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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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... to deprecate the ‘story’. Shakespeare, Dickens and Dostoevsky had no such misgivings. Does this mean ceasing to discriminate between literature and yarns? Professor James Naremore, in Professor Bernard Benstock’s symposium, seems to imply that it does. Dashiell Hammett, he writes, ‘challenges the easy distinctions between popular and high art, and the critical language that normally sustains ...

Opera Mundi

Michael Neve

1 December 1983
Out of Order 
by Frank Johnson.
Robson, 256 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 86051 190 1
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Frank Johnson’s Election Year 
by Frank Johnson.
Robson, 192 pp., £6.95, October 1983, 0 86051 254 1
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by Bernard​ Levin.
Cape, 264 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 224 02114 1
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Poem of the Year 
by Clive James.
Cape, 79 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 224 02961 4
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The Original Michael Frayn 
by Michael Frayn.
Salamander, 203 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 907540 32 5
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... positions: a modest one, a way of liking opera, as Frank Johnson does, on the quiet, without shouting about it, and an orgiastic one, where one is cosmically-life-affirmingly-overwhelmed by it, as Bernard Levin is. What we are talking about when we talk about opera becomes an intriguing moral moment. People who talk about it well seem to do it very well, to be able to be large-minded and yet sceptical ...

Letting it get out

Bernard​ Williams

18 October 1984
Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation 
by Sissela Bok.
Oxford, 332 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 19 217733 8
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TheSecrets File: The Case for Freedom of Information in Britain Today 
edited by Des Wilson, foreword by David Steel.
Heinemann, 166 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 9780435839390
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... were published. In the dispute about their appearance, there was a good deal of talk about the right to know, but it mostly neglected the point that as a source of knowledge about political events, Dick Crossman’s testimony – even his testimony to himself – needed, to put it mildly, a good deal of interpretation. His individual and sometimes malign preoccupations provided no surrogate for a ...

Shakespeare’s Sister

Elaine Showalter

25 April 1991
Kate Chopin: A Life of the Author of ‘The Awakening’ 
by Emily Toth.
Century, 528 pp., £20, March 1991, 0 7126 4621 3
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... cause with local critics. Not altogether surprisingly, the aspects of the novel that shocked and bewildered Chopin’s contemporaries have made it popular with professors today. In fact, according to Bernard Koloski, the editor of Approaches to Teaching Chopin’s ‘The Awakening’ (MLA, 1988), it is ‘something of a teacher’s dream – a classic though topical novel that students respond well to ...

Quiet Sinners

Bernard​ Porter: Imperial Spooks

21 March 2013
Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 
by Calder Walton.
Harper, 411 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 00 745796 0
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... certain that SIS co-operated more closely with the apartheid government in South Africa than it admitted. It may also have helped Ian Smith’s Rhodesia; though, again, Walton has no proof. MI5’s Dick White claimed that SIS had collected ‘evidence’ of homosexuality with which to blackmail Cyprus’s Archbishop Makarios, but the papers aren’t yet available to back this up (or otherwise). We ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification

17 July 2008
The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... cut-outs one year and drawings … it’s all been different … People want to buy a Warhol or a person instead of a work. My work’s never become ‘a Brainard’. Or even a Jainard or a Bernard or a Joe. