My next book has just been announced in The Bookseller – it’s called EXTERMINATE/REGENERATE: THE STORY OF DOCTOR WHO.

It’s out in 2025 but it’s available for pre-order now, if you want to be kind to your future self in a timey-wimey manner.

I’ll talk more about this in my next newsletter – but for now, here’s the press release:


Doctor Who behaves in a way quite unlike any other fictional character. For sixty years the Doctor has sat at the heart of British culture and rewired the imaginations of generations. Yet no one person invented this strange character, and no one person controls them. They emerged from the space between many minds, able to evolve and adapt to our fast-changing world more skillfully than any other fiction.

The story of Doctor Who is a story of change, mystery and the role of imaginary characters in our lives. It is also the story of the thousands of people who have given part of themselves – and sometimes, too much of themselves – in order to bring this folk hero to life. Ncuti Gatwa, Russell T Davies and Disney+ are currently placing this glorious, imaginative and perfectly ludicrous British character at the heart of global culture, so it is time to acknowledge that the life of Doctor Who is far stranger, profound and uncanny than we usually assume.

Jenny Lord, Executive Publisher of Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Orion Literary, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in EXTERMINATE/REGENERATE by John Higgs from Sarah Ballard at United Agents.

Jenny Lord says: ‘Sixty years after the birth of Doctor Who, I can think of no better writer to tell us the full story of how this fictional character continues to endure so many decades on. Both playful and profound, grounded and uncanny, EXTERMINATE/REGENERATE will be a delightful and fascinating biography for our age.’

John Higgs says: ‘The question of how something as joyous, absurd and mythic as Doctor Who came to exist is an endlessly fascinating one. Real life is stranger than fiction, but the real-life events that came together to create this fiction are the strangest of all. Doctor Who is the unholy marriage of extraordinary people seduced by wild imagination, and it’s a great pleasure to celebrate its ever-evolving story.’


EXTERMINATE/REGENERATE: The Story of Doctor Who by John Higgs will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in hardback, audio and ebook in spring 2025.


One of my great joys this year has been working with Ian Broudie on his autobiography – which has now landed in a book shop near you:

Ian’s story goes from stumbling into Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus! play, producing bands like Echo & The Bunnymen and The Fall, the glorious uplifting psychedelic pop of the Lightning Seeds and, of course, writing the only single to go to number one four times. As the blurb explains, in the book he tells what he has learnt about creativity, how to work with musicians touched by genius and what it is like to stumble through an exploding industry without losing sight of your dreams.

Photo by at Resident Records

Here’s me and Ian celebrating the launch of the book at Resident Records in Brighton. It does look like I’m serenading him, doesn’t it? Bursting into ‘I’ve Got You Babe’ when the feeling strikes is never wrong.

I learnt tons from spending time with Ian this year, because his insights and his understanding of creativity is an education. I hope you enjoy his story – you can find it here.

10th Anniversary Edition of THE KLF

The KLF 10th anniversary edition

A new edition of The KLF is out now in the UK. You can’t miss it, it’s a bright pink and yellow hardback, to celebrate that book’s 10th anniversary in the entirely appropriate year 2023. I’ve added an author’s commentary – 13,000 words of footnotes, in which I look back at the book after a decade and see what I make of it. You’ll find it at BookshopUK, your local independent book sellers, and all the usual places. An ideal gift for someone who needs to be more confused, and a great replacement if you’ve lent you copy to someone and, lets face it, you’re never getting that back. Find it before it finds you!

Newsletter Housekeeping

I’ve heard from a couple of people who signed up to my newsletter but, for reasons unfathomable, have not been receiving them. This has given me the kick I needed to move my mailing list over to Substack, on the grounds that every other critter out there seems to be favouring Substack. Don’t worry, this isn’t an excuse to start charging for these things – the newsletter will still be free and there’s no plans for that to change.

Now, in theory all this will be entirely painless and nothing can remotely go wrong. I’ll be sending out my next newsletter tomorrow so – we’ll see! If you’re already subscribed, you shouldn’t notice anything different, but do shout if there’s a problem.

This also means that I’ll stop archiving old newsletters here – they’ll be available instead at

Newsletter #32

Newsletter #32

A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here.

