...and words



Marcus has contributed to several encyclopedias and information books, for publishers such as Grisewood Dempsey and Dorling Kindersley; updated the music sections of the Helicon encyclopedia database; was Music Editor of and contributor to the Spitalfields Festival programme book 1996-2001; and acted as consultant for several DK publications.

In 1999, he was commissioned by the Ivy Press to write Music: A Crash Course, which has been well received and sold well worldwide, and has been translated into German, Spanish, two Chinese languages (don't ask which), and, apparently, Hungarian.

Ivy Press encouraged Marcus to branch out from writing only about the arts, and commissioned him as author for Bad Fairies, Hotel Hobbies, Office Pastimes, the Forget-Me-Knot Calendar, and The Loin King — and as co-author of the rather more serious A Measure of Everything. Since then he’s also been collaborating with the Dark Lord, editing The Devil’s Diaries, the collected journals of Satan, and Old Nick’s self-help guide How to Win Fiends and Influence People, both for Ivy. Other books include Sussex Music, a guide to the music and musicians of Sussex (part of a wonderful series of books about Sussex published by Snake River Press), articles for Dorling Kindersley Definitive Visual Guides to Art and Science, and more recently he he was a contributor to a series of “big ideas simply explained” for DK: The Philosophy Book, The Psychology Book, The Economics Book, The Politics Book, and The Religions Book. The Psychology Book won the British Psychological Society’s Book of the Year Award 2012. He is currently working on Philosophy in Minutes, to be published by Quercus later this year.

He also, when time allows, writes some fiction: a short novel Left to Write (available as an e-book for Kindle), one or two other ongoing projects, and a selection of palindromic poetry (see Palindromes, below).

Select Bibliography

As author:

•How Many Elephants in a Blue Whale?, pub. Barnes & Noble, 2010

•How to Win Fiends and Influence People, pub. The Lyons Press, 2009

•Sussex Music, pub. Snake River Press, March 2008 (with lovely illustrations by Maddy McClellan)

•The Devil’s Diaries, pub. The Lyons Press, 2008

•The Loin King: 366 Sexy and Uplifting Aphrodisiacs to Answer the Call of the Wild, pub. Ivy Press, 2007 (under pseudonym Ryan O’Horn)

•Mozart: The Boy who Changed the World with His Music, pub. National Geographic, 2007

•Forget-Me-Knot Calendar: 365 Ways to Improve Your Memory, pub. Barnes & Noble, 2006

•Office Pastimes: 50 things to do in an office that won't get you a pink slip, pub. Thunder Bay Press, 2006; Ivy Press, 2006

•Hotel Hobbies: 50 things to do in a hotel room that won't get you arrested, pub. Thunder Bay Press, 2005; Ivy Press, 2006

•Bad Fairies, pub. Barron's, 2004 (under pseudonym Fay Langmore)

•Music: A Crash Course, pub. Simon and Schuster, 1999

As co-author:

•A Measure of Everything, pub. Firefly Books, 2005

•1000 Makers of the Millennium, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 1999

As contributor:

•The Religions Book, pub. Dorling Kindersley, August 2013

•The Politics Book, pub. Dorling Kindersley, March 2013

•The Economics Book, pub. Dorling Kindersley, September 2012

•Engineers, pub. Dorling Kindersley, April 2012

•The Psychology Book, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2012

•The Philosophy Book, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2011

•1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, pub. Cassell, 2010

•Help Your Kids with Maths, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2010

•Science: The Definitive Visual Guide, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2009

•Art: The Definitive Visual Guide, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2008

  •    Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia, Fifth edition pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2000

•Millennium Encyclopedia, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 1997

As consultant:

•Guitar, by Richard Chapman, pub. Dorling Kindersley, 2000

•Hutchinson Multimedia Encyclopaedia and database, 1998 (editing and expanding music articles)

As music editor (and occasional contributor)1996-2001:

•Spitalfields Festival Programme Book, published twice-yearly to accompany the music festival in the East End of London.


Marcus has also written a collection of palindromic poems, Reverses (as yet unpublished), which is possibly the largest anthology of Sotadic verse by a single writer in the English language, and contains probably the only examples of palindromic sonnets anywhere. Anyone unfamiliar with Sotadic verse may be bewildered at first by the poems in this slim volume. For those people, perhaps a short explanatory note is in order...

Chambers Dictionary gives:

"Sotadic: pertaining to Sotades, a lascivious and scurrilous Greek poet (fl. 276 BC), or his writings, or his metre; coarse and scurrilous; palindromic."

