Sweden, not far from the Arctic Circle. Today, he is one of the most  influential figures in the world of literature, because Peter Englund is  Permanent Secretary to the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the Nobel Prize  in Literature.
For someone who has within his power the making or breaking of  international writing careers, Peter, as you'll hear, is remarkably unassuming.  Perhaps one reason for this is that he's still a writer himself; he understands  the writing process profoundly, and his own books have been both bestsellers and  widely acclaimed. His most recent, just launched in London, is a stunning new  approach to the history of the First World War. Subtitled "an intimate history",  The  Beauty and the Sorrow explores the personal aspects of war: not the grand  strategies concocted in the cabinets of Europe, but the experiences of  "ordinary" people from around the world, all now unknown - were it not for  Peter's deeply moving book.

Dec 24, 202043:17
The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes

The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes

What with Benedict Cumberbatch’s radical new television interpretation of  Sherlock Holmes, and the recent big-screen Guy Ritchie / Robert Downey / Jude  Law action movies, the Baker Street seven per-center is enjoying a major revival  of interest.

How appropriate, then, that the master scriptwriter of the entire Holmes  canon should join us for tonight's Litopia After DarkBert Coules is  nearly as legendary as his protagonist in Holmesian circles.  He’s a man who’s  had more experience of Sherlock Holmes than almost anyone else, apart from Conan  Doyle.  Not only was he head writer on the BBC’s project to dramatise the entire  Holmes canon, but he then went on to write The Further Adventures of  Sherlock Holmes – original plots based on passing references from Conan  Doyle’s oeuvre.

Bert has also adapted several Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael novels,  starring Philip Madoc as Cadfael, and has dramatised works by Ian Rankin, Val  McDermid, Isaac Asimov and other best-selling genre authors.

Whether you're a Holmes fan, an aspiring scriptwriter, or simply interested  in great drama, you'll love this show - pass it on to your friends!

Dec 24, 202053:07
John Simopoulos: A Tiger Burning Bright

John Simopoulos: A Tiger Burning Bright

When we asked John Simopoulos, Founding Fellow and Dean of Degrees at St  Catherine’s College, Oxford, to read Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient  Mariner last year, we had an overwhelming response from listeners wanting to  hear more from him.

We're thrilled to welcome John back to present this  special new year's "mixed bag of prose, poetry and century" that is certain to  delight and inspire you... happy new year!

John reads and discusses:

  • Meditation 17 by John Donne
  • "The Little Black Boy" by William Blake
  • "The Tiger" by William Blake
  • Samuel Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield
  • "Those Winter Sundays" By Robert Hayden
  • "Heraclitus" by William Johnson Cory
  • "On The Coast Of Coromandel" by Osbert Sitwell
  • "The Owl And The Pussy Cat" by Edward Lear

Music in the  programme is available for purchase from

Dec 24, 202048:53
Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street - Mahfouz

Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street - Mahfouz

It's our last discussion for a while with John Simopoulos and again, we're  focusing on our series entitled Books That Matter. Galsworthy and Proust? Not  worthy to hold a candle to today's featured author, Mahfouz - says John. Naguib  Mahfouz was an Egyptian novelist who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature,  and is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature.  The trilogy of books - Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street - are  collectively titled the Cairo Trilogy, an immense monumental work of 1,500 pages  or so - "and every character in them is repulsive," says John, "but do read it -  if you've got the stomach for it!".

Dec 24, 202012:16
Our Man In The Cold
Dec 24, 202059:12
The Golden Years of British TV Comedy

The Golden Years of British TV Comedy

From The Two Ronnies to Blackadder…from Benny Hill to Marty  Feldman… the golden years of British television comedy produced some of the  funniest shows and larger-than-life characters the world has ever seen.

Garry’s guest tonight COLIN EDMONDS has  dominated British television comedy writing for four decades – and he knew them  all… the stars, the monsters, the legends and the lunatics!

If names such as Les Dawson, Lilly Savage, Paul Daniels, Julian Clary,  Barbara Windsor and – of course – Bob Monkhouse – evoke fond memories… then  you’re going to love tonight’s show!

Of course, the tradition of bawdy British comedy goes right back to the world  of the music hall… from which Colin draws his inspiration for his new novel,  Steam,  Smoke & Mirrors: with insights and extracts from the secret journals of  Professor Artemus More PhD (Cantab) FRS.  Set in a Steampunk vision  of Victorian Britain Steam, Smoke & Mirrors is “Victorian  science fiction”, says Colin: “It’s so sexy! Men in top hats and women in  thigh-length boots! Steampunk is on a roll!”

Dec 24, 202001:10:56
Debriefer Special with Dan Rather
Dec 24, 202027:26
The Zelig of American History

The Zelig of American History

How do you go about writing a book about one of the most powerful dynasties  on earth?

That's the challenge special guest Russ Baker faced when he first  considered writing about the Bush family; one which encompasses two U.S.  Senators, one Supreme Court Justice, two Governors, two Presidents and  innumerable bankers and businessmen. The book took five years to write and is a  meticulous piece of research (there are over a thousand footnotes).

According to the late Gore Vidal, Family  of Secrets is "one of the most important books of the past ten years". Dan  Rather - who you can hear right here on Radio Litopia's Debriefer show - called  it "a tour de force. " "It's made me rethink", he says, "even those events I  witnessed with my own eyes".

Dec 24, 202049:51
R.J.Ellory - A Quiet Belief In 'What-If...'

R.J.Ellory - A Quiet Belief In 'What-If...'

You'll recognize him as one of Britain's leading thriller writers, author of  the multi-million seller A  Quiet Belief In Angels and ten other award-winner novels. But you may  not know much about the extraordinary personal story of tonight's guest  R.J. Ellory - a life that is  just as thrilling and moving as anything in his bestsellers.

Inspiring, revealing and searingly honest... we think tonight's show is quite  simply one of our best.

Dec 24, 202055:15
Litopia After Dark : The Litopia 4th July Holiday Quiz

Litopia After Dark : The Litopia 4th July Holiday Quiz

Where do your most brilliant ideas come from? What's the most extreme thing  you've done when researching your book? What's the worst book you've ever  bought? Litopia After Dark this week begins to wind down for the summer holidays  with a writers' quiz. It all gets completely out of hand as the panelists give  each other marks and the bickering reaches a crescendo as they try to outdo each  other in the race to the finish line... tune in to see who wins.

Dec 24, 202051:01
One-on-One with Geoff Dyer

One-on-One with Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer is the consummate writer’s writer: winner of the Somerset Maugham  Prize, the US National Book Critics Circle Award the E. M. Forster Award, and  more. The Daily Telegraph newspaper has called him “the best living writer in  Britain”. Zadie Smith believes he is “a national treasure.”

This is a specially extended Litopia After Dark - we hope you enjoy this  opportunity to get to know one of the finest writers in the world today.

Dec 24, 202051:29
Litvinenko: Murder Most Foul

Litvinenko: Murder Most Foul

At the age of 43, a few weeks after he secured British citizenship, former  KGB and FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was murdered: the world's first victim  of polonium 210 poisoning.  The Litvinenko killing revealed that London has  quietly become not only the single greatest centre of Russian capital outside  Moscow, but also a turbulent seat of Russian opposition.

Our special guest tonight is Alan Cowell, senior correspondent for the  New York Times, based in London and Paris.  Few people know more about this  extraordinary subject than Alan; his book  “The  Terminal Spy” is the definitive work on the topic, and he continues  to report on the story as it unfolds for

Alan typifies old-school journalism at its best.  He was the last Reuters  correspondent to file dispatches by carrier pigeon, and has covered stories in  over 90 countries.  He won a George Polk Award for his coverage of the  broadening turmoil in South Africa that led to the end of apartheid.  He was  expelled from the country by the government of P.W. Botha in early 1987.

Since then, he has headed The New York Times’s bureaus in Greece, Egypt,  Italy, Germany and London, where he the Nathaniel Nash Award.

Alan has written three other books: an African memoir, “Killing  the Wizards”; and two novels, “A  Walking Guide” and its sequel, “The  Paris Correspondent”, which deals in part with the challenges of the new  digital era in news gathering and reporting.

Dec 24, 202055:16
The Causes of the First World War
Dec 24, 202056:06
Sex and the Bipolar Explorer
Dec 24, 202057:46
The Love of Money

The Love of Money

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne  are  currently enforcing "savage" spending cuts that, in Cameron's own words, "will  change our whole way of life". Why? What have the British people done  to deserve this punishment?

Tonight's guest, Professor  L. Randall Wray, has got some very revealing answers. If you want to  know how we got in this mess - listen to this show. If you want to know  what's going to happen next - listen to this show. And if you want to  know what we might be able to do about it... you know what to do. This is one of  our very best - and most important - shows.  Please: tell all your friends about  it.