Shortest Day 2021 

Happy darkest day!

Massive thanks to all of you who donated to my pre-Christmas Shelter appeal – it raised a handsome £1799 for the housing and homelessness charity. 1799 was the year of William Blake’s famous letter to Dr Trussler in which he writes, “As a man is, so he sees”, so you are all impressively on-brand.

As promised, I will thank you all in my next book Love And Let Die, and also pick one person who donated at random to dedicate this book to. All the names were put into the hat this morning and my daughter Lia was tasked with picking one out, on the grounds that she has an honest face.

We did try and get the cat to do it, but he wasn’t having it.

And the name out of the hat was – Jon Smith! Now, Jon Smith did not leave his email address when he donated on JustGiving, so I have no way to get in touch to let him know – so if you’re reading this Jon Smith, please get in touch! I assume from the spelling of ‘Jon’ that this is not Doctor Who using their usual alias, but you can never be totally sure.

The only problem with all this is that I will now feel incredibly guilty dedicating books to people in the future, now I know that this could have been the best part of a couple of grand to a homeless charity. But – that’s a problem for future days. Note though that you can still donate, and any late donations will still get their names in the ‘thanks’ section.

My big news is – I delivered my next book to the publishers yesterday!

This was a huge deal for me, and my brain is now basically mush. I had thought James Bond and the Beatles would be a light, fun thing to do after a few years deeply into Blake, but the book had other ideas. It kept growing and growing. Every time I went to cut bits out and trim it, it somehow ended up longer. It’s currently a third longer than previous books, and I don’t trust it not to expand more when I’m not looking.

Because of the mush-brain I don’t have a huge amount of new words here, but I have yakked plenty in recent podcasts. The following three are well worth a listen:

I returned to I Am The Eggpod to discuss the Beatles’ singles with Chris Shaw. Not that poor Chris was able to get much of a word in – I was deep in the book when it was recorded, and hence had a lot of enthusiasm and ranting to get off my chest. But if you can’t over-enthusiastically rant about the Beatles’ singles, then what can you rant about? The episode works as a prequel to Peter Jackson’s Get Back, and gives context to that month in 1969. The Eggpod, incidentally, will be doing near-daily January episodes for the planned real-time Get Back watchalong, more on that here…

I also really enjoyed talking to Jamie Dodds for the F23 podcast – this was one of those conversations that quickly headed into unexpected areas, which are always the good ones. In this case we talked a lot about forgiveness, before we were interrupted by a much-missed figure. Have a listen here.

And finally – there’s John Higgs’s Unruly Radio. I did my own podcast. Sort of. This was an excuse to play you some winter and Christmas records, using the talk + music thing you can do with Spotify. It’s a Spotify playlist interspersed with talk, readings and thoughts, basically, and as such is only available on the Spotify app. That’s not ideal I know, and if anyone knows of another, legal, way to do something similar, please let me know. But for now – think of it as a surprise audio postcard. I’ve yet to decide if there will be more like this but – we’ll see. Hope you like it.

Here’s something from Magda Knight of Mookychick, which might interest:

“Co-editor Rym Kechacha and I have created and curated Lore & Disorder, a charity anthology of mutated folklore and folk horror fiction featuring 13 wyrd and wonderful tales by 13 authors at the top of their game in digital format. It’s a pay-what-you-can donation system (including free, for those who can’t afford to donate).  All proceeds go to the foodbank charity Fareshare, because too many people are going to have to make a tough choice between heat and food this winter.”

The anthology, with donation link: – worth a look I reckon.

After I wrote about the forthcoming documentary Who Killed The KLF in my last newsletter, I had a call from Bill Drummond’s manager Cally – which is always a pleasure.

He wanted to say that it was not the case that the KLF were against the film, as I had written. Bill and Jimmy are, he tells me, ambivalent about it, and uninterested in it, but not against it. The legal action against it is down to him, he said, on the grounds that this is his job – he is responsible for making sure previously signed contracts are honoured, and that they are “active and watertight”.

So there you go – that’s probably as close to official word as we’ll get: The KLF aren’t ‘against’ the film, so you may now see it with a clear conscience. Just don’t expect to find Cally in the cinema with you.

