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Digging up the Ancestors

R.W. Johnson, 14 November 1996

Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... which allowed for his probably quite numerous affairs, particularly his long relationship with Ian Fleming’s wife, Ann – certainly the Gaitskells often dined with one or both Flemings, making one wonder quite what the mutual understandings were. Ann Fleming was a wealthy Tory – she had been married to Lord ...

Wounding Nonsenses

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1997

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 531 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 340 63804 4
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... in Piers Court, where he corresponds with wealthy, witty ladies (Mitford takes turns with Ann Fleming and Diana Cooper) who keep him au fait with the doings of vile bodies in the world from which he has withdrawn. The postal service is so good that a letter from Mitford in postwar Paris telling of the latest liaison dangereuse can be on his desk the next ...

A Bit of a Lush

Christopher Tayler: William Boyd, 23 May 2002

Any Human Heart 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 504 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 9780241141779
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... and Paris brings a meeting with James Joyce. His wartime boss at Naval Intelligence is, of course, Ian Fleming, who sends him to keep an eye on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the Bahamas – and so on. In his opening preamble Mountstuart announces that he has made ‘no excisions designed to conceal errors of judgment (“;The Japanese would never ...

Quarrelling

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 29 October 1987

Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... You must explain to me why Cyril wants Barbara,’ Evelyn Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming in September 1955, a year after Barbara Skelton’s marriage to Cyril Connolly had formally ended. ‘It’s not as though she were rich or a good housekeeper or the mother of his children.’ The following year Edmund Wilson asked Connolly, now two years into his divorce, why he didn’t get someone else ...

Wadham and Gomorrah

Conrad Russell, 6 December 1984

The Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Keith Walker.
Blackwell, 319 pp., £35, September 1984, 0 631 12573 6
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... pleasure, a belief that ‘the present moment’s all my lott,’ and a conviction, reminiscent of Ian Fleming, that ‘there’s something genrous in meer lust’. Lust, he thought, was: That cordiall dropp Heav’n in our cup has throwne, To make the nauseous draught of life goe downe. There is no need to doubt the energy of Rochester’s ...

Yak Sandwiches

Christopher Burns, 31 March 1988

Pleasure 
by John Murray.
Aidan Ellis, 233 pp., £10.50, October 1987, 0 85628 167 0
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Absurd Courage 
by Nobuko Albery.
Century, 254 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7126 1149 5
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Laing 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 302 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 333 45633 5
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The Part of Fortune 
by Laurel Goldman.
Faber, 249 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14921 9
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In the Fertile Land 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Carcanet, 212 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 85635 716 2
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... its components being carefully itemised. Product names litter the text as thickly as in any Ian Fleming. The author is Japanese, fluent, it seems, in both English and French; like John Murray, she is alive to those periods of adjustment and stress when cultures meet. There are some nicely-judged moments of wry humour when Asako meets those who wish ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... line – of the ‘very flat, Norfolk’ variety – in encapsulating personality. She found Ian Fleming ‘rather boring’, the future King Edward VIII a man of ‘wide-ranging interests’, and Norman Mailer, who married her elder daughter, ‘dynamic’ Her attendance at the 1936 Olympics enables her to tell us that Hitler had clammy hands, and ...

Villain’s Talk

John Bayley, 17 April 1986

The Fisher King 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 434 59926 3
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... we love to hate, and even the villain of the time-honoured attributes found in Buchan or Sapper or Ian Fleming. These last are by no means despised by Powell’s art, and in Henchman they take the well-known form of extreme loquacity. The main tactic and enjoyment of such a villain is to expound his plans for world conquest or whatever to a captive ...
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... a conoisseur’s pleasure in high life as well as in the seamy side, becoming a close friend of Ian Fleming, with whom he worked in the war on Naval Intelligence. Each of them, as Alexander remarks, ‘was a great collector of characters’. Perhaps because he was an outsider from South Africa, Plomer suffered from none of the social anxieties that ...

Disorientation

Jonathan Coe, 5 October 1995

The Island of the Day Before 
by Umberto Eco.
Secker, 513 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 436 20270 0
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... As an example of this kind of text, he cited the James Bond novels. Eco’s approach to Ian Fleming in this book was welcome for its critical gusto and its sense that he had really enjoyed the novels (by a sweet irony, Sean Connery would later take the lead in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film of The Name of the Rose). But he ...

‘No, no,’ replied the fat man

Michael Davie, 3 December 1992

The Power of News: The History of Reuters 
by Donald Read.
Oxford, 330 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 19 821776 5
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... were supposed to be able to mix easily with diplomats and foreign ministers. In 1933 the Etonian Ian Fleming – ‘his appearance is good, and his manners are agreeable’ – covered the show trials in Moscow of the Vickers engineers. ‘Moscow, Wednesday. As the famous clock on the Kremlin Tower strikes 12 the six Metropolitan-Vickers English ...

Possible Worlds and Premature Sciences

Roger Scruton, 7 February 1980

The Role of the Reader 
by Umberto Eco.
Indiana, 384 pp., £10.50, September 1980, 0 253 11139 0
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The Semiotics of the Built Environment 
by Donald Preziosi.
Indiana, 192 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 253 17638 7
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... the Barthes of Mythologies (but with rather less wit), Eco explores the narrative devices of Ian Fleming and the emotional significance of the Superman comics. He also pays attention to modern music, to the once popular melodramas of Eugène Sue, and in the piece which enunciates his latest theoretical advances, to a literary joke by Allais, culled ...

Death (and Life) of the Author

Peter Wollen: Kathy Acker, 5 February 1998

... Acker had appropriated and re-ordered the writing of others – Harold Robbins or Cervantes or Ian Fleming or Propertius. Recently, on the radio, Leslie Dick remarked that Kathy Acker’s writing was an extension of her reading, that her plagiarism was a way of reading, or rereading, appropriating and customising what she read, writing herself, so to ...

Lucky Kim

Christopher Hitchens, 23 February 1995

The Philby Files. The Secret Life of the Master Spy: KGB Archives Revealed 
by Genrikh Borovik, edited by Phillip Knightley.
Little, Brown, 382 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 316 91015 5
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The Fifth Man 
by Roland Perry.
Sidgwick, 486 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 283 06216 9
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Treason in the Blood: H. St John Philby, Kim Philby and the Spy Case of the Century 
by Anthony Cave Brown.
Hale, 640 pp., £25, January 1995, 9780709055822
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My Five Cambridge Friends 
by Yuri Modin.
Headline, 328 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 7472 1280 5
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Looking for Mr Nobody: The Secret Life of Goronwy Rees 
by Jenny Rees.
Weidenfeld, 291 pp., £18.99, October 1994, 0 297 81430 3
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... appropriate than was perhaps intentional. Mr Kalugin looked as if he had been dreamed up in an Ian Fleming nightmare. His idea of light conversation, since I decided to ask him about some of the books under review, was to hint that he could say a lot if he chose. ‘Your Kim Philby ... ha, ha, ha, that’s quite another story ... Yuri Modin ...

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

E.S. Turner, 19 December 1991

Alistair MacLean 
by Jack Webster.
Chapmans, 326 pp., £18, November 1991, 1 85592 519 2
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Alistair MacLean’s Time of the Assassins 
by Alastair MacNeill.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 00 223816 0
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... avoiding bad language and the ‘sex, snobbery and sadism’ he denounced in practitioners like Ian Fleming. His characters were never clubland heroes. He cared as little for literary critics as he did for those publishers’ editors, on both sides of the Atlantic, who were anxious to improve his none-too-elegant style and even to tighten up his ...

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