Dec 24, 202056:20
The Listener in the Shadows
Dec 24, 202058:18
Hollywood Lives: The Stunt Woman's Tale

Hollywood Lives: The Stunt Woman's Tale

"Behind the phony tinsel of Hollywood" quipped Oscar Levant,  lies the real  tinsel".  Maybe true, but for our guest tonight, action actress Spice Williams-Crosby,  the bruises, broken ribs and concussions are real enough.  Spice has Hollywood  in her DNA; you've seen her in motion pictures such as Star Trek, From  Dusk Till Dawn,  and A Simple Plan and on countless television  dramas, including Scrubs, Roseanne and Buffy the Vampire  Slayer.  Spice has crashed cars, dove through glass windows, taken stair  falls, executed 30-foot ratchets, 50-foot high falls, and hung from helicopters  350 feet above the ground.  Oh, and wrestled Jim Carrey, too.

This is the first time we've had a genuine Klingon on the show -  Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!

Dec 24, 202050:25
The R Word
Dec 24, 202029:26
I'm JK Rowling! Do Not Make Me Angry!
Dec 24, 202030:14
Three Faces of War – The Assassin

Three Faces of War – The Assassin

Making a welcome return tonight is journalist-turned-investigative-historian,  Tim Butcher.  Tim specialises in covering awkward places at difficult moments:  Kurdistan under attack in 1991 by Saddam Hussein, Sarajevo during the Bosnian  War of the 1990s, the Allied attack on Iraq in 2003, Israel's 2006 clash with  Hizbollah in southern Lebanon among other crises. All good preparation, then for  tonight’s skirmish with Ian...

But it’s not all fol-de-rol and bon mots  ce soir. Tim’s  new, widely-praised book is a quest to find history's most famous terrorist  before Osama bin Laden... Gavrilo Princip, the teenage assassin who triggered  the catastrophic series of events that led to the First World War.

You may think that everything that could possibly be told about this  particular Bosnian Serb has already been written. Not so. Listen to tonight’s  show – and read Tim’s excellent book, The  Trigger – and you will appreciate why reviewers have been showering  it, and him, with praise. We’re indeed proud to host him tonight.

Dec 24, 202001:02:22
Three Faces of War – The English Lady

Three Faces of War – The English Lady

She does her job with typically understated bravery. To meet her, you might  think (for a moment) that this headscarved and very English lady is, perhaps, a  headmistress, a rose grower or possibly something a bit nebulous in the  arts.

But this is Lindsey  Hilsum. The woman for whom the expression sang-froid might  have been invented. Specialising in remaining imperturbable under fire, and  always meeting her deadline.

As International Editor for Britain’s Channel 4 News, she reported from  Belgrade in 1999 when NATO bombed Serbia, from Baghdad during the 2003 US  invasion, and covered the Fallujah assault in November 2004. Her reports from  Africa, the Middle East and Russia have earned her many awards. In 1994, she was  the only English-speaking journalist in Rwanda when the genocide started.

It’s an obvious question, but we still want to know – what’s it like being a  woman in the front line? How do you cope when your friend and colleague, Marie  Colvin, dies covering the siege of Homs in Syria? And – when you come back from  the world’s most perilous places, having seen things that no normal person  should ever see – how do you sleep at night?

Tonight, fresh from Damascus, Lindsey joins us in London to help us make  sense of Crimea, Syria – and the genesis of Isis.

Dec 24, 202058:49
Three Faces of War – Very Special Forces

Three Faces of War – Very Special Forces

On this day in 1918 – the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the  11th hour – the hostilities of the First World war formally  ended.

This is Remembrance Day, aka Poppy Day. But why poppies? Well, contrary to  popular belief, poppies have been associated with war since at least Napoleonic  times, when a writer first noted how poppies grew over the graves of soldiers.  It is theorized that the damage done to the landscape in Flanders during WW1  greatly increased the lime content in the soil, leaving the poppy as one of the  few plants able to survive.

At the war’s conclusion, it was an American professor who first suggested  that wearing a red poppy year-round would fittingly honour the war’s fallen.  Soon, the red silk poppy had been adopted as an official symbol of remembrance  by the American Legion.

And then the idea spread to Britain, where Field Marshal Douglas Haig – the  "Butcher of the Somme” – used the motif to promote The Royal British Legion,  which he co-founded.

And yet, the poppy symbol remains an enigma. What we are actually  celebrating, or remembering, when we buy one? Is it the glory of war? Or its  poignancy? Are we remembering selfless heroism? Or the futility of human  conflict?

Our guest tonight, Ben  Griffin, has clear views on this. Ben is no ordinary foot soldier.  As a member of Britain’s elite special forces, the SAS, Ben has served his  country in Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Baghdad. Ben is  eloquent, lucid and deeply moving. If you want to know what it is actually like  to fight a war in the 21st century, listen to this show.

Ben’s organisation, Veterans for Peace, can be contacted here.

Dec 24, 202001:23:41
El Narco: Inside Mexico's Deadly Drugs Wars

El Narco: Inside Mexico's Deadly Drugs Wars

Seventy thousand dead.  Twenty thousand disappeared.  Severed  heads with threatening messages dumped by the side of the highway. A  terrorist insurgency on the verge of toppling governments. Iraq?  Syria?  The Congo?   Ukraine?

No. This is Northern Mexico— one  of the most violent places on earth.  Why?  Because Western culture likes  to take drugs.  Tons of them.  Drugs we brand illegal and on which we’re  waging war.

To walk us through the kill zone— from the peasants picking coca in the hills  behind Bogota to the contract killers of Ciudad Juarez— tonight we’re joined by  the amazingly-still-alive Ioan Grillo,  acclaimed journalist and author of El  Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency.

Intimately familiar with the deadly cartels, Ioan breaks down Mexico’s bloody  “trampolines”, the  reality of Breaking Bad— in the form of Mexican crystal meth  “super-labs”— the  splashy death of Pablo Escobar, and the largest cash seizure in modern  history.

We also discuss confirmed  CIA complicity in importing cocaine into America and the character  assassination and suspicious death of reporter Gary  Webb— whose star-studded biopic Kill the  Messenger was recently released in theaters.

Dec 24, 202001:10:06
The Viral Mind of Susan Blackmore

The Viral Mind of Susan Blackmore

Meet Susan Blackmore,  the world’s foremost expert on memes. The intro to her seminal work The  Meme Machine was written by none other than genius biologist and  fundamentalist atheist blowhard Richard Dawkins. Her lectures  on TED receives millions of views— even despite TED's dishwater-dull format  when compared to Litopia After Dark (rowr!)

“Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world,” said Marshal McLuhan.  Never has this been more true.

(Full quote: Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine  world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve  ever new forms.)

But  do memes actually exist?  Or are they simply metaphors to observe our  shifting culture? And who is Susan Blackmore anyway?

After an out of body experience she studied  the paranormal for 24 years, only to arrive at the conclusion it  was bollocks— all of it.  So who’s to say she won’t soon say the same about  memes?

But wait, there’s more! Now she’d like for us to consider what she calls  temes— technology assisted memes. Replicators so powerful they may yet  turn our computers against us— and sooner than you think. Just ask Stephen  Hawking.

Because your Macbook Pro is spreading words, tunes, images and ideas much  faster than your feeble human mind can imagine.

Check everything  you think you know about memes at the door. Because this show is no lecture.  This show is virus inside of your mind.

Dec 24, 202055:31
Ripped Off By The BBC?

Ripped Off By The BBC?

The BBC – the world’s oldest and biggest public service broadcaster – appears  to have a serious ethics problem. That’s the devastating conclusion from this  edition of The DEBRIEFER. How else could you explain the plight of bestselling  author and screenwriter M.R.  Hall, whose THE  CORONER series of books bears a striking similarity to the BBC’s a new  television series entitled – somewhat unimaginatively – THE CORONER.

Listeners to THE DEBRIEFER will be familiar with horrific accounts of  rapacious Hollywood studios “borrowing” ideas from defenceless authors. The  twist, this time, is that the allegations concern a public service  broadcaster… not a commercial entity, but an organisation that is supposed  to serve the public good. Service, not profit, is the motivator… or is supposed  to be.

Troublingly, this case is not  unique. One of our guests on Litopia After Dark, former  British ambassador Craig Murray,  believes his autobiography Murder in Samarkand was plagiarized for the  BBC comedy The Ambassador. “The production company had actually invited  me to their offices”, says Craig, “for a meeting to ask me to sell them the  rights to Murder in Samarkand. I attended the meeting but I refused to  sell them the rights. They went ahead and made the series anyway.”

This isn’t fair, it’s not cricket, and it isn’t in the spirit of public  service broadcasting. Come on, BBC – show some leadership and get your house in  order – while you still have a chance.

Dec 24, 202022:35
Mother Night - Kurt Vonnegut

Mother Night - Kurt Vonnegut

Traitor? Spy? Loyal American or self-serving amoralist?  Howard W Campbell Jr  tries to write his own get out of jail free card in in Kurt Vonnegut's 'Mother  Night'. Vintage.

Dec 24, 202016:24
Satan in Goray - Isaac Bashevis Singer

Satan in Goray - Isaac Bashevis Singer

The Messiah is coming! His arrival is imminent! That’s the bad news... The  good news is his arrival and social schedule are narrated with a combination of  enthralled immediacy and distrustful distance by a Nobel Laureate, Isaac  Bashevis Singer. And yet, is it ‘all that’? Some readers will be super-pumped,  others might not catch messiah fever. All the colours of the rainbow.

