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Hush-Hush Boom-Boom

Charles Glass: Spymasters, 12 August 2021

The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War – A Tragedy in Three Acts 
by Scott Anderson.
Picador, 576 pp., £20, February, 978 1 5290 4247 4
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... Alexander Cockburn​ blamed Ian Fleming for the creation of the CIA. Without Fleming, Cockburn wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond novel, ‘the Cold War would have ended in the early 1960s. We would have had no Vietnam, no Nixon, no Reagan and no Star Wars ...

Casual Offenders

J.S. Morrill, 7 May 1981

The Justice and the Mare’s Ale 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £8.50, March 1981, 0 631 12681 3
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... and of the tireless (and for a long time ineffectual) efforts of one local magistrate, Sir Daniel Fleming of Rydal Hall, to secure their conviction. It is an extraordinary story very well told, largely in the words of the original depositions and other papers in the public records and in the extensive ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Spook Fiction, 3 August 2006

... for a minute or two. Who is responsible? Are the bloke and the body connected? Is either of them John Bayley? Rimington is an interesting figure and an amusing journalist. She knows a good bit about spooks obviously, and a good bit about spook fiction. She can’t bear 007: Bond ‘has about as much to do with the intelligence profession as Billy Bunter has ...

Carré on spying

John Sutherland, 3 April 1986

A Perfect Spy 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 463 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 9780340387849
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The Novels of John le Carré 
by David Monaghan.
Blackwell, 207 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 631 14283 5
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Taking sides: The Fiction of John le Carré 
by Tony Barley.
Open University, 175 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 335 15251 1
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John le Carré 
by Peter Lewis.
Ungar, 228 pp., £10.95, August 1985, 0 8044 2243 5
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A Servant’s Tale 
by Paula Fox.
Virago, 321 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 86068 702 3
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A State of Independence 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 158 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 571 13910 8
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... John le Carré has patiently established himself over the last twenty-five years as the discriminating reader’s favourite thriller writer. The BBC’s adaptations of the George Smiley trilogy in 1979 and 1982 made him almost overnight a popular author on the Ian Fleming scale, and it can have done no harm that the TV version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy coincided with the Blunt scandal ...

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 ...

Fancy Dress

Peter Campbell: Millais, Burne-Jones and Leighton, 15 April 1999

Millais: Portraits 
by Peter Funnell and Malcolm Warner.
National Portrait Gallery, 224 pp., £35, February 1999, 1 85514 255 4
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John Everett Millais 
by G.H. Fleming.
Constable, 318 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 09 478560 0
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Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer 
by Stephen Wildman and John Christian.
Abrams, 360 pp., £48, October 1998, 0 8109 6522 4
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Frederic Leighton: Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity 
edited by Tim Barringer and Elizabeth Prettejohn.
Yale, 332 pp., £40, March 1999, 0 300 07937 0
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... In 1886 there was an exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery of the work of John Everett Millais (Sir John, in fact: he had recently been made a baronet). There were pictures from his Pre-Raphaelite infancy, like Isabella and Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop; anecdotal ones, like My First Sermon (a child portrait in the Bubbles line); landscapes (Chill October); pictures with stories (The Proscribed Royalist) and pictures from stories (Mariana ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... Bird; Gaviota Oscura; Gaviota Monja; Oiseau Fou; Touaou. But when the keen birdwatcher Ian Fleming needed a name that sounded as ordinary as possible, he had to look no further than the title page of Bond’s great work. Why does the name of an actual ornithologist sound so right as the name of a fictional spy? Why couldn’t ...

Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’, 8 February 2018

The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... notice she wished to avert.’ This comes from Johnston’s charming memoir of the art historians John Fleming and Hugh Honour, published last year.* They too were part of the Lubbock household; their own memory of Origo’s visits was summed up in a sentence: ‘Then this icicle appeared and the whole house pulled itself together.’ Thirty years after ...

‘This in no wise omit’

Tom Bingham: Habeas Corpus, 7 October 2010

Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire 
by Paul Halliday.
Harvard, 502 pp., £29.95, March 2010, 978 0 674 04901 7
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... on the years 1500-1800, is to remind us of what could be seen as the glory days of habeas corpus. John Anderson was a slave in Missouri. Separated from his wife and family, whom he wished to visit, he came into conflict with his master and owner, who decided to resolve the problem by selling Anderson to another owner. In 1853, Anderson escaped and made for ...

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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... John Clearwater, the tormented mathematician in William Boyd’s novel Brazzaville Beach, wants to reduce chaos, flux and turbulence to an elegant set of equations. He’s also an obsessive moviegoer who refuses to watch anything which doesn’t meet his one absolute criterion: ‘he believed, with a fundamental zeal, that a true film, a film that was true to the nature of its own form, had to have a happy ending ...

At the Villa Medici

Peter Campbell: 17th-Century Religous Paintings, 30 November 2000

... hieratic. Decorum is at the heart of this approach. Champaigne was born in Brussels but was not a Fleming in spirit. His Angel of the Annunciation stands, rather than kneels or flies. No one is seen in a pose they could not hold. The drawing is firm and correct, the play of light is worked out as much as observed, but with such authority that his painting ...
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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... to the writers who give each literary age its actual and particular flavour. Once it was Sir John Squire and Edward Shanks – obviously the most significant and influential voices of the time. During or just after the last war it was Connolly and Koestler and Spender, William Plomer, Alun Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Peter Quennell. Some still have life or fame ...

Madly Excited

John Bayley, 1 June 1989

The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... the Grub Street Mephistopheles: he stays the same whatever he writes. A Greene, though, or an Ian Fleming, may have to become what he writes, exemplify his own formula, with results that affect himself and others. Interestingly, unlike the cases of Shakespeare or Pushkin, the work of Greene or Fleming, and its appeal, comes ...

Foxy-Faced

John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... has a special place in the re-creation of Lost Things and the rites that accompanied them. The Fleming brothers, who had a good deal in common with the phantom Bagshaw and the happily alive and writing Cobb, possessed something of the same art of habituating ritual in their migratory pages (Bagshaw found it necessary to find the local and take half a pint ...

At the V&A

Esther Chadwick: Opus Anglicanum, 5 January 2017

... thread-makers and embroiderers Christiana of Enfield, Catherine of Lincoln, Maud of Canterbury, John Machon, Alyse Darcy, Alice Catour and Thomas Bell could be added those of Alexius and Andronicus Effomatus, Greek ‘workers of damask gold’ (drawn gold wire) in London; John of Cologne, a German immigrant working for ...

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