Hawaii at War

Hawaii was in the middle of nowhere but Hawaii was America and so, post Boston bombing, it was on edge. "We're at war," the bus driver said, pulling up at the police line. That morning a bomb scare had emptied downtown Honolulu; now a suspicious package outside the Royal Hawaiian Centre had police cordoning off four blocks. On CNN Piers Morgan told the FBI, "Someone's dropped the ball on security," and Republican senators were debating an outrage: the surviving Boston bomber had been read his Miranda rights, and would answer no further questions without a lawyer. He should have been treated as an enemy combatant, questioned without a lawyer, had his wounds poked, his painkillers withheld. America was in no mood for acting nice. Piers Morgan's eyes narrowed. "In fact," he said, "someone has dropped two massive balls."

Beautiful Hawaii: it's where you used to stop to refuel on the way to L.A. and Europe, Honolulu a smeared blur through glass, tropical, fragrant, steamy and always left behind, just flashes of colour as the plane banked over the mountains and away. How pretty and vulnerable it must have looked to the Japanese pilots on December 7th 1941 as they flew over Pearl Harbour with their murderous payload. That morning in 1941 the incoming Japanese planes made a large, sinister blip on Hawaiian radar, but the lieutenant in charge dropped a massive ball on security, blithely telling his men the signal must be American supply planes flying in. Now Pearl Harbour, still a large and active military base, has tight security for its memorial to the destroyed USS Arizona, where the bodies of nine hundred men lie, and a brisk trade in mementoes: Pearl Harbour key rings, hats, trinkets, baseballs, and American flags.



"A tightly plotted, incisive depiction of the corrosive effects of power.." - Publishers' Weekly 

"A truly riveting novel." The Globe and Mail, Canada

"A stunning acheivement." The Vancouver Sun

"Opening the pages of Charlotte Grimshaw's new novel Soon is akin to tilting the blinds in a dim room; the razor-sharp precision of her words floods your mind with crisp, searing light, such is the vivid clarity of her prose." - One News TVNZ 

"Soon is a sly, masterly novel." - Malcolm Forbes, The Literary Review UK

"An efficient, coolly poetic tale of Auckland's glitterati....darkly comic...paced like a classy thriller, it slips down as easily as the Hallwrights' dirty gin cocktails." The List UK

"One of the ten best reads for summer." Red Magazine UK

"You shouldn't get the impression that Soon is simply political satire... Grimshaw is going deeper... Soon's almost a thriller, going places that you didn't expect - a thriller with real ethical weight. - Philip Matthews, Metro

"Full of delicious political and social satire." The Daily Mail UK


On HHhH, by Laurent Binet

The Life of Life

I spent time getting things ready for my daughter's pre-ball party. Then I relaxed for an hour, reading about the Nazis. It was Laurent Binet's historical novel, HHhH, about Reinhard Heydrich, the Hangman of Prague, the high-ranking Nazi who devised the methods for murdering the Jews on an industrial scale. I came upon this detail: when a brave assassin confronted Heydrich on a Prague street, the gun jammed. One theory is that it jammed because the assassin had been carrying it hidden in a box of grass, and the grass had got into its workings. Why would he be carrying the gun in a box of grass? Because many Czechs kept rabbits, and collected plants from the city parks to feed them.


The Psychology of Cities

Visiting East Hastings Street
On the Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland my mind was on American cities – orderly Seattle, mild in the dreamy rain, Portland with its bookshops, cycle lanes and sustainable housing – and I was reading about another kind of city, a cold, fantastical, intimidating metropolis: the world capital Germania, seat of power of the thousand year Reich.
Before World War Two, Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, designed for him the new Berlin. Germania was to embody the extraordinary power of a regime that had fulfilled its need for Lebensraum and would now rule the world. The design was monumental, gigantic and militaristic. In his book Speer, The Final Verdict, Joachim Fest describes Speer's plan for the new capital as "despotic architecture, that, for all its high aims, never got beyond demonstrating naked power...one cannot overlook the excessive rage of this architecture, nor the hysterical trait inherent to it."


Charlotte Grimshaw BBC TV Interview

Charlotte Grimshaw talks to Nick Higham on the BBC TV's Meet the Author


Me and James K Baxter

The Real New Zealand 

This month I received an email from a British man who's making a documentary about the "real New Zealand." He was, he said, interested in New Zealand themes: extreme sports, Maori culture, wine, conservation, manuka honey, sheep. But above all he wanted to meet real New Zealanders. He listed some he'd heard about, including a champion sheep shearer who can hypnotise sheep and blow up trees. Could I supply some Kiwis like that? They didn't all have to be eccentric, he said, but it would help.I was eager to help, but did I know the sort of person who could blow up a tree, or hypnotise sheep? (Why did this person blow up trees? Was that actually legal?) I couldn't organise him a powhiri. Obviously I would rather die than take him bungy jumping. It was hard to come up with a reply. I imagined emailing London: "I want the real Britain. Can you tee me up with a Beefeater, a Hooray Henry, a minor Royal. Plus I'd love to see a really serious football riot, and meet some jihadists from Bradford..."


Queen Elizabeth's Day


She starts drinking every day before noon. None of her children has a real job. Mired in a culture of entitlement, always needing a handout, she drains the coffers of the state. Her photo looked down at me from the wall of the train: England's top beneficiary, Queen Elizabeth II.

I was on my way to a party thrown by London publishers, Faber. In a huge, hidden garden behind Southampton Row, owned by another monster of entitlement, the Duke of Bedford, the crowd mingled and murmured. There was a striped marquee, there were Chrissie Hynde and Jarvis Cocker, there was Alan Hollinghurst making his solemn way through the green dusk under the trees. The actress Miranda Richardson, looking vague and fey, absent-mindedly stroked the flank of a statue of a leaping fawn.


Bloomsbury Days

Parallel Universe

When I was a child I had disagreements with my mother, as one does. I remember sitting in the bath arguing while she toiled in the next room over some chore to do with my baby sister. There must have been one too many comebacks from me, in the echo chamber of the bathroom. She stormed in, slapped me about the shoulders and shouted, "Animals are not as important as humans!" While capable of much storming and weeping myself, I was oddly unmoved on that occasion, calmly looking up and seeing the displaced steam, whirling and rearranging itself, sucked after her as she raced out the door again.