Why Frank Gardner has a stronger handshake than Arnold Schwarzenegger on Black Friday

Frank Gardner has a stronger handshake than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Neither smells like David Beckham. That is what I can reveal today as three pieces appear in different titles at once, thanks to an accident of timing. Black Friday is a totally spurious American festival of greed for which Britain is going crazy all of a sudden and I have written about it in my new column for the Independent on Sunday today. Should we be gleefully grabbing David Beckham aftershave for a tenner or protesting against the bonfire of the bargains?

Meanwhile, people are paying £2,000 a time to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and other Hollywood legends and Event magazine for the Mail on Sunday carries a reportage from behind the scenes at one of these events. Yes I did shake Arnie’s hand and his grip is strong – but it’s not as strong as that of Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent who was shot six times by terrorists a decade ago and has overcome massive injuries and extreme pain to go on reporting, which he does with great authority. The last of his assailants has just been sentenced to death and he gave me the only in-depth interview about that for the Sunday Telegraph. So now you know.

What the papers say

Here’s a summary of what the papers are saying about the book, and it has to start with the kind words of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The Independent. “He dazzles,” she says. “This exuberant and assured book posits the central dilemmas of our times. …

“A sprite takes you by the hand and leads you through the streets (and roads and lanes) of England, shows you things, tells you things, some unsettling, many astonishing and a number plain shocking.

Only Moreton is no sprite. He is an amiable Englishman, warm like the beer they say such men like to drink, yet also sharp, intelligent, observant, sensitive and what we now call emotionally literate.”

“You stay with Moreton because you can’t bear to jump off. He dazzles, has verve, holds your eye; this charismatic, hypnotic celebrant.”

“Required reading,” says Richard Lewis. “Moreton’s persuasive portrayal of what we have evolved into should be required reading for every English man and woman – whatever their creed or colour.” You don’t have to be English of course, but I’m hardly going to argue with someone who also says: “The Cole Moreton revealed in Is God Still an Englishman? is intelligent, vulnerable, modest and philanthropic: an immensely likeable commentator on matters spiritual …” The Independent On Sunday

“You don’t want it to end,” says Peter Stanford in The Observer.“The tension between believing and belonging provides the structure for Cole Moreton’s lyrical, almost elegiac taking of the nation’s spiritual temperature. I say almost elegiac because, having charted the decline of organised Christianity and the loss of the deference traditionally shown to the Church of England and the monarch as its head, Moreton then manages, in his final chapters, to find signs of resurrection.” , but Stanford also says: “He can make you laugh out loud, and generates a momentum that has you turning the pages wanting it never to end.”

“The tension between believing and belonging provides the structure for Cole Moreton’s lyrical, almost elegiac taking of the nation’s spiritual temperature. I say almost elegiac because, having charted the decline of organised Christianity and the loss of the deference traditionally shown to the Church of England and the monarch as its head, Moreton then manages, in his final chapters, to find signs of resurrection.” Read the rest here, but Stanford also says: “He can make you laugh out loud, and generates a momentum that has you turning the pages wanting it never to end.”

“Hugely readable  and thought-provoking,” says The Bookseller.“Moreton considers why people have become detached from traditional faith, and studies social history from 1981, when, he maintains, a new morality emerged based on wealth and the creation of fame. An unpretentious, light, conversational style makes this hugely readable and thought-provoking.”

“You’d be silly to wait for the paperback,” says The Tablet. Quite right too. Brendan Walsh reviews my book together with the new one by Peter Stanford and says they are both “intriguing and winsome”. We share a “cool, urbane tone of voice”, apparently, and have produced “stylish, fluent reads, with more dash and insight than in a dozen official reports. They are very handsomely printed and bound too. You’d be silly to wait for the paperbacks.”

“Lasso yourself to the furniture,” says The Sunday Telegraph. Yes, really. “There were times during this book when I thought it was one of the most perceptive and original studies of the English that I’ve read in ages,” writes John Preston. “Yet there were other times when I was equally convinced I was reading the work of a major loon.” Oh well.The book is “a bit right-on” for him, but “leavened by humour, acuity and fluency.” Read the rest for yourself.