Newsletter #15

My newsletter gets sent out 8 times a year – you can subscribe here. This is the newsletter that was sent on 31 October 2019…

Higgs’ Open-All-Hours Octannual Manual #15

A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs

Hallowe’en 2019


Happy Hallowe’en, night creatures. I’ve chosen this most potent of days to open my very own online pop-up shop – it’s called John Higgs’ Signed Book Cupboard.

In previous years I’ve had emails from people wanting to buy signed and dedicated copies of my books as Christmas presents for their loved ones. This year I thought I’d try to both encourage and also automate this practice. So, in my pop-up shop, you can buy personally dedicated copies of most of my books plus a few rarities – such as the last 10 copies of the AI-generated Algohiggs book that was only available from my Future talks a few months back – all at cover price or cheaper.

Were you thinking of gifting one of my books to someone who really should read it? Is there one of my books that you’ve really meant to get around to getting at some point, but you’ve just been crazy busy, and perhaps you should treat yourself now? Are you prepared to hint shamelessly and blatantly to family members about exactly what they should be getting you this Christmas? If so, then this is the shop for you.

The book cupboard will close when the next newsletter arrives, at the winter solstice. The stock is limited and is unlikely to be refreshed because I haven’t really got my head around this shop-running lark. And – each order comes with a specially designed collectable Higgs-bookmark!

It’s not really collectable, I was getting carried away there. But you’ll find the shop here – happy browsing!


The date of Hallowe’en has never been more doom-laden than during 2019, the year it was gifted a totemic, north star-like status in the current British political hoohaa.

The best way to mark this date, I think, is with the poem ‘Impact’ by Deborah Turnbull:

Entry wounds are clean and tidy.
The bullet as a maggot clearing its way
through apple, cleanly breaking skin.

There must be a high chance of surviving
such a miniscule hole in the head,
such a superficial blow to the temple.

The damage purely cosmetic, on the face of it.
A little flesh-coloured filler, and you are good to go.
Barely any mess made, barely any blood spilt.

It’s the hard exit you’ve got to watch;
the back of the head blown wide,
its mash-for-brains chaos. The spatter.

Impact is taken from Deborah’s collection Trial By Scar – you’ll find more details on her website

At some point tonight I’ll read that poem as part of Hexit – an online audio “distributed magical working designed to strike at the spirit of Brexit”. The Hexit website will explain more about that.


Readers of this newsletter will probably remember the RAF Benevolent Fund logo, aka the Albion roundel, which I talked about recently. One reader who was totally paying attention was Robin from Bristol, who came to the last talk I gave in Brighton and gifted me an Albion roundel riot shield she had made. What a fantastic thing! I am now totally Brexit-ready, as the adverts advised.

Thanks to Cass Sutton for the photo of me heroically auditioning for a role in Captain Albion (if that’s a thing). Also thanks to Librarian Will for presenting me with a mask of my own face that evening which, although I didn’t immediately grasp this, is something of a headfuck.

These inspired and beautifully made gifts are examples of the sort of unexpected, unpredictable things that result from going out and giving talks. I’m not expecting to do much public stuff in 2020 – aside from the Tate Britain Blake Now event in January – so I will miss things like this. Rest assured I’m hoping be back doing endless talks in 2021.

I’ve only got a couple more talks lined up this year – the Black Box in Belfast on November 24, and Lavenham Literary Festival on November 16. I’m not saying you should come along with surprise gifts to those events. Even if I was thinking it, I wouldn’t say it. But do come along if you can, for who knows what may happen?

On an unrelated note, if you are unfamiliar with the album Rushes by The Fireman (aka Paul McCartney and Youth), I will attempt to persuade you to make it part of your life when you listen to this episode of I Am The Eggpod.


The nights are drawing in, it is getting dark and uncertainty is everywhere. And yet, I keep finding more and more positivity and optimism sprouting like weeds in our culture of doom. Are the clouds lifting, and is this becoming a trend? Either way it will do no harm, I think, to have a quick blast from the optimism hose. Here’s a few links that are probably tonally at odds with your regular news media intake:

This episode of the Cracked Podcast, The End-Of-The-World Mentality (And Why That’s Ridiculous), is a great listen for anyone for who is drawn to end-of-the-world thinking.

I’ve just read This Could Be Our Future by Yancey Strickler, the ex-CEO and co-founder of Kickstarter. It’s about the flaws in making decisions based on short-term financial maximalisation – the unfortunate default in our culture – and how to avoid thinking like this. Heartily recommended!

It didn’t receive much of a fanfare, but it’s still worth celebrating: UK non-nuclear renewables have, for the first time, generated more electricity than fossil fuels. There’s a lot of reasons for optimism about how quickly renewables are growing at the moment.

Out Of All This Blue, the new single by The Waterboys, seems entirely in sync with this list.

And while we’re at it, it’s worth noting that optimism is good for the heart, according to a huge meta-analysis of 300,000 people.

Until next time – enjoy the night, you wild heathen critters you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.