Sotades was, reputedly, the first palindromic poet; and it's likely that he was not as "lascivious and scurrilous" as Chambers makes out: in fact, it is probably only his poetry that earned him the reputation, and then only because palindromes have an uncanny knack of forcing the poet's pen into provinces it would normally never visit.

No apologies, therefore, are necessary for the frequent references in this collection to unusual sexual practices and alcohol abuse — these are the inevitable results of more innocent ideas and sentiments. Consider for example that, in Palindromia, drawers are always one's reward, and gals are, more often than not, slags. Indeed, all nightlife here seems to revolve around filth and gin.

To whet your appetite, here's a quick Sotadic limerick:

Oh, When Is A Sin, Eh? Who?

Eros, to get a real law,

No riots eyed, as no war;

Desire we rise,

Draw on sad eyes,

To iron wall. Aerate (got sore).

Interested in reading more? Reverses is now available as an eBook for Kindle on Amazon — or email Marcus at marcus@marcusweeks.co.uk, and for a small donation, he'll post or email (please specify in which format) you a copy of the whole collection with explanatory notes.


Marcus learnt to read by spelling out crossword puzzle clues to his blind father, and has continued to enjoy crosswords on a regular basis ever since. As well as tackling the cryptic crossword in the Guardian every day, and the marvellously tortuous Azed puzzle in the Observer on Sundays, he loves to compile his own too, often with a novel twist.

Try this one (a homage to Edgar Allan Poe), for example:

The Purloined Letter

(Each answer has one letter removed before entry in the grid; each letter of the alphabet is removed once only. The definition part of the clue leads to the whole answer, the rest of the clue to its shortened form. This crossword is an example of the compiler's sheer 4 down.)


8. Boss to back protective footwear (7)

9. Painting of country lights starts to charm people everywhere (9)

10. He made great reforms or blew fire out (11)

11. Mad about fish! (5)

12. Love to try hood out in established church practice (9)

14. Talc is sprinkled on mouldable substance (7)

15. Awfully uninteresting, awfully dated rustic hall (4,2,10)

18. Dog is found in spasm, as if frightened (7)

20. Zealous journalist returned, acted badly, and died (9)

22. A shelf under a window? That's daft! (5)

23. Study coin at start of exam. Pay attention! (11)

25. Lady-killer sued Mrs R for negligence (9)

26. Debating and aimlessly raging (7)


1. Rum pie makes you more nervous (7)

2. What a shock! Bond's boss hobbles about shattered (9)

3. Peaty region hiding mythical creature (5)

4. Nobody missed Len's dreadfully aggressive obstinacy (16)

5. Hitched to work together but tragically let corn die (11)

6. Religious group is outside, divides into two (7)

7. Give weight and see a ship at sea (9)

13. Changing diets, faced being ill-disposed (11)

16. The spirit supporting the United Nations is without dissension (9)

17. The worker in the proverb has the edge (11)

19. Lass I'd disturbed in isolated places (7)

21. Cooking and consuming (7)

24. The origins of Ethiopia, Uganda and Liberia are the same (5)

Need the solution? Interested in seeing more? Want a topical crossword for your publication? E-mail Marcus at marcus@marcusweeks.co.uk for details.



Marcus's fascination with words and language dominates his bookshelves. Outnumbering by far the novels, short stories and poetry is his collection of reference books. There are books on music and the arts, philosophy, popular sciences, cookery, wine, and woodwork; encyclopedias, atlases, histories and anthologies of quotations; but easily the largest category is books about language itself, including an ever-growing collection of dictionaries and thesauruses.

Having discovered very early in life that a good dictionary not only provides a definition and confirmation of the "correct" orthography and pronunciation of a word, but also gives an insight into its provenance, and hints at its connotations and usage too, Marcus realised that each dictionary had its own character. Thus, he learnt to respect the OED for its authority, but to prefer Chambers for its humour, or Collins for its clarity, and to enjoy the occasional dip into Webster's for a slightly different perspective; and then there are all the thesauruses, rhyming dictionaries, and specialist dictionaries which give fuller explanations in particular subjects. He also found out that dictionaries are not just there to be consulted, but can be browsed, explored and ransacked; a simple search for a crossword solution became just the starting point for a journey that sometimes lasted days, taking him through languages apparently quite separate both geographically and chronologically. As his collection has grown, taking in translating as well as single-language dictionaries, the old certainties have disappeared — lexicographers and etymologists frequently disagree — and referring to "the dictionary" has become an exploration rather than merely a search for a simple answer.

And the delicious irony is that all these books are entirely self-referential: every synonym, definition, explanation, and etymology of a word is expressed in words which themselves are defined, explained and scrutinised elsewhere in the dictionary.

Marcus would have it no other way.

To contact Marcus by e-mail,

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