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Stamford Hill to Aldgate

Daniel Trilling, 16 November 2023

Chapters of Accidents: A Writer’s Memoir 
by Alexander Baron.
Vallentine Mitchell, 363 pp., £16.96, September 2022, 978 1 80371 029 7
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... up the road. Hackney isn’t in the East End – to believe otherwise is, as Harryboy Boas says in Alexander Baron’s novel The Lowlife (1963), ‘the mark of the outsider’. Rather, Hackney is the first step out, geographically and socially, ‘a Victorian-Edwardian suburb swallowed up by London, broad streets, little villas and big tradesmen’s ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... like a confederation of secret masters: Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Mark Benney, Robert Westerby, Alexander Baron, John Lodwick, Jack Trevor Story. They have been struck from the canon, these technicians, these life-enhanced witnesses. They are noticed only by slumming journalists (who have built up their own collections of the stuff) or by condescending ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... John Rodker) was discounted, along with the social realists (Robert Westerby, James Curtis, Alexander Baron), who remain trapped in a ghetto of unfashionable leftist politics and unfashionable locations. The locations – Whitechapel, Notting Hill – have recovered, but the politics have evaporated like a puddle on hot tarmac. We can’t afford to ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... Doubtless it was never quite so cut and dried. Skim the sub rosa lit of the time (Robin Cook, Alexander Baron, Colin MacInnes) and you’re plunged into a lost river with discrete but commingled tributaries: gay, criminal, East End Jewish, upper-class drop-out, lower-class dandy; the ‘morries’ of Cook’s dodgy Chelsea set, and ...

Todd Almighty

Peter Medawar, 16 February 1984

A Time to Remember: The Autobiography of a Chemist 
by Alexander Todd.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £15, November 1983, 0 521 25593 7
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... Society and to the British Association for the Advancement of Science – is not a substitute. Alexander Robertus Todd, Baron Trumpington, was the son of a responsible white-collar employee of a railway company who later became managing director of a substantial department store in Glasgow. Todd describes him as an ...

Target Practice

Tim Whitmarsh: Lucian, 25 February 2010

Lucian: A Selection 
edited by Neil Hopkinson.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £19.99, October 2008, 978 0 521 84200 6
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... died: all those orators, for example, who delivered speeches in the persona of Demosthenes or Alexander the Great (although even they, I suspect, were using their subjects as allegories for matters closer to home). But it is misleading to suggest that all the writers of the time were driven by a shared agenda. Even Lucian’s work doesn’t fit into a ...

The Raging Peloton

Iain Sinclair: Boris Bikes, 20 January 2011

... are recorded as doing, in release from the gravity of the city, in the proletarian novels of Alexander Baron and Roland Camberton. But Lord Sugar won’t try a Boris bike, not at any price. ‘Too big and heavy. I like carbon frames.’ Despite everything, all my petty prejudices, when I eventually found a station prepared to take my key, I enjoyed ...

At the Ikon Gallery

Brian Dillon: Jean Painlevé , 1 June 2017

... in Brittany met Geneviève Hamon, who became his companion and collaborator. Through her he met Alexander Calder, Jacques Prévert and the photographer Eli Lotar. He became friends with Eisenstein, Buñuel and Jean Vigo. (The severed and preserved hands kept by the old sailor Père Jules in L’Atalante were sourced and supplied by Painlevé.) Among ...

Faking It

Sam Gilpin: Paul Watkins, 10 August 2000

The Forger 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 343 pp., £9.99, July 2000, 0 571 20194 6
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... The Committee handles his boarding fees and pays for tutorials with a famous Russian painter, Alexander Pankratov. David is befriended by an art dealer, Guillaume Fleury, who sells on some of David’s ‘Gauguin’ sketches as originals – without his knowledge. The French police discover the fraud just as the Germans are threatening the city, and David ...

‘No, no,’ replied the fat man

Michael Davie, 3 December 1992

The Power of News: The History of Reuters 
by Donald Read.
Oxford, 330 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 19 821776 5
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... it, with his reports of commodity prices. Reuter became a British citizen, though he was made a baron by Queen Victoria’s brother-in-law, Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and he sent his son to Harrow and Balliol. Herbert took over the business after Reuter died in Nice in 1899. All family interest in the firm ceased after Herbert’s own death in ...

A Duck Folded in Half

Armand Marie Leroi, 19 June 1997

Before the Backbone: Views on the Origins of the Vertebrates 
by Henry Gee.
Chapman and Hall, 346 pp., £35, August 1996, 0 412 48300 9
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... of a collection of savants he had brought to Egypt, that he would far rather be a Newton than an Alexander. To which Monge replied that no one could attain again to the glory of Newton for there was only one world to discover. Not so, said Napoleon: there is still the ‘world of details’ and the laws that govern them – a sentiment curiously apposite to ...

Whose Body?

Charles Glass: ‘Operation Mincemeat’, 22 July 2010

Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Ben Macintyre.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 7475 9868 8
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... were letters from the vice chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Archibald Nye, to General Alexander in Tunisia and from Lord Mountbatten, chief of combined operations, to the Mediterranean naval commander Admiral Cunningham. The letters combined personal details with information pointing to invasions of Greece and Sardinia. Montagu’s next step was ...

Schlepping around the Flowers

James Meek: Bees, 4 November 2004

The Hive: The Story of the Honey-Bee and Us 
by Bee Wilson.
Murray, 308 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 7195 6409 3
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... Not long after​ the First World War, the movie baron Samuel Goldwyn set up a stable of Eminent Authors in an attempt to give silent screenplays more literary weight. One of the recruits was the Nobel Prize-winning Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck. Initially, neither party seems to have been troubled that Maeterlinck spoke no English, and the great Belgian set to work on a screen version of his novel La Vie des Abeilles ...


Iain Sinclair: The Peruvian Corporation of London, 10 October 2019

... cartridges like necklaces’. This was Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, a brutal and precipitate rubber baron, and the inspiration for Werner Herzog’s very different, white-suited Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo. Stahl was a later emanation, imposing his own myths on those of the tribal people, successfully colonising the riverside settlements we were ...


Jonathan Lamb: 18th-century seafaring, 20 March 2003

Voyages of Delusion: The Search for the Northwest Passage in the Age of Reason 
by Glyn Williams.
HarperCollins, 467 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 0 00 653213 6
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Voyage to Desolation Island 
by Jean-Paul Kauffmann, translated by Patricia Clancy.
Harvill, 177 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 1 86046 926 4
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... and for each patron a map-maker. The most persistent advocate of the Great Southern Continent, Alexander Dalrymple, was convinced that a land-bridge connected Australia either to New Guinea to the north, or to the paradise de Quiros had named Austrialia del Espiritu Santo to the east. On his first voyage Cook was carrying maps by the French cartographer ...

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