First-Day Cover of stamp issued to commemorate the start of the Civil War

This year Easter Sunday fell on the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In the previous few days the UK, whose lingering racial problems relate to the export of empire, rather than the import of slaves, had released an inquiry commissioned by the Johnson government to prove there was no “institutional racism” in the UK (spoiler: it purported to do just that, but didn’t). In America, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that in response to what some might consider institutional racism in Georgia’s Republican legislature passing a raft of bills aimed at the returning the…


Tavernier at Beaune, 2009, where In The Electric Mist won the Grand Prix

With the death of Bertrand Tavernier we have lost a master, one of the seminal presences in film for most of my lifetime. I interviewed him when he came to London in September 2008 to accept the first Master award as guest of honour at the late, lamented Crime Scene festival, which also mounted a retrospective of his (mostly) crime films at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. After we met in the ICA cafe, we were led through a kitchen, up a tiny works elevator, and through a maze of narrow corridors that made me feel like Eddie Constantine navigating…


Te Rehutai leading Luna Rossa in Auckland

One of the world’s greatest sporting events kicked off March 10 in Auckland, New Zealand, the two finalists splitting their first two races. It’s the 36th America’s Cup, a sailing challenge race that goes all the way back to 1851. It has what must be the world’s longest winning streak, a 132-year domination by the United States, specifically the New York Yacht Club, against the combined sailors of the rest of the world. With some advantages, as they were often able to control the racing terms and settings.

The defenders are Team New Zealand (or Emirates Team New Zealand, a…


Ferlinghetti, around the time of this interview

In Britain, the chase for the Poet Laureate’s job resembles a literary Grand National. Bookies quote odds. Possibilities range from Pam Ayers to Benjamin Zepheniah, virtually everyone except Jacques Santer. Writers write themselves out of consideration, or audition with royal subject matter to try to write themselves in. Vitriol follows verse as literary gossip columns study the form in ways that would make the Racing Post blush. Who’s lobbying whom? Whose connections are better? Who’s Irish? Is it time for the first woman laureate? Who has skeletons in the closet? Do you even have to be British?

The only thing…


Keats at Wentworth House

Today marks the 200th anniversary of John Keats’ death in Rome, in a small flat above the Spanish Steps. It reminded me of something I’d written many years ago, on my very first trip to London. It was December 14, 1972; my friend Blake and I were living in a cold-water room in Muswell Hill, and that day we walked over to Highgate and across Hampstead Heath to visit the house in what is now called Keats Grove where he lodged with his friend Charles Brown at Wentworth House, and where Fanny Brawne was his next-door neighbour. …


Reflections on the New South and the Old

(Jessica McGowan/Getty)

In 1973 I was teaching a course at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, about 80 miles south of the Confederate capital of Richmond. I was staying at a boarding house, and one evening I came back and the lady who ran the house was watching the news. I stood in the doorway for a second, watching a report on the mayoral race in Atlanta between Maynard Jackson, who would become the city’s first black mayor, and the incumbent, Sam Massell. She saw me there and pointed to the screen.

“Will you look at that,” she said. “A big ol’ city…


cover for the first edition

In 1938, E.M. Forster wrote that, if asked to choose between ‘betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’. You might look at John LeCarre’s work, particularly the books now known as the ‘Smiley novels’ as a profound examination of that point of view, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as its apotheosis. The novel was published in 1975, and the justifiably renowned television adaptation was shown in 1979. It may strike some as foolhardy to make a film of Tinker Tailor now, but in three decades our world has changed…


After almost six years of campaigning and presidency, suddenly Donald Trump is being denounced by both the political and media mainstreams as an aberration within America’s political process. This tsunami of opinion was triggered not by his refusal to promise, in his debates against first Hillary Clinton and then Joe Biden, to accept the election results, but by his last-ditch rallying cry to his hard-core supporters, which now puts some Republicans whose allegiance to Trump had wavered, to repudiate their support of someone they perceive as likely to drag their party down with him for an election cycle to come…


I wrote this essay on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s murder, in 2013, for the London Library magazine. On the 57th anniversary, it remains relevant.

If you are of a certain age, you will remember. It was 50 years ago, 22 November 1963 and, with respect to Philip Larkin, a moment more influential than the Beatles’ first hit. We were sent home from school that Friday afternoon; President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. We watched Sunday’s live television news coverage as Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin, was gunned down by Jack Ruby. Life magazine declared Oswald…


Tommy Heinsohn, 1957 NBA Finals

If you’re somewhat younger than me, your only memories of Tommy Heinsohn may be as an announcer, bringing you Boston Celtics’ games with the fervour of a true homer. Of course that means you’re too young to remember Johnny Most, the gravelly-voiced King of the Homers, whose famous “Havlicek stole the ball!” call outweighs all his “they’re murdering (Russ or Cowens or Jojo or Bird or Parish or whomever was wearing green) in there!” displays of partisan torment. Heinsohn was different. …

Michael Carlson

Yank doing life w/out parole as UK broadcaster & writer. @carlsonsports. Covers arts, books, film, music, politics & uh, sports. Accept no substitutes

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store