That’s all for 2021. Not a year that anyone liked, let’ s be honest, but I hope it had a few golden personal moments that you’ll look back on and smile. One such moment for me was Kae Tempest agreeing to read the words for the hymn Jerusalem in their original context, as part of the preface to Blake’s Milton. You can see that here – it’s well worth revisiting. A year which had moments like that can’t be all bad.

Merry Christmas!

Newsletter #31

Newsletter #31

A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here.

Nos Calan Gaeaf 2021 


My next book is called LOVE AND LET DIE: BOND, THE BEATLES AND THE BRITISH PSYCHE, and it will be with you in ten months or so. Here’s some of the blurb:

The Beatles are the biggest band there has ever been. James Bond is the single most successful movie character of all time. They are also twins. Dr No, the first Bond film, and Love Me Do, the first Beatles record, were both released on the same day – Friday 5 October 1962. Most countries can only dream of a cultural export becoming a worldwide phenomenon on this scale. For Britain to produce two on the same windy October afternoon is unprecedented.

LOVE AND LET DIE is a story about two opposite aspects of the British psyche exploding into global culture. It is a clash between working class liberation and establishment control, told over a period of sixty dramatic years. It is also an account of our aspirations and fantasies, and of competing visions of male identity. Looking at these cultural touchstones again in this new context will forever change your understanding of the Beatles, the James Bond films, and six decades of British culture.

There’s more about it here.

But I know what you’re thinking – who will this book be dedicated to? Well, it might well be dedicated to you, if that so pleases. It will certainly be dedicated to someone who makes a donation to Shelter ahead of Christmas, and it would be great if that was you.

There’s a page up on JustGiving that has all the details, please click over there and see what you think. Anything you could do to help spread the word would be much apprectiated. Everyone who donates will get thanked in the book.

I mention on that JustGiving page that the person the book will be dedicated to will be drawn from a hat. I thought you might want to see exactly which hat. I know what you’re like for hats. It is this fella here:


Like many, I was hit hard this week by news of the death of Claudia Boulton. Claudia played Eris the Goddess of Chaos and Discord in the play of Cosmic Trigger – and pretty much in real life, also.

I wanted to share this photo, taken by David Bramwell, from the last time I saw her, at the Blame Blake event in Sheffield in August. This was from her ‘Tabletop William Blake’ talk.

I can only describe it as a magnificent shambles that I am lucky to have seen. I can’t quite recall now why putting a box on her head was part of a talk about Blake, but I’m sure there was a reason.

All emotions are mixed, even something like grief. For all its weight, it is mixed up with the awareness that you had that person in your life, so it can never be 100% dark. The huge outpouring of love for Claudia I’ve been seeing these past days is a reminder of how much someone can impact on people, simply by being resolutely and unshakeably themselves. It’s also been an illustration of how loss, just like life, is a communal experience. Much love to all who knew her. She taught us all that, when you get the cosmic joke, it never stops being funny.

For those missing her, and indeed for those who never knew her, a listen to her conversation with Jamie Dodds on the F23 podcast is highly recommended.


I’m being asked a lot about the forthcoming KLF documentary, especially after the Guardian article about it.

I’ve lost track now of the number of times I’ve been approached by filmmakers who wanted to option the rights to my KLF book. It’s still happening in 2021, nearly a decade after that book first appeared. I respond by saying that I’d only agree if the filmmaker (a) had Bill and Jimmy’s approval and (b) the rights to use their music. Typically, I am assured that they will definitely get these things, then I never hear from that filmmaker again.

The one filmmaker who didn’t disappear was Chris Atkins. He was the guy who made Starsuckers, an exposé of how Murdoch and the British tabloid press works, which led to him giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry. He also made Taking Liberties, about the erosion of UK civil liberties after the Iraq war, and UKIP: The First 100 Days, which received more complaints than any other programme that year – the majority from Britain First members.

Atkins, clearly, has a thing for making powerful enemies. It is something you can imagine a therapist would want to talk to him about at length. In his defence he does choose his enemies well.

