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James Fox

James Fox is currently engaged in writing a book about the murder of Lord Erroll.

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

I first met Francis Wyndham in 1968, when I went to the Sunday Times Magazine looking for a job. A thunderstorm in the Gray’s Inn Road had soaked my cheap lightweight blue suit, bought in Johannesburg, and I was thinking my appearance had cost me my chance. At that time everyone – writers and photographers – seemed to want to write for the Magazine, then under the editorship of Godfrey Smith. It was both a serious and a very glamorous publication, soon to be the apogee of photo-journalism; its style was a vital part of the machinery of ‘the Sixties’ – all hard to imagine now. The newspaper itself was perhaps the best in the world, well financed, brimming with talent and zeal. Harold Evans had taken over as Editor the previous year.’

Diary: On Drum Magazine

James Fox, 8 March 1990

A week after Mandela’s release I got a call from Jim Bailey, my former employer on Drum Magazine in Johannesburg where I worked in the late Sixties. He had been elated by the news and set about gathering old Drum hands and sympathisers for a reunion. But by the time we met, he confessed to a sudden weariness, a kind of post partum depression after the forty years of toil and tension.

Lucky’s Dip

James Fox, 12 November 1987

There is enough forensic evidence lying around to construct any number of theories, from either point of view. Was it, or was it not, Lord Lucan who murdered the nanny Sandra Rivett? In the 13 years since she was found in the US mailbag at 46 Lower Belgrave Street in London there has been no new evidence. Patrick Marnham’s only novelty is the evidence from Taki, the Spectator gossip-columnist, to the effect that he knew Lucky Lucan had a powerboat and had made dummy runs with an eight-stone sack to the coast. That fits with Lucan’s remarks to Greville Howard some weeks before the murder that he planned to drop his wife’s body into the Solent. As for the Lucan ‘set’, once so besieged and worried for its survival, this has long since been amalgamated into the Thatcher revolution. It’s a pity that neither of these books has a history of the store of rumour that grew up around the affair – the brutal witch-hunting stories that passed as truth, and are secure in the popular culture. They told us something of our rather nasty ways of dealing with the unexplained or inexplicable. It was indeed that line of venom which led me to ask about Lucan’s wife Veronica. These inquiries led in turn to a fierce reaction from the Lucan supporters, and to the hounding of Dominick Elwes. ‘They simply hadn’t realised what an unsympathetic appearance they gave to the rest of the world,’ writes Marnham.’

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

In a recent letter to the Times, Lords Hailsham, Drogheda, Carrington, Goodman and Weinstock, and Messrs Roy Jenkins and James Prior, said they felt it was a good time, in view of the new publicity about the Ward case, to place on record their sense of admiration for the dignity and courage displayed by Mr and Mrs John Profumo and their family in the quarter-century since the episode occurred. ‘This letter,’ they continued, ‘also records our feelings that it is now appropriate to consign the episode to history.’ It was an odd letter and I would be surprised if Lord Goodman had drafted it, even though it comes from his office. (It was Hailsham who said in June 1963: ‘A great party is not to be brought down by a woman of easy virtue and a proved liar.’ Something of a sting at the time.) The idea conveyed is that history is an oubliette down which you can throw episodes you would rather have forgotten. But the Profumo case, which should be called the Stephen Ward case, will not go down. The longer it is around, the uglier it gets. It is a shocking story, which will continue to discredit its participants, all the more so for as long as they pretend, like Lord Denning, that there was no injustice perpetrated against Stephen Ward, or say that these new revelations are ‘invented’. No doubt to Ward’s posthumous amusement, Denning is currently reported to be arguing for libel protection for the dead.

Supreme Kidnap

James Fox, 20 March 1980

The readers of the Italian weekly L’Espresso (swaying in the breeze like a field of ripe corn) were treated, in their issue of 20 January, to a new form of journalistic entertainment – a media package for the Eighties. Wrapped into the cellophane cover was a gramophone record, featuring a conversation between a member of the Red Brigades and Aldo Moro’s daughter, in which she is given one last chance for her father’s release. This is followed by another conversation – the last in a series of calls from another of Moro’s captors, ‘Professor Niccolai’, telling Moro’s best friend, on the day he was killed, where to pick up the corpse. You hear the friend sobbing and making great efforts to speak. He is told that Moro’s last wish was that he take the news to Moro’s family. ‘I can’t,’ he says. ‘You can’t,’ says Niccolai, as if discussing a grocery delivery. His bureaucratic style creates a repugnant sense of cruelty and inhumanity as he gives directions: first left, second right, the body is in the boot. ‘Va bene?’

It was for services ‘to exports and ecology’ that Sir James Goldsmith was nominated for a peerage, and then demoted to a knight by the Scrutiny Committee, in what is bitterly remembered as the Wilson Honours List. Was there a connection between Sir James’s elevation and his year-long battle to punish Private Eye and jail its editor, Richard Ingrams – an effort which was supported by Wilson and Lady Falkender, both victims of Ingrams’s harassment, and which petered out in a relatively painless settlement in 1976? Ingrams’s theory is that there was such a connection.

Letter

Poor Old Lucky

12 November 1987

From Rosemary Hill’s review, it seems we have another book, this by Laura Thompson, exonerating Lord Lucan of the murder of the children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, and the attempted murder of his wife, Veronica (LRB, 5 February). It is bizarre after all this time to find any writer on the case, who is not a family defender of the disappeared earl, putting across such a conclusion. That Rosemary...

Keith Richards

Jenny Diski, 16 December 2010

I’m going to hang on to Keith Richards’s autobiography, because sometimes I worry that I lead a boring life and wonder if I shouldn’t try harder to have fun. When that happens,...

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The Lovely Langhornes

Gabriele Annan, 7 January 1999

By the time she got married in 1895, Irene Langhorne was 22 and had had 62 proposals. Getting proposals was what Southern belles were brought up to do. Irene was the second of the five Langhorne...

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Happy Valleys

Dan Jacobson, 18 November 1982

The story goes something like this. A ruthless aristocratic seducer of other people’s wives begins an affair with the bride (of a couple of months’ standing) of an acquaintance. The...

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