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No Gentleman

Jonathan Parry, 23 June 1994

Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics 
by Peter Marsh.
Yale, 725 pp., £30, May 1994, 0 300 05801 2
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... Joseph Chamberlain’s extraordinary career is one good source of answers to those questions. Peter Marsh’s biography is the fifth substantial one in thirty years, but justifies itself on the grounds that it is the first to cover Chamberlain’s whole career in a single volume and to give adequate weight to his business background. ...
Ngaio MarshA Life 
by Margaret Lewis.
Chatto, 276 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 7011 3389 9
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... the four Queens of Crime who dominated the 1930s – Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers – Ngaio Marsh reigns supreme for excellence of style and characterisation,’ writes Margaret Lewis in her introduction. The proposition could be contested; it could be maintained that Christie is ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’, 8 June 2006

Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... who in a Stanley Fishy way has simply asserted his right to authenticate? Floreat emptor. Or as Peter Carey ends his new novel, ‘How do you know how much to pay if you don’t know what it’s worth?’ Theft: A Love Story, is about just such issues of authenticity and fraudulence in the international art world. As he did in his last novel, My Life as a ...

Great Tradition

Robert Barnard, 18 December 1980

Plaster Sinners 
by Colin Watson.
Eyre Methuen, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 39040 3
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by Ngaio Marsh.
Collins, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 00 231857 1
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The Predator 
by Russell Braddon.
Joseph, 192 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1958 4
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... sit comfortably, invitingly on our shelves, demanding periodic rereading. The list of Ngaio Marsh’s works at the beginning of Photo-Finish omits several books published in the mid-Thirties, which are still in print and are far from shame-making. Miss Marsh must by now have written something like thirty crime stories ...

The Rupert Trunk

Christopher Tayler: Alan Hollinghurst, 28 July 2011

The Stranger’s Child 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 565 pp., £20, June 2011, 978 0 330 48324 7
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... his felicities all most promptly divinable’. Under the circumstances, he told Edward Marsh, the poet’s literary executor, he had read Brooke’s war sonnets ‘with an emotion that somehow precludes the critical measure’. Eddie Marsh, too, was greatly struck by Rupert’s ‘radiant, youthful ...

Blacks and Blues

E.S. Turner, 4 June 1987

The Life of My Choice 
by Wilfred Thesiger.
Collins, 459 pp., £15, May 1987, 9780002161947
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Worlds Apart: Travels in War and Peace 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 09 168220 7
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... Life of My Choice, a treasure galleon built to the same specifications as Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs. It is the record of a man magnificently and unabashedly out of step with his times; an adventurer imbued, in the words of a superior officer in the Sudan, with ‘an excess of certain ancient virtues ... a brave, awkward, attractive creature’ (a ...

The Body in the Library Is Never Our Own

Ian Patterson: On Ngaio Marsh, 5 November 2020

... I’ve read a huge number of these novels over the years, so when I was asked to write about Ngaio Marsh I blithely agreed, not realising that I’d never actually read any of her books. I was convinced I had, but it soon turned out I’d only read part of one when I was 12 or 13; I’d merely registered some of the titles on the spines of the green Penguin ...

At the Wellcome

Peter Campbell: ‘Dirt’, 2 June 2011

... space deals with the history of Fresh Kills, a landfill site covering what was an area of salt marsh on the west shore of Staten Island. It began to be filled with New York garbage in 1948. When legislation was passed in 1995 announcing that it would be closed in 2001, it spanned nearly 2200 acres – about two and a half times the size of Central ...

Come back, Inspector Wexford

Douglas Johnson, 7 March 1985

The Killing Doll 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson/Arrow, 237 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 155480 2
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The Tree of Hands 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 269 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 09 158680 1
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... Crime. For nearly twenty years Ruth Rendell has been hailed as the successor to Sayers, Christie, Marsh and Allingham, perpetuating the old question of why it is that there should be a particularly feminine talent for detective fiction. Her Chief Inspector, Wexford by name, has joined the ranks of legendary police heroes, and although he is Sussex-based he ...

Post-Bourgeois Man

Peter Jenkins, 1 October 1981

Arguments for Democracy 
by Tony Benn, edited by Chris Mullin.
Cape, 257 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 224 01878 7
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by Francis Cripps, John Griffith, Frances Morrell, Jimmy Reid and Peter Townsend.
Pan, 224 pp., £1.95, September 1981, 0 330 26402 8
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... more dissatisfied with its material status than its Continental counterparts appear to be. Alan Marsh of Michigan University has argued plausibly that the co-existence of material with newer non-material concerns is to be explained by the ambition of the new élite to supplant the old. ‘By appearing to speak against their class interest they ... may ...

Might-have-beens must die

Peter Howarth: Christina Rossetti’s Games, 1 July 2021

New Selected Poems 
by Christina Rossetti, edited by Rachel Mann.
Carcanet, 240 pp., £12.99, March 2020, 978 1 78410 906 6
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... that his sister was ‘a constant and often sadly-smitten invalid’. Rossetti’s biographer Jan Marsh, however, thought the endless winter scenes and paralysed lives must indicate sexual abuse, which had left a buried self-loathing cruelly reinforced by her Tractarian spirituality.Rossetti wondered herself at the contrast between her intensely gloomy output ...


Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands, 14 July 2011

... and I took a holiday house in the West Highlands. The windows of the cottage looked onto a salt marsh, and beyond that, to the fast-moving waters of the Kyles of Lochalsh. Across the waters rose the hills of southern Skye, still dusted with snow. Nearby stood the unloved stone ruin of a barracks built to house government troops engaged on the ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Basil Davidson, 5 August 2010

... there were 280 dead. The aftermath into which he’d stumbled, after ‘30 miles of plough and marsh and farm track’, is described with scrupulous anger, and leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling that it might have happened far more recently. And because it’s Davidson telling the story, you think of comparable events in Portuguese Africa, as the ...

Feral Hippies

Theo Tait: Peter Carey goes astray, 6 March 2008

His Illegal Self 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 0 571 23151 5
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... Queensland in the early 1970s was, according to the narrator of Peter Carey’s new novel, ‘a police state run by men who never finished high school’. This intriguing throwaway remark turns out to be not much of an exaggeration. For twenty years from 1968, Queensland was controlled by the corrupt, gerrymandering state governor Joh Bjelke-Petersen, variously described as the Hillbilly Dictator, a ‘bible-bashing bastard’ and – by himself – as ‘a bushfire raging out of control ...

Mystery and Imagination

Stephen Bann, 17 November 1983

The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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by William Peter Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... which is awaiting it upon the cinema screen. Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and William Peter Blatty’s Legion (‘The sequel to The Exorcist’) very neatly illustrate this parting of the ways. If Susan Hill’s ‘ghost story’ is not a pastiche, it is undoubtedly an essay in recreating the almost exhausted genre. We are back in that indefinable ...

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