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A Betting Man

Colin Kidd: John Law, 12 September 2019

John Law: A Scottish Adventurer of the 18th Century 
by James Buchan.
MacLehose, 513 pp., £14.99, August 2019, 978 1 84866 608 5
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... rejected, and at some point in 1705 or early 1706, he left Scotland. ‘There is no evidence,’ James Buchan writes, ‘he ever returned.’ Law was born in 1671, the son of William Law, a master goldsmith who, like other goldsmiths of his time, drifted from metallurgy into finance, becoming a lender to clients. Success in this sphere enabled the ...

For a Few Dollars More

Frank Kermode, 18 September 1997

Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money 
by James Buchan.
Picador, 320 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 330 35527 9
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... may be Frozen Desire, but when it thaws out Desire may emerge less lively than one had hoped. James Buchan would agree that it isn’t much use talking to economists about these money mysteries, for they will all tell you different things, with little in common except their unintelligibility. He himself clearly does know a lot about all these matters ...

Undertellers

Walter Nash, 18 February 1988

The Panda Hunt 
by Richard Burns.
Cape, 189 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02445 0
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Davy Chadwick 
by James Buchan.
Hamish Hamilton, 145 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 241 12115 9
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Overhead in a Balloon: Stories of Paris 
by Mavis Gallant.
Cape, 196 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02426 4
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Black Idol 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 157 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 9780224024372
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... but felt, after all, that his inventive capacity had only served to botch his argument. Mr Buchan is also highly inventive, but he, in Davy Chadwick, is a rigorous underteller, a demonstrator who compels his readers to scrutinise every event, watch every sentence, not allowing them to enjoy for a moment the relaxing, gossipy irrelevance of mere ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... laugh, but Ellmann’s lacrimae rerum have smudged the wrong pages altogether. The dust-jacket of James Buchan’s latest novel informs us that Slide is about ‘agonising loss: loss of hope, loss of control, loss of will’. This intelligence came as something of a relief, because I would never have twigged while reading the book ...

‘A Little Feu de Joie’

Adam Shatz: Khomeini rises, 25 April 2013

Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences 
by James Buchan.
John Murray, 482 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84854 066 8
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... Iran, a minority in the house of Islam, had rewritten the script of revolution in the Middle East. James Buchan’s Days of God shows how a radicalised clergy took control of a popular uprising against a Western-backed dictator and set up the world’s first and only Islamic republic. Buchan tells that story as well as ...

Muted Ragu Tones

Michael Hofmann: David Szalay, 21 April 2016

All That Man Is 
by David Szalay.
Cape, 437 pp., £14.99, April 2016, 978 0 224 09976 9
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... novelist worth catching up on and following, in the wake of and on a level with the likes of James Buchan, Tessa Hadley and Edward St Aubyn. The four books are distinct – there’s no real overlap to speak of – but possess the sort of shared traits that a reader likes to find in an author, and an author in himself. London and the South-East is a ...

About Myself

Liam McIlvanney: James Hogg, 18 November 2004

The Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg 
by Karl Miller.
Faber, 401 pp., £25, August 2003, 0 571 21816 4
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Altrive Tales 
by James Hogg, edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 293 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 7486 1893 7
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... On a winter’s evening in 1803, James Hogg turned up for dinner at the home of Walter Scott. The man his host liked to call ‘the honest grunter’ was shown into the drawing-room, where a pregnant Mrs Scott was resting on a sofa. Unsure of the protocol in these toney surroundings, and deciding to take his cue from the hostess, Hogg flopped onto an adjoining sofa, smirching the chintz with his dung-spattered boots ...

The Earnestness of Being Important

P.N. Furbank, 19 August 1982

John BuchanA Memoir 
by William Buchan.
Buchan and Enright, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 907675 03 4
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The Best Short Stories of John Buchan. Vol. II 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 9780718121211
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... The nice thing about John Buchan is that he was on the side of books. He thought, it is true, that he ought to have been a Guardian, shaping the Empire, or dominating Cabinets, or, at worst, ‘a power behind the throne’. However, after his spell in Milner’s ‘Kindergarten’, the nation didn’t seem to want him in the Guardian line, so he did the next best thing and became an entertainer ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... Between​ the wars, the journalist Richard Usborne recalled in 1953, there was a feeling that John Buchan was good for you. ‘If not exactly the author set for homework, Buchan was certainly strongly recommended to the schoolboy by parent, uncle, guardian, pastor and master,’ he wrote in Clubland Heroes, a study of the thrillers he had enjoyed as a child ...

11 September

LRB Contributors, 4 October 2001

... off-key suggestion that the secret services should be recruiting in Bradford rather than St James’s (apparently on the grounds that immigrants would find it easier than Old Etonians to disguise themselves as Islamic extremists). But almost the oddest response has been our terrified certainty that there remains a plentiful supply of suicide pilots and ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: Remembering Thom Gunn, 4 November 2004

... recall who got there first, or how, but at one point we were both roaring through the novels of James Buchan and when we sat down to lunch together could barely contain our enthusiasm, like a couple of teenage girls gushing about a cute new boy at school. During our final lunch, the Thursday before the Sunday he died, we discussed the anthology ...

Qatrina and the Books

Amit Chaudhuri: What is Pakistani Writing?, 27 August 2009

The Wasted Vigil 
by Nadeem Aslam.
Faber, 436 pp., £7.99, June 2009, 978 0 571 23880 4
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... in The Reluctant Fundamentalist of a form that’s unpopular in Anglophone writing: what Henry James called ‘the dear, the blessed nouvelle’. But the French term reminds us of the currency the novella has had in Europe, and that Hamid has said he was drawn to the genre by way of Camus’s The Fall. This makes things more complicated, not least because ...

Rachel and Her Race

Patrick Parrinder, 18 August 1994

Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875-1945 
by Bryan Cheyette.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 521 44355 5
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The Jewish Heritage in British History: Englishness and Jewishness 
edited by Tony Kushner.
Cass, 234 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7146 3464 6
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... but it was Rachel who haunted the English literary imagination throughout the 19th century. In James’s The Tragic Muse, the Jewish Cockney actress Miriam Rooth claims to be in the same style as ‘that woman’, and George Eliot’s Gwendolen Harleth foolishly thinks of herself as destined for stardom because she is more beautiful than the ‘thin ...

Iraq Must Go!

Charles Glass: The Making and Unmaking of Iraq, 3 October 2002

... There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spark. John Buchan, Greenmantle (1916) As Lloyd George’s wartime Director of Information, John Buchan urged Britain to support an incomprehensible Eastern war with the cry: ‘The Turk must go!’ At the beginning of 1916, the Turk was not going anywhere: he held fast at Gallipoli, driving off the Allied landings in January, and accepted the surrender of a British Mesopotamian invasion force at Kut, south of Baghdad, in April ...

The Family

Malise Ruthven, 17 December 1981

The House of Saud 
by David Holden and Richard Johns.
Sidgwick, 569 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 283 98436 8
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The Kingdom 
by Robert Lacey.
Hutchinson, 631 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 09 145790 4
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... is relieved, to some extent, by a lively and well-informed account of the Mecca Siege written by James Buchan, of the Financial Times. Johns is an unabashed Western chauvinist: he seems to dislike Saudi Arabia, has little sympathy for its people and their ways. He would like to see them behaving, as nearly as possible, like readers of the Financial ...

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