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In Bloody Orkney

Robert Crawford: George Mackay Brown, 22 February 2007

George Mackay Brown: The Life 
by Maggie Fergusson.
Murray, 363 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 7195 5659 7
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The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown 
edited by Brian Murray.
Murray, 547 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7195 6884 6
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... the awkwardly constructed and uninvitingly written ‘literary biography’ of Brown by Rowena and Brian Murray, published in 2004, this new account is clear and stylish. Fergusson’s most arresting new material concerns his dealings with women, about which she is remarkably non-judgmental. At times, however, she seems reluctant to sift the ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... but who dismiss the idea that they were sympathetic to Fascism as a ‘mistaken notion’ (Brian Inglis’s conclusion in his 1966 account, Abdication). Lady Donaldson denounces Charles Higham for retailing tittle-tattle, and concludes that if you leave out the gossip and the speculation there is nothing left in his biography which we didn’t know ...

The Same Old Solotaire

Peter Wollen, 4 July 1996

‘Salome’ and ‘Under the Hill’ 
by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
Creation, 123 pp., £7.95, April 1996, 1 871592 12 7
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Aubrey Beardsley: Dandy of the Grotesque 
by Chris Snodgrass.
Oxford, 338 pp., £35, August 1995, 0 19 509062 4
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... revival, gathering momentum with the retrospective exhibition organised in London in 1966 by Brian Reade. The Nineties had gone underground for seventy years, resurfacing only when the hold of Late Victorian values was at last undermined, where it had long been upheld, in the courts. Beardsley’s legacy does not run through the acknowledged ...

Connections

Colin Wallace, 8 October 1992

The Red Hand: Protestant Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland 
by Steve Bruce.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, August 1992, 0 19 215961 5
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... national security against another.’ The current debate surrounding the case of a former soldier, Brian Nelson, jailed earlier this year for offences committed during his time as an Army Intelligence agent inside the UDA, and the High Court action taken by the Chief Constable of the RUC against Channel 4 over allegations of a murder squad within the RUC, are ...

Little Brits

Tom Shippey: Murder on Hadrian’s Wall, 19 November 2015

The Real Lives of Roman Britain 
by Guy de la Bédoyère.
Yale, 241 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20719 4
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... What​ have the Romans ever done for us?’ John Cleese asks in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. His audience, not realising his question is rhetorical, replies: aqueducts, sanitation, medicine, public order, etc etc. Guy de la Bédoyère, on the other hand, doesn’t need a list: the Romans’ most important legacy, he suggests in his new book, is literacy, and specifically the habit of written memorialisation ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... there may continue to be minor alarums, such as the recent spat over the entry for Patrick O’Brian). Nonetheless, a not dissimilar kind of sleep-disturbing responsibility fell on its editor, and the project was fortunate to find the ideal man for the job in the Oxford historian Colin Matthew, who had demonstrated his capacity for the task in his ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... he was an employee.’ He wanted out, but couldn’t extricate himself entirely: MainMan owned the masters of all the recordings he’d made to date, and Defries was entitled to hefty royalties, in perpetuity, on everything Bowie made until their contract expired in 1982. So he wasn’t free of Defries, but perversely the ongoing constraints of his contractual ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... than his sexuality? Was his religious upbringing more important than his reading of the American masters? Were his sadness and anger more important than his love of laughter, his delight in the world? Did his prose style, as the novelist Russell Banks claimed that evening, take its bearings from Emerson, or was it, as the writer Hilton Als put it, ‘a ...
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... of Hugh Gaitskell; lists were drawn up of such notorious Communists or Communist sympathisers as Brian Walden, David Owen, Robert Mellish, John Stonehouse, Roy Hattersley and Reg Prentice; and even a bogus pamphlet on ‘revolutionary strategy’ for the installation of socialism in Britain was contrived for off-the-record briefing of American ...

MacDiarmid’s Sticks

C.H. Sisson, 5 April 1984

Whaur Extremes Meet: The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid 1920-1934 
by Catherine Kerrigan.
James Thin, 245 pp., £12.50, June 1983, 0 901824 69 0
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Elemental Things: The Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid 
by Harvey Oxenhorn.
Edinburgh, 215 pp., £15, March 1984, 0 85224 475 4
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Aesthetics in Scotland 
by Hugh MacDiarmid and Alan Bold.
Mainstream, 100 pp., £6.95, February 1984, 0 906391 60 1
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Annals of the Five Senses 
by Hugh MacDiarmid and Alan Bold.
Polygon, 161 pp., £6.50, July 1983, 0 904919 74 9
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Hugh MacDiarmid: The Terrible Crystal 
by Alan Bold.
Routledge, 251 pp., £9.95, August 1983, 0 7100 9493 0
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Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M. Grieve) 
by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 143 pp., £3.25, September 1982, 0 7073 0307 9
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The Thistle Rises: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose by Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 463 pp., £12.95, February 1984, 0 241 11171 4
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A Scottish Poetry Book 
by Alan Bold, Bob Dewar, Iain McIntosh and Rodger McPhail.
Oxford, 128 pp., £4.95, July 1983, 0 19 916029 5
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Edinburgh and the Borders in Verse 
by Allan Massie.
Secker, 97 pp., £5.95, August 1983, 0 436 27348 9
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... not easy to lay hands on, and it is impossible to speak too highly of the enterprise of Martin Brian and O’Keeffe in issuing in 1978 the first real Complete Poems, which superseded the earlier collected editions as well as the thirty or so constituent volumes from Annals of the Five Senses (1923, reprinted 1930) onwards. Of this first book, which is ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... Dylan – containing folk music of rapidly evolving subtlety and bite, plus protest songs like ‘Masters of War’, ‘Only a Pawn in Their Game’ and ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’. I was too young, and too much of a chart-watching pop-picker, to pay much attention to these, though I attended to them greedily in retrospect. Listening back to them now I ...

A Misreading of the Law

Conor Gearty: Why didn’t Campbell sue?, 19 February 2004

Report of the Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Dr David Kelly CMG 
by Lord Hutton.
Stationery Office, 740 pp., £70, January 2004, 0 10 292715 4
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... made that ‘there had been a number of similar claims in the media and that the evidence of Dr Brian Jones’ – a senior government scientist – ‘showed that the report that there was concern in intelligence circles was correct.’9 As far as Lord Hutton was concerned, all this was neither here nor there. The ‘communication by the media of ...

Diary

John Lanchester: Getting into Esports, 13 August 2020

... Is Esports opens, when xPeke pulled off a dazzlingly innovative move to win the 2013 Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice for his League team, Fnatic; or the time the fighting game legend Daigo ‘The Beast’ Umehara pulled off 15 consecutive blocks in a row to defeat Justin Wong in the semi-final of a 2004 Street Fighter 3 ...

Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat

David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... was open to discussions on the hunger strikers’ demands if they would stop their fast. Their IRA masters would not let them do that, but they did start talking about terms for ending the protest. The talks broke down, but they had the effect of raising expectations among the families of the remaining hunger strikers that their lives might be spared. This ...

The Ribs of Rosinante

Richard Gott, 21 August 1997

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life 
by Jon Lee Anderson.
Bantam, 814 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 593 03403 1
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Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara 
by Jorge Castañeda, translated by Marina Castañeda.
Bloomsbury, 480 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 7475 3334 2
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... the eastern oil town of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. (Granada Television had enlisted me to act as Brian Moser’s consultant on a World in Action documentary.) At La Esperanza, we found the commander, Major Ralph ‘Pappy’ Shelton, a Korean veteran, in an expansive mood. With a handful of senior American officers he was celebrating the end of the six-month ...

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