Dec 24, 202026:46
The Porn Supremacy
Dec 24, 202055:13
Peter James - King of Crime

Peter James - King of Crime

He's a crime boss - but not the way you'd expect. British writer Peter James was awarded an honorary  Doctorate of Letters in recognition of his ongoing contribution to the arts,  which tells you something of his significance to writing and publishing  generally.
The Daily Mail called him a cross between Stephen King and Michael  Crichton, and with sales of his 25 titles running into the multi-millions, he's  a serious force in commercial publishing.
Crime is one of the biggest of all  publishing genres; it accounts for about a quarter of all books sold. In  tonight's extended show, we get under the surface of both the writer himself and  the whole genre - what does it take to succeed in this area?
Peter, who is  also chair of the Crime Writers  Association, is clearly the best man to ask. Peter's latest book Perfect  People has just been published in the UK, and his most recent paperback, Dead  Man's Grip, has just gone to the No. 1 position in the paperback charts  (knocking off Jamie Oliver!).

Dec 24, 202059:03
Seth Godin: The New Face Of Publishing

Seth Godin: The New Face Of Publishing

There are some people who just get what's going on: faster, more accurately, and  more cogently than the rest of us. Seth Godin is one of those people. A legend  on the 'net, Seth authored the most popular e-book ever written ("Unleashing The Idea  Virus") and commands speaker's fees that run into telephone numbers.
For  Radio Litopia, however, Seth's fee is... simply your attention.
This is one  of those shows that you'll want to listen to many times. The wisdom is intense  and the conclusions enlightening.

Dec 24, 202025:59
Martin Bell: A Front Row Seat At The Making Of History
Dec 24, 202050:19
Go Ahead, Steampunk, Make My Day!

Go Ahead, Steampunk, Make My Day!

We're partying like it's 1899 tonight as special guest Robert Brown of steampunk  band Abney Park takes us inside the intrepid world of one of the hottest writing  and music genres at the moment. Steampunk - once a niche market - is going  mainstream everywhere you look.
But what is its appeal - and what does it say  about the zeitgeist? As usual, Litopia After Dark keeps you two steps ahead of  the trends - so pop on your goggles & boilersuit, and let's get this  dirigible inflated! Our all-star panel tonight features Graham Marks, Nic  Alderton and Dave Bartram - who makes a welcome (musical) return...

Dec 24, 202057:25
Jeffrey Archer: The Archer Still Has Two Fingers

Jeffrey Archer: The Archer Still Has Two Fingers

With 270 million copies of his books in circulation, Jeffrey Archer can justly  claim to be one of the world's all-time bestselling novelists. From his first  book way back in 1976 - rejected by fifteen publishers - to his current  worldwide hit The  Sins Of The Father - his writer's journey has been a wild ride of  extremes. This absorbing in-depth interview, during which Jeffrey fields  questions both from our panel and from the live audience in the chat room, is  utterly unmissable. No topic is off-limits. Candid, witty and very much the  consummate pro, Jeffrey packs a lifetime of advice into sixty spellbinding  minutes. If you've ever wanted to attend a masterclass in how to become a  bestselling novelist - start listening now.

Dec 24, 202055:02
The World’s Deadliest Country

The World’s Deadliest Country

Get your jabs, people! Our guest (and fixer tonight) is none other than the  great travel writer Tim Butcher -  journalist, war-correspondent and author of the best-selling Blood River: A Journey to Africa's  Broken Heart, which describes his hair-raising attempt to retrace Henry  Morton Stanley's 19th century route up the Congo River.

For the armchair traveler in all of us, Tim will be our escort to the scene  of “the greatest human drama on the planet” – welcome to the Democratic Republic  of the Congo, home to more chaotic warfare than a drunken child can shake his  gun at – and from there, we head to Sierra Leone - arguably the world's poorest  country - in the aftermath of bloody civil war.

Tim doesn’t do tourism – he does travel – the rugged kind. The sort  that Graham Greene did. And Paul Theroux doesn’t

Dec 24, 202001:03:52
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

Elena is friends with Lila, whom hurts Elena in all kinds of ways that  Elena finds fascinating, and painful. Slums, slums, slums, creepy older men, and  not a single moment of levity. Prepare yourself.


From recent débuts to classics, fiction to non-fiction, memoirs,  philosophy, science, history and journalism, Burning Books separates the smoking  from the singeworthy, looking at the pleasures (and pains) of reading, the craft  of writing, the ideas that are at the heart of great novels as well as novels  that try to be great, but don’t quite make it.

Dec 24, 202011:18