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Thomas Jones: Death in Florence, 21 June 2012

... British Consulate in Florence on 29 September 1913, a Monday. According to his death certificate, Richard Roberts, a 67-year-old Justice of the Peace and builder, staying at the Hotel Londres & Métropole in Florence, died at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova on Saturday, 27 September 1913. The consul, Alfred Lemon, was informed of the death by R. Ellis ...

Suffocating Suspense

Richard Davenport-Hines, 16 March 2000

Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... of pater estquem nuptiæ demonstrant; his consequent misfortunes involve him with a villain called Richard Craufurd, whom Bulwer-Lytton based on the banker Henry Fauntleroy, who had been hanged for forgery before a crowd of 100,000 people at Newgate in 1824. The central male figure in Lucretia is an artist, murderer and forger called Gabriel Varney, who was ...

Whatever happened to Ed Victor?

Jenny Diski, 6 July 1995

Hippie Hippie Shake: The Dreams, the Trips, the Trials, the Love-ins, The Screw Ups … The Sixties 
by Richard Neville.
Bloomsbury, 376 pp., £18.99, May 1995, 0 7475 1554 9
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... high to hear. It probably wouldn’t have made any difference. Unless you were listening to Cliff Richard or attending Billy Graham’s hallelujah meetings, the Sixties (not the decade, but that period from 1965 to 1972ish) were irresistible. They have been the good fortune and the curse of my generation (‘May you live through interesting times’): we ...

Outbreak of Pleasure

Angus Calder, 23 January 1986

Now the war is over: A Social History of Britain 1945-51 
by Paul Addison.
BBC/Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 0 563 20407 9
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England First and Last 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 212 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 571 13587 0
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A World Still to Win: The Reconstruction of the Post-War Working Class 
by Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook.
Faber, 189 pp., £4.50, October 1985, 0 571 13701 6
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The Issue of War: States, Societies and the Far Eastern Conflict of 1941-1945 
by Christopher Thorne.
Hamish Hamilton, 364 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 241 10239 1
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The Hiroshima Maidens 
by Rodney Barker.
Viking, 240 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 670 80609 9
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Faces of Hiroshima: A Report 
by Anne Chisholm.
Cape, 182 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 224 02831 6
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End of Empire 
by Brain Lapping.
Granada, 560 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 246 11969 1
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Outposts 
by Simon Winchester.
Hodder, 317 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 340 33772 9
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... to be found mainly among the professional middle classes, that ran through the Forties’. Yet Richard Acland, figurehead of the Party, had been a Liberal MP before the war, and Common Wealth might be placed on the far left wing of that broad informal alliance of reformers which produced what Addison calls ‘Forties collectivism: the belief in the ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... is gossipy, anecdotal. It’s like eavesdropping in the snug of some public-house adjacent to the Bailey, when the gents in the greasy raincoats sit down with a coven of bent briefs. Morton, a former solicitor, has filleted his sources with a notable absence of fuss. He is not embarrassed at recycling large chunks of his Nipper Read ...

Between the Raindrops

David Bromwich: The Subtlety of James Stewart, 12 December 2002

James Stewart at the NFT 
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... Life. Ford called on him for a pair of late films. In Two Rode Together, Stewart and his co-star, Richard Widmark, are lost to their better qualities, lazy, loud-voiced, working from an undernourished script, with the stupefied strut of the American male who has inherited the world in 1961. Soon after, to brilliant and opposite effect, in The Man Who Shot ...
Under Fire: An American Story 
by Oliver North and William Novak.
HarperCollins, 446 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 06 018334 9
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Terry Waite: Why was he kidnapped? 
by Gavin Hewitt.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 7475 0375 3
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... and displace. His real hero was CIA director Casey, who suffered from what his predecessor Richard Helms called Fingerspitzengefühl – ‘a feel for the clandestine’. North reports: ‘I knew nothing of covert operations when I came to the National Security Council but Casey taught me a great deal.’ From 1983 onwards (whatever their part in the ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... interviews with them, as if they were as respectable as the Shah of Iran. Dickson mentions David Bailey, who published a handsome photograph of the Twins, with an eloquent caption by Francis Wyndham, comparing them with Humphrey Bogart. It was the little public-school gang of Private Eye that broke through the hype: larger journals seemed awed by the potent ...

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

A.E. Housman 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Routledge, 304 pp., £9.75
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... There is, as Richard Graves points out, no general biography of Housman. The books about him by Laurence Housman, Grant Richards and Percy Withers are valuable, because these men knew Housman and could describe him: but they are not biographies. George Watson’s A.E. Housman: A Divided Life is more like one, but it is not quite one; of Norman Marlow and Maude Hawkins I say nothing ...

What is this Bernard?

Christopher Hitchens, 10 January 1991

Good and Faithful Servant: The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 202 pp., £14.99, December 1990, 0 571 16108 1
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... in this way, Chamberlain was able to raise ‘news management’, in the words of the historian Richard Cockett, ‘almost to the level of an exact science’. Obviously, it’s a long march from making Lord Halifax look like an appeaser (which Harris might have pointed out he was already) to making Michael Heseltine look like a fool or a knave, which ...

Easter Island Revisited

Tam Dalyell, 27 June 1991

A Green History of the World 
by Clive Ponting.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 352 pp., £16.95, May 1991, 1 85619 050 1
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... moment that I heard the name of Clive Ponting for the first time. During 11 long days at the Old Bailey, luck was with us. Ponting’s solicitor, Brian Raymond, was resourceful. Merlyn Rees agreed to be a witness, and most effective he was. The jury was taken aback when Mr Heseltine’s Civil Service Private Secretary, ...

Make me work if you can

T.H. Breen, 18 February 1988

Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 
by Roger Ekirch.
Oxford, 277 pp., £25, November 1987, 0 19 820092 7
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... How many people in fact found Britain’s mainland colonies a land of opportunity? The late Richard Hofstadter suggested that the answer would almost certainly not sustain the success myth. In America at 1750: A Social Portrait, a wonderfully sensitive piece of writing, he observed that the servants as well as the slaves had been commodities, goods sold ...

Delightful to be Robbed

E.S. Turner: Stand and deliver, 9 May 2002

Outlaws and Highwaymen: The Cult of the Robber in England from the Middle Ages to the 19th century 
by Gillian Spraggs.
Pimlico, 372 pp., £12.50, November 2001, 0 7126 6479 3
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... or to atone by serving in the King’s Army, but fatally drawn to highway robbery. The rector, Richard de Folville, was eventually dragged from his church by armed men and beheaded on the spot. ‘The records reveal so many thugs in holy orders,’ Spraggs writes, ‘that it has even been suggested that the astute professional malefactor may well have ...

I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work, 19 December 2019

The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’ and the Writing Life 
by Charles Shields.
Texas, 305 pp., £23.99, October 2018, 978 1 4773 1736 5
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Nothing but the Night 
by John Williams.
NYRB, 144 pp., $14.95, February 2019, 978 1 68137 307 2
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... suddenly he would break into a big smile. He was gracious, but he said what he thought.’ Like Richard Yates, a near contemporary and friend who was also famous on the writing-school circuit for not being famous, Williams served in the war and had a few unsuccessful marriages, drank too much, promoted a writerly ideal of Flaubert-like strenuousness, and ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... their subjects. I have something in common with Joyce, and with Wilde, is the modest assumption of Richard Ellmann. Max was a bit like me, implies Cecil. That brings them, and us, all the closer to the subject. It can also lead to misunderstanding. Oddly enough, as Cecil’s admirable biography shows, both he and Max understood Oscar Wilde a good deal better ...

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