It had long been clear to me that someone would make a KLF film eventually – because people are still trying to process what it was that they did. The real question was whether that film would do them justice, or catch their spirit. Atkins was not in the slightest bit troubled that Bill and Jimmy did not want him making a KLF film, or that I wouldn’t option the book. He just ploughed ahead and made his film regardless, funding it himself, and delving deep into the technicalities of ‘fair-use’ copyright exceptions. There was something of Ken Campbell about the pig-headed way he ignored the difficulties and just did the work.

It was pretty obvious to me very early on that Atkins was the guy. He was the one filmmaker stubborn enough to see this through. He was also the one filmmaker who seemed to be driven by motivations that were just outside of the rational, like the cast of the wider story in my KLF book.

I still didn’t option him my book, but I wished him well and did an on-camera interview for his film. This was around 2015 or thereabouts, before I started turning down requests for interviews about the KLF. Full disclosure – I got £200 and a sandwich for doing the interview, sadly long spent. And eaten.

And then Atkins went to jail. His crime was falsifying invoices for the funders of Starsuckers. He is open about his guilt here, but it does seem odd to me that a director was jailed for five years because of how a documentary was funded. I do wonder if it would have happened if he hadn’t made quite so many enemies in the British establishment. But that’s probably just my paranoia – it was, after all, a very Chris Atkins-like thing to happen.

In jail, he became a ‘listener’, working with the other prisoners and their problems. When he got out, he wrote a book about this, A Bit Of A Stretch, which is very readable, empathetic and humane. Then he finished his KLF documentary.

Now, Bill and Jimmy are very much against this film and have taken legal action to try to stop it being shown at film festivals. Don’t think from that, though, that it’s a hatchet job, or it doesn’t do them justice, or it is in some way unfair or against them. Or at least, it isn’t to my eyes – I saw a nearly complete edit a while back and thought it was really well done. If you think of it as a version of my book for people who don’t read books, you’re probably not that far off.

Bill and Jimmy, of course, are very much against it and don’t want it released. The idea that public figures get to vet who tells their story, however, is not one I’m comfortable with. Perhaps that’s professional bias on my part, and I certainly understand why they were unhappy with the BBC documentary in the 1990s. But when artists do stuff that the wider culture can learn from, people need to talk about it and pass the story on. That’s not a process you can or should control. The KLF did, after all, tour a film of themselves burning a million pounds around the country and asked for reactions. They didn’t ask for reactions only from carefully vetted and approved individuals.

I know some long-term KLF fans are uncomfortable about Warner’s lawyers attempting to ‘protect their copyright’, and the heavy irony involved with that. But as a plot twist, it’s a stance which is so wrong that, in the larger story, it seems entirely right. Together with the whole saga of Atkins going to jail, the story of the KLF documentary is unfolding in a borderline ridiculous, larger-than-life way that seems tonally perfect for the larger myth. To my mind, there was always going to be a film, and it seems right that it’s this one.

The film should appear in the not-to-far future at cinemas in the UK. Unless of course, there are more twists yet to reveal themselves…


Just to say before I go – I’ve you’re curious about the Facebook/Meta rebrand, it’s worth reading chapter 6 of my book The Future Starts Here. Its basic argument is that yes, the whole VR/AR thing is going to happen, but heaven help us if Facebook control it.

Have a great Hallowe’en! If you need a suitable soundtrack for tonight, may I suggest Two Fingers by Sea Power?

See you at Midwinter,


Magical Mystery Tour coach and Aston Martin DB5

My next book – Love And Let Die

I am delighted to finally announce my next book. It is called LOVE AND LET DIE. Here’s how it is described in the official press release:

The Beatles are the biggest band there has ever been. James Bond is the single most successful movie character of all time. They are also twins. Dr No, the first Bond film, and Love Me Do, the first Beatles record, were both released on the same day – Friday 5 October 1962. Most countries can only dream of a cultural export becoming a worldwide phenomenon on this scale. For Britain to produce two on the same windy October afternoon is unprecedented.

LOVE AND LET DIE is a story about two opposite aspects of the British psyche exploding into global culture. It is a clash between working class liberation and establishment control, told over a period of sixty dramatic years. It is also an account of our aspirations and fantasies, and of competing visions of male identity. Looking at these cultural touchstones again in this new context will forever change your understanding of the Beatles, the James Bond films, and six decades of British culture.

