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4 January 1996
The Death of Yugoslavia 
by Allan Little and Laura Silber.
Penguin, 400 pp., £6.99, September 1995, 0 14 024904 4
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... Medals and mementoes from a successful Gulf War adorn almost every corridor and room at the headquarters of the US Army’s First Armoured Division in Bad Kreuznach, a charming little spa town in Rheinland Pfalz. Considered one of the toughest and most effective branches of the American military, the ‘Old Ironsides’ excelled itself in the deserts of Kuwait. Yet from Major ...

Cookson County

Rosalind Mitchison

27 June 1991
The Hanging Tree 
by Allan​ Massie.
Heinemann, 346 pp., £13.99, November 1990, 0 434 45301 3
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Tiberius: The Memoirs of the Emperor 
by Allan​ Massie.
Hodder, 256 pp., £13.95, January 1991, 0 340 48788 7
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The Gillyflors 
by Catherine Cookson.
Bantam, 366 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 593 01726 9
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... so good for nothing and hardly any women at all’ was the core of Catherine Morland’s distaste for history in Northanger Abbey. Historical fiction does something to redress the gender bias, but little to improve the moral quality of the male personalities. It wouldn’t make for a good story if it did. But those wanting to read fiction are unlikely to want to do so to evaluate morals. They want to ...

Showboating

John Upton: George Carman

9 May 2002
No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman 
by Dominic Carman.
Hodder, 331 pp., £18.99, January 2002, 0 340 82098 5
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... play of a technique of his father’s which is common to all criminal barristers, who vary their accent depending on who they are speaking to – from mockney when talking to clients in the cell to Little Lord Fauntleroy’s posher cousin when addressing the judge. We learn also about Carman’s pressurised working arrangements: how he would return from a heavy drinking session to begin preparing for ...

Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons

23 April 1992
Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... The prosecution case against Edgar A. Poe looks a strong one. Taken in by the Richmond tobacco broker John Allan when left orphaned at the age of two by the death of his actress mother Eliza, brought up as a member of the family and sent to the University of Virginia, he responded by running up gambling debts ...

Persons outside the Law

Catherine Hall: The Atlantic Family

19 July 2018
Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 
by Daniel Livesay.
North Carolina, 448 pp., £45, January 2018, 978 1 4696 3443 2
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... year-old son and heir to the chief of Clan Macpherson, decided to try his hand at planting in the West Indies. The family had been Jacobites and urgently needed to repair their finances. His father, Allan, had failed to make a fortune in the East Indies and William knew he had to make good. They had kin on his mother’s side, Frasers, living in Berbice in Dutch Guyana, and so the West Indies seemed ...

Pretty Letters

Megan Marshall: The Death of Edgar Allan​ Poe

21 February 2008
Poe: A Life Cut Short 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 170 pp., £15.99, February 2008, 978 0 7011 6988 6
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... narrative structure but risking the tedium of ever-forward motion. Why not borrow the sure-fire novelistic tricks of flashback and flash-forward to elude that soporific ‘and then’? So, it is little surprise to find the prolific genre-bender Peter Ackroyd beginning his brief biography of Edgar Allan Poe with a recounting of his subject’s final days. Never mind that Paul Strathern’s recent ...

Walking backward

Robert Taubman

21 August 1980
Selected Works of Djuna Barnes 
Faber, 366 pp., £5.50, July 1980, 0 571 11579 9Show More
Black Venus’s Tale 
by Angela Carter.
Next Editions/Faber, 35 pp., £1.95, June 1980, 9780907147022
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The Last Peacock 
by Allan​ Massie.
Bodley Head, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 370 30261 3
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The Birds of the Air 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 152 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 7156 1491 6
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...  some are only half-characters just as in a painting by Degas you get half a horse, if that’s all the view happens to include. What matters is the truthfulness of what it does show, and Allan Massie is strikingly detached and truthful, leaving it to the reader to observe and judge. Not that this means that in a literal sense he tells the truth about the Scottish landed classes. His ...

Two Ships

Andrew O’Hagan

6 March 1997
... the old refrigerators. The heating was fine, and people said the food was a version of adequate. The crossing could be rough. But the Montrose gained the reputation of being a worthy and serviceable little vessel: well run, trusty and as comfortable and quick as you’d get for the money. The passengers could pace the decks without fear of assault or disease (not as new a feature of the crossing as you ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Swing Time’

4 April 2019
... Swing Time); and there are the differences among Irving Berlin (Top Hat), Jerome Kern (Swing Time) and George Gershwin (Shall We Dance) as composers. There is some amazing dialogue (in this case by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano – Allan Scott is credited on all three movies): ‘What are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?’ ‘Marriage’; ‘To tell you the truth, I don’t know you well ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes

18 September 1997
Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... influence was felt, too, in the continuing notoriety of Salome, given a new lease of life by the success of The Vision of Salome, a titillating dance entertainment starring the voluptuous Maud Allan, herself an icon for homosexuals and a focus for stories of sexual debauchery that included manifold lesbian liaisons and affairs with the King and the Duke of Westminster. Such ‘degeneracy’ was ...
23 July 1992
The End of History and the Last Man 
by Francis Fukuyama.
Hamish Hamilton, 418 pp., £20, March 1992, 0 241 13013 1
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... girl’s breast, but they could not say anything fundamentally new about the human situation’. As for a satisfied philosopher, once the quest for a full understanding of human nature is finished, little remains (apart from the odd bit of reviewing) but to present the true understanding in as clear and agreeable a form as possible. This is what Fukuyama has done. He quite properly makes no claim to ...

Royal Anxiety

Gabriele Annan

9 June 1994
The Queen 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 341 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 297 81211 4
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Divine Right: The Inglorious Survival of British Royalty 
by Richard Tomlinson.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 316 91119 4
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... My favourite recent book about the Queen is called The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan. It is a picture book for small children. The centre spread presents several rows of knickers for every royal occasion: Union Jack knickers for state visits, black knickers for state funerals, tartan ...

A History

Allan​ Massie

19 February 1981
The Kennaway Papers 
by James Kennaway and Susan Kennaway.
Cape, 141 pp., £5.50, January 1981, 0 224 01865 5
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... to himself as he walks through the fish-market of Venice. You can hear the echo of Fitzgerald, awe-struck and yet defiantly ironic, as he views the rich boys, who have everything and understand so little. A good starting-point, then, for any consideration of Kennaway is this realisation that he was the same type of novelist (and had something of the same order of talent) as the Old Firm, writers ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: John Humphrys

22 September 2005
... of a community of practice of all those interested in knowledge mobilisation and localisation of their domain’ is one of his examples. In his introduction to James Cochrane’s Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English (Icon, £6.99), Humphrys says that a young man who used the phrase ‘proactively networking’ when applying for a job at the BBC ought to have been ‘publicly executed’. So ...

Buy birthday present, go to morgue

Colm Tóibín: Diane Arbus

2 March 2017
Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer 
by Arthur Lubow.
Cape, 734 pp., £35, October 2016, 978 0 224 09770 3
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Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus and Howard Nemerov 
by Alexander Nemerov.
Fraenkel Gallery, 106 pp., $30, March 2015, 978 1 881337 41 6
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... about her.’ Howard’s Journal of the Fictive Life, a strange, fragmented book published in 1965, has much to say about photography. There are moments when the text reads like a long letter to his little sister. He looks at a portrait of them as children, when he is seven and she four: ‘A little, a very little, sexual experimentation with my sister must probably date to about this time; but that is ...

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