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Gangsters in Hats

Richard Mayne, 17 May 1984

Essays on Detective Fiction 
edited by Bernard Benstock.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £20, February 1984, 0 333 32195 2
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Dashiell Hammett: A Life at the Edge 
by William Nolan.
Arthur Barker, 276 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 213 16886 3
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The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 344 pp., £12.95, January 1984, 9780701127664
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Hellman in Hollywood 
by Bernard Dick.
Associated University Presses, 183 pp., £14.95, September 1983, 0 8386 3140 1
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... he did – although the evidence suggests that he thought his thrillers journeyman stuff. It was Raymond Chandler, in that famous piece of defensive expansionism, ‘The Simple Art of Murder’, who invoked ‘tragedy’ and ‘redemption’, proclaiming that ‘down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor ...

Diary

Perry Anderson: On E.P. Thompson, 21 October 1993

... I was not alone in failing to see this. A few years earlier, Edward had published a review of Raymond Williams’s Long Revolution in NLR, which was more temperate in tone than his treatment of Tom Nairn and myself, but more wounding in effect. One of his charges was that Raymond had become half-absorbed, in manner and ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... More important so far as his literary development is concerned was his meeting in 1917 with Eric Gordon Tombe, of whom he wrote: ‘In mental development I owe more to him than to any other person who has entered my life.’ Tombe was only four years older, a clergyman’s son who had worked as a motor mechanic in Stoke Newington; but to Wheatley he ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp, 19 December 1985

Stevie 
by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... we are told of the ‘mandarin approval’ of ‘wits so exquisite and discriminating’ as Raymond Mortimer, Noël Coward and Desmond Shawe-Taylor; on the publication of a book of poems a flurry of plaudits – ‘grimly entertaining’, ‘brilliantly funny and intimate’ – is produced. Barbera and McBrien summarise and categorise her output ...

Spadework

John Brown, 18 November 1982

Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Richard Layman.
Junction, 285 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 86245 027 6
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... to Malta and were given four islands by Charles V, not three. There are some crime novelists (Raymond Chandler and Eric Ambler come to mind) who owe their inflated reputations to critics who neither know nor like crime fiction; even if Hammett is one of these novelists – and he certainly suffers badly by comparison ...

Madly Excited

John Bayley, 1 June 1989

The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... equability is found, too, at a much humbler level – that of the best-seller and thriller-writer. Eric Ambler, a craftsman much admired by Greene, would seem not to have needed to make any pact with the Grub Street Mephistopheles: he stays the same whatever he writes. A Greene, though, or an Ian Fleming, may have to become what he writes, exemplify his own ...

Fashville

Robert Tashman, 9 March 1995

Prêt-à-Porter 
directed by Robert Altman.
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... was admired by some people because it was an adaptation, though a leaden one, of the work of Raymond Carver – who, in death, is more highly regarded than any other American writer of fiction of recent years. Prêt-à-Porter has flaws, but its strengths are considerable; I think it is Altman’s best work since Nashville (1975), which it resembles in ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... hope of getting into newsprint. There was, for example, fulsome coverage for Robin Cook (Derek Raymond) once he had gone; local colour pieces (memory tapes from the Coach and Horses) outweighing the tepid inches of a life-time’s review space. Cook, that most civilised of men, most troubled of writers, was one of the last to sustain a career on a working ...

‘No Bullshit’ Bullshit

Stefan Collini: Christopher Hitchens, Englishman, 23 January 2003

Orwell's Victory 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Allen Lane, 150 pp., £9.99, June 2002, 9780713995848
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... about it, as though the duffing-up were more important than dealing with Orwell’s own writing. Raymond Williams is taken behind the bike sheds for a particularly nasty going-over; repetition of another kind adds to the problem here, since the substance of this long section was first delivered at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in 1999 (as the ...

Not a Belonger

Colin Jones, 21 August 1997

The End of the Line: A Memoir 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 229 pp., £20, June 1997, 0 7195 5460 8
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... was often compared with other practitioners of ‘history from below’, such as Edward Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Albert Soboul and George Rudé, even though their Marxism was anathema to him. His magnum opus, on the armées révolutionnaires, the semi-vigilante armed bands who enforced the Terror in the provinces in 1793-4, might, in theory, have formed part ...

Gaslight and Fog

John Pemble: Sherlock Holmes, 26 January 2012

The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England 
by Haia Shpayer-Makov.
Oxford, 429 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 19 957740 8
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... pulp, but haunts the libraries, loos and luggage of people like T.S. Eliot, Ronald Knox, Eric Newby, Vladimir Nabokov and Umberto Eco. He even made it into Edmund Wilson’s bedroom. Although Holmes is a private detective, he’s frequently consulted by Scotland Yard and repeatedly succeeds where it fails. This leads Haia Shpayer-Makov to read in the ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr, 8 February 2018

Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... through the Cold War. Unlike his kindred spirits in Britain and France – Isaiah Berlin and Raymond Aron were more formidable thinkers – Schlesinger had a particularly intimate relationship with power. But one of the fascinating paradoxes of Richard Aldous’s biography is how slight Schlesinger’s influence in Washington actually was, despite his ...

Diary

Perry Anderson: Forget about Paris, 23 January 2014

... Besançon and Rouen. In the 20th century, cinema has relayed the tradition. The extreme example is Eric Rohmer, whose Comédies et proverbes and Contes des quatre saisons include settings in Clermont-Ferrand, Annecy, Le Mans, Biarritz, Cergy-Pontoise, Nevers, St Malo. The list, like that of Impressionist paintings a century earlier, leans towards ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... club, the vice-president of his Mar-a-Lago resort, and his butler. Trump’s sons Donald Jr and Eric have been listed as ‘honorary trustees’, and Trump himself was ‘ambassador extraordinaire’. The Star Diamond website lists 19 Trump properties that receive its imprimatur. ‘How am I involved in it?’ Trump replied in 2015 to a reporter from Yahoo ...

Diary

Jeremy Harding: My ’68, 19 July 2018

... with their small child, a record player and music that was a revelation to us: Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy. A day or two before we were due to leave, we stumbled on a crowd of young people, maybe a couple of hundred, near the Place Saint-Michel. The traffic was backed up; in the distance we heard the sound of martial clanking and boots on pavement. The ...

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