Diary

Ian Hamilton

On 4 March it will be ten years since the death of the writer Francis Hope – killed at 34 in the Turkish Airlines DC10 crash outside Paris – and this last week I have been going through a small mountain of his journalism, for a possible collection of his ‘literary essays and reviews’. For about twelve years, Hope wrote regularly for the New Statesman, the Observer, the TLS: he also contributed to several smaller journals – including my own verse periodical, The Review, which he served for a decade as a member of the editorial board (indeed, so far as I can remember, he attended all three annual general meetings). He worked both as a magazine essayist and as a ‘real’ journalist, and even for a time appeared as a reporter for TV’s Panorama. I guess that over the years he must have published more than a quarter of a million words. Enough for a book? That remains to be seen. So far, the message seems to be that five one-thousand-word pieces on five separate novels by Saul Bellow don’t actually add up to a five-thousand-word appraisal. In the meantime, though, I’ve been reminded just how good Francis Hope was as a reviewer: deft, sardonic and wide-ranging, valuably unenchantable throughout the dopey Sixties.

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[*] Allison and Busby, 160 pp., £6.95 and £2.95, 20 February, 0 85031 584 0.