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Spies and Secret Agents

Ken Follett, 19 June 1980

by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 639 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 575 02846 7
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The Man Who Kept the Secrets 
by Thomas Powers.
Weidenfeld, 393 pp., £10, April 1980, 0 297 77738 6
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... history of the CIA through the life of Richard Helms, who was director from 1966 to 1973. Much of Powers’s information comes from the spies themselves, and while it is a great achievement to persuade such men to speak, they are masters of what they call ‘disinformation’, and it seems to me that Powers has adopted ...

11 September

LRB Contributors, 4 October 2001

... will fall between the dead and those who swear they will remember them. Auden wrote once of powers that direct us. He meant blind chance, but the poem also works for powers who wear suits and mount platforms: It is their tomorrow hangs over the earth of the living And all that we wish for our friends; but existence ...

It’s the Oil

Jim Holt: Iraq’s Lucrative Mess, 18 October 2007

... the Green Zone without a military escort.) In February last year, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks described one such facility, the Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad. A piece of (well-fortified) American suburbia in the middle of the Iraqi desert, Balad has fast-food joints, a miniature golf course, a football field, a cinema and ...

Powers of Darkness

Michael Taylor: Made by Free Hands, 21 October 2021

Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition 
by Bronwen Everill.
Harvard, 318 pp., £31.95, September 2020, 978 0 674 24098 8
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... inhabitants. In a sentence that defined the problem legitimate commerce sought to address, Thomas Malthus went further: ‘The state of Africa, as I have described it, is exactly such as we should expect in a country where the capture of men was considered as a more advantageous employment than agriculture or manufactures.’But what if abolitionists ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Buffy!, 7 March 2002

... tax breaks.) Buffy Summers is a Southern Californian teenager – blonde, 5'3" – with special powers (superhuman strength etc) that enable her to slay vampires with relative ease. Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, came up with the idea because he was tired of seeing small, blonde Californian teenage girls being on-screen victims. Buffy is helped by a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Long Haul, 6 March 2003

... develops intricate fantasies of persecution in order to mask the unfaceable fact that the powers that be couldn’t actually give a shit about him. Qantas Flight 10 from Singapore to Melbourne included two complimentary meals. Every passenger on the jumbo jet was supplied with metal knives and forks, twice. The plane landed safely and without ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flashman, 9 May 2002

... Harry Potter of the 1830s, Tom Brown; even harder to imagine anyone settling down to read them. (Thomas Hughes did in fact write a sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, but it’s never done as well as Tom Brown’s Schooldays: hasn’t even heard of it.) It’s a different matter for young Tom’s Voldemort, ‘that blackguard Flashman, who never speaks ...

War on Heisenberg

M.F. Perutz, 18 November 1993

Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb 
by Thomas Powers.
Cape, 610 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 224 03641 6
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Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts 
introduced by Charles Frank.
Institute of Physics, 515 pp., £14.95, May 1993, 0 7503 0274 7
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... Second World War because they wouldn’t or because they couldn’t? This is the question which Powers addresses in his extensive study of German atomic research: a question finally answered by the recent publication of the secretly recorded conversations between Heisenberg and the other German atomic physicists interned at Farm Hall, near Huntingdon, in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: ‘freedom’, 24 July 2003

... left to lose long before the invasion. Anyway, the more you hear about ‘freedom’ from the powers that be, the harder it is to hold onto the sergeant’s meaning. The word appears 2210 times on the official White House website, (‘democracy’, to give a sense of scale, crops up 577 times; ‘oil’, 537; ‘tax ...

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Thomas Jones: How to concoct a conspiracy theory, 20 October 2005

... a post-Judeo-Christian civilisation that is subservient to the ideology of jihad and the Islamic powers that propagate it. The new European civilisation in the making can be called a ‘civilisation of dhimmitude’. The term ‘dhimmitude’ comes from the Arabic word dhimmi. It refers to subjugated, non-Muslim individuals or people that accept a ...

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Thomas Jones: Angels aren’t what they used to be, 16 December 2004

... with Satan and his rebellious hordes (from Book Six of Paradise Lost): At which command the powers militant, That stood for heaven, in mighty quadrate joined Of union irresistible, moved on In silence their bright legions, to the sound Of instrumental harmony that breathed Heroic ardour to adventurous deeds Under their godlike leaders, in the cause Of ...

Necrophiliac Striptease

Thomas Jones: Mummies, 6 February 2014

The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 321 pp., £18.99, October 2012, 978 0 19 969871 4
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... it with too small a gun. Ingram is one of three men – the others are the amateur Egyptologist Thomas Douglas Murray (1841-1911) and the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, who died within weeks of opening the tomb of Tutankhamun in February 1923 – whose stories Roger Luckhurst reconstructs in his alluring book, which shows that the mummy’s curse is one of those ...

Not Sufficiently Reassuring

Peter Godfrey-Smith: Anti-Materialism, 24 January 2013

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False 
by Thomas Nagel.
Oxford, 130 pp., £15.99, November 2012, 978 0 19 991975 8
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... our being here. So the universe has ‘woken up’, but in a local, accidental and low-key sense. Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos rejects this view and tries to build another. His subtitle is ‘Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False’. It is false, Nagel says, because it cannot deal with a cluster of real ...

Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: RBG’s Big Mistake, 8 October 2020

... in Randall Kennedy’s view: ‘The female Thurgood Marshall will be replaced by a female Clarence Thomas.’ Marshall was the first black justice on the court, a liberal; bad health forced him to retire under George H.W. Bush, and he was replaced by Thomas, a conservative from the far right. The analogy was not ...

Why did Lady Mary care about William Cragh?

Maurice Keen: A medieval miracle, 5 August 2004

The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory and Colonialism in the Middle Ages 
by Robert Bartlett.
Princeton, 168 pp., £16.95, April 2004, 0 691 11719 5
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... de Briouze, Lord of Gower, and sentenced by him to hang as a rebel and a homicide. The saint was Thomas de Cantilupe, former bishop of Hereford, who had died in 1282. From soon after his death posthumous miracles had begun to be attributed to him, and he was officially canonised by Pope John XXII in 1320. The story, in outline, runs thus. On the morning of ...

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