When Paul McCartney was asked to sum up the Beatles in the mid-1990s, he said they were about love. “It was all done in the name of love, and about love, and I’m very proud of that,” he explained. From first single Love Me Do to their posthumous final single Real Love, through songs like All You Need Is Love which was the soundtrack to the 1967 Summer of Love, McCartney’s assessment is hard to argue with.

While the Beatles represent love, James Bond films represent death. What makes Bond different from other spies in that he has a license to kill. From films like Live And Let Die to A View To A Kill, Die Another Day or his latest adventure No Time To Die, Bond is an assassin who has official permission to kill anyone he wants.

The Beatles and the Bond films, then, can be seen as cultural representations of love and death playing out in front of a worldwide audience. Freudian psychologists refer to love and death as Eros and Thanatos, the two competing drives behind human behaviour. Physicists will tell you that when a particle is created, an opposite anti-particle is created at the same time, to keep the universe in balance. Love and Death are opposites but, as William Blake tells us, “Without contraries is no progression”.

Putting these two stories together throws up a host of new perspectives on two of the most implausible cultural stories of recent history. There is a larger story playing out here – as those who have staggered out of No Time To Die shocked by the ending, or those trying to reconcile Peter Jackson’s Get Back with the original Let It Be movie, may already suspect.

LOVE AND LET DIE will be published in hardback, ebook and audiobook in September 2022, in time for the 5 October 2022 sixtieth anniversary of Beatles records and James Bond films. Keep an eye on my newsletter for more updates. Oh, and if anyone is thinking of forming a Beatles tribute band that plays Bond themes – called The Bondles – let me know and we’ll talk about the book launch…

Yellow Submarine and underwater Lotus Esprit
Under The Skin podcast

Newsletter #30

A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here.

Autumn equinox 2021   

Hello all – somehow it’s autumn already. Hope this finds you well.

I’ve been thinking recently about the time I met Robert Anton Wilson back in 2004. In particular I was remembering his health, as he was suffering from a flare-up of post-polio syndrome at the time and found it difficult to stand. He had contracted the horrible muscle wasting disease polio as a child in the 1930s, and it was thought that he wouldn’t survive.

I had never met anyone who had had polio before. Talk of the disease seemed a little unreal, as if he had caught leprosy or the Black Death or some other horror which, to those of us in the wealthy west, are found only in history books.

In desperation, Wilson’s parents had him treated by a method developed by the Australian nurse Sister Elizabeth Kenny – who the American Medical Association dismissed as a quack, peddling a ‘cure’ that was little more than snake-oil. Yet despite the perspective of the establishment, the treatment meant that Wilson survived and largely recovered. Sister Kenny’s ideas were eventually developed into the science of physiotherapy.

Sister Elizabeth Kenny

All this taught Wilson that experts and organisations could indeed be wrong, and it helped establish the healthy scepticism that framed his intellectual life. This is a perspective that is easy to accept here in Britain, where we have a system that is notorious for putting people who are not the brightest in positions of authority. Our last three foreign secretaries, for example, have been Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Liz Truss. This does not inspire confidence.

If you’ve read my book The Future Starts Here, you’ll recall that some of it deals with the collapse in trust we have to deal with now – not just because of the establishment chumocracy, but also because of how the business models of the media and the algorithms of social media work. The book looks at the extent to which our own personal relationships with others – and in particular, meeting people in real life rather than just online – have become increasingly important. This is exactly what we’ve been unable to do during these last 18 months or so. We probably all know people who have gone a bit wrong during this time.

We all went a bit mad during lockdown, of course. We’ve been living with a degree of stress which may have been low-level at times, but which has been constant for a prolonged period. In the circumstances, a bit of crazy is not surprising. What I’m talking about here is when people come to identify with certain beliefs so strongly that they immediately react with anger if people see things differently. This is never a good sign, especially when it leads to people cutting others out of their lives.

I mention this because Wilson’s embrace of scepticism has led to some of his quotes being taken up by the anti-vax movement. As his daughter has stressed, Wilson would not have been an anti-vaxxer. He lived to see the widespread roll out of polio vaccines after the war, which led to children growing up in a country almost entirely devoid of the disease that nearly killed him. He wished he had been able to receive the vaccine himself as a child, instead of enduring the pain caused by the after effects of the illness throughout his life. Wilson was sceptical, but he wasn’t stupid.

xkcd vaccine research

It wasn’t just the polio vaccine that saved countless lives – the disfiguring and frequently fatal smallpox was wiped out by 1980 thanks to a global vaccination programme. Currently, millions are being vaccinated against Yellow Fever in West Africa, and there are hopes for a new vaccine against malaria. If the saving of a human life is a thing to be valued, then vaccinations are one of the greatest of all human healthcare achievements. Even the most committed anti-vaxxer benefits massively from the immunisations taken by previous generations.

The miracle of vaccines, however, is not a story that social media is likely to promote. An issue here is that the success of vaccines is abstract and invisible, which makes them just the sort of thing that our brains are bad at factoring in. We are hardwired to pay more attention to the tale of a friend of a friend who had a funny turn after being vaccinated than we are the tens of thousands of unspecified people who did not die because they had their jabs.

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the way ideas lurk in our brains and seem entirely reasonable until the moment we open our mouths and say them out loud. Only then do we realise how daft they are. This is why speaking to people in real life is very different to typing at people online. The problem is amplified by the way online algorithms connect you with people who already agree with you – and indeed are probably a bit more extreme and committed in these thoughts.

As blind spots go, the massive life saving effects of vaccines is a significant one. We all have blind spots and areas that we fail to factor into our thinking, but the huge falls in death and disease among vaccinated people takes some overlooking. Blind spots like these are exactly the sort of things that friends in real life will point out to you, but which online discourse will keep hidden. A friend in a pub is free to pull a face and say, “I dunno, that sounds like bollocks to me” without causing offence, yet your reaction is very different if someone types that response online.

It’s still not as simple as it was to connect with people in real life, of course. Even protected by vaccines, we have to constantly be aware of the danger we might pose to people with compromised immune systems. But if you know someone who has become isolated – especially if they have isolated themselves to avoid the views of others – then consider reaching out. They may not be ready to connect again just yet, but ultimately we all need to see ourselves reflected in other people.


Since my last newsletter, I’ve been a guest on Russell Brand’s Under The Skin podcast. I think the idea was that I would talk about Blake, but needless to say it ended up being far more random and rambly than that. I think you might enjoy it. You’ll need a Luminary subscription to listen to the full thing, but note that there is a free trial if you want to just nip in to hear this. I’ve also been talking about Blake on the Some Other Sphere podcast, which was lot of fun.

If you missed the Campfire Blake online event, that is now online for you to watch here. I talk with Daisy Campbell in a portion of this, which is always a joy.

I’m looking forward to the Laugharne Weekender in Wales at the beginning of October – the line-up is stellar. It’s sold out alas but if you have tickets, I’ll be talking about Blake on Sunday 3 October, at “2pm or possibly 1pm”. Hope to see you then.

Here’s a headmashing article about Blake and AI that I wrote for Big Issue North – it includes some freaky Blakean imagery created by Shardcore.

Thanks to International Times – and David Erdos – for reviewing William Blake Vs The World with a poem.


If you are struggling with the issue of purpose in life – the vexing question of what it is that you’re actually supposed to be doing – then I can heartily recommend a new book by my wife Joanne Mallon, which is beautifully designed, very wise, and deals with this exact issue. It is called Find Your Why – and not, as the author keeps insisting, Find Your Wine.

In previous newsletters, you may recall mention of a wild, strange and transformative pilgrimage from the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset to the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Accounts of this journey by some of the 69 pilgrims involved have been collected by Jeff Merrifield and form a new book called Immanentizing The Eschaton. It is required reading for those who suspect something important happened on that journey, and also those who were there but who are still trying to get their heads around what happened. Currently you can only get the book from Jeff directly, who you can reach by emailing mythologies23 (at) gmail dot com. His book on the underground temples of Damanhur, however, can be found on Amazon.

And finally – it’s almost time for me to start talking about my next book. I know! There will be more about this in my next newsletter, but I can say that the book will be announced on 5 October, so not long now. Until then, I will leave you with this mockup image of an underwater Lotus Esprit passing a Yellow Submarine. Until next time!


Yellow Submarine Lotus Esprit