I agree with Misha Glenny. It’s important. We need to know about the history of China. That was why I spent 6 years researching the Beijing Spring of 1979, the Stars Art Movement, the birth of the Democracy Movement and what happened next. Then I spent a further three years writing Brushstrokes in Time and another year working with Katie Isbester of Claret Press.  That is how much I believe Misha Glenny is right.


It’s a pleasure to receive a new box of books to take to talks include the one tonight at Kidlington Library.  It means people are recommending Brushstrokes in Time. It has to sell by word of mouth because Claret Press, while a fabulous little traditional publishing company, is Indie. It helps that the poet, artist and Oxford lecturer, Dr Jenny Lewis has endorsed it thus,

‘For me, it has to be among my top ten historical novels, certainly of this century. Utterly mesmerising and unforgettable…’ 

If you want to know the historical events that inspired  it,  filmmaker Andy Cohen found 40 minutes of contemporary film about the Stars (1979) and used it in Beijing Spring   Lots of pics from 1979 .

Trailer link:

I spent three years interviewing the artist, Qu Leilei, who is the hero of Andy’s film. His life experiences inform the background detail to my novel. The Clenched Fist in the pic was one of his 1979 ground breaking works of art. Fortunately Brushstrokes in Time won’t date. I believe more people everywhere will become aware of the courageous Stars artists.

It’s important to try to understand China and its history. I’m reading Chris Patten’s Hong Kong Diaries. He’s critical of the dynasty but is not anti-China and in no way stereotypes even leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. That is the tone I’ve set in BIT.

One of the locations in my novel is this house in the grounds of the Summer Palace where Leilei’s father the author Qu Bo worked.


I never met Qu Leilei’s  father but was privileged to meet his mother and hear her epic stories.