“It’s on nights like this that the pub feels even more womb-like than usual.”

I love quizzes. I’ve long had a desire to consume as much trivia is humanly possible – one of my school reports notes that I have an “unstoppable thirst for knowledge” – and often the only place is comes in useful is in the corner of the pub, two wines down, as the chap behind the bar says, “Round one, question one…” I don’t profess to be a particularly popular person, but I’ve had people beg me to join their team. My knowledge is shallow but broad, and often obscure. At one point, I could claim to have won every pub quiz I’d ever taken part in, but unfortunately after a few slightly lower finishing positions, I’ve had to adapt this to say that I’ve never lost one (i.e. never come last). I also tend to write my family a quiz most Christmases, which usually ends in an argument as they all say, “Well how are we meant to know that?” Look, sorry, it’s not my fault you don’t know there are 336 dimples on a regulation golf ball, or that the capital of Uruguay is Montevideo.

I’ve read Mark Mason before, a few years ago enjoying his excellent Walk the Lines, in which he travels the whole of the London Underground network on foot, peppering his journey with endless trivia. I figured that a book specifically about quizzes would give me even more, and I wasn’t wrong. Broadly speaking, it’s about Mason’s travels around Britain, stopping in at all kinds of quizzes along the way. He visits the World Quizzing Championship, a quiz machine in a pub, a recording of radio music quiz Counterpoint, and speed quizzes in Edinburgh bars. All through his journey, he is attempting to answer the one question that still has him stumped: “What makes the perfect quiz question?”

Alongside this quest, however, Mason simply explores towns and cities of Britain, including Edinburgh, Southampton, Oxford and Nottingham, and doles out endless streams of trivia, sometimes about the places he’s visiting but often not. In another’s hands, this could get dull and reduce the whole endeavour to a book best dipped into when on the toilet, but it doesn’t falter once. As a trivia junkie myself, some of it I knew, such as Mr Bump’s Norwegian name (Herr Dumpidump), and which British monarch is the only one who has had their DNA taken (Richard III), but there were hundreds of other titbits I had no idea about. The Spitfire plane was originally going to be called the Shrew, Alaska has the second highest number of national parks in America after California, and that the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones, which I knew to be Europe’s biggest bookshop, has eight miles of shelving.

Question Time is a supremely interesting look at the world of quizzing and the kind of people who do it, especially those that manage to make a living out of it. Although there aren’t many celebrities in the field, we still cross paths with Kevin Ashman, one of television’s Eggheads, spot Paul Sinha of The Chase across the room, and take part in a quiz hosted by Jack Waley-Cohen, the senior question setter on my favourite TV quiz show, Only Connect. We also get to see a quiz hosted by the QI elves, who’ve taken the podcast world by storm with their spin-off show No Such Thing as a Fish. Although there is definitely a certain type of person who gets really into the act of quizzing, there does seem to be something unifying and universal about the “sport”, and the tradition of trivia is as alive and well as it ever was. People are just curious, and we all like the challenge, it seems.

It’s also inspired me once again to try and make my way to the other side of the microphone and host one myself. If you know of an opening, give me a shout.

My second novel, The Third Wheel, is now available on Amazon and Waterstones! It tells the story of Dexter, a twenty-something teacher who is struggling with the fact that he alone among his friends is single and isn’t ready to grow up. But when aliens invade, it puts a lot of his problems into perspective. Mixing comedy, science fiction and horror, the novel promises to have something for everyone. I hope you’ll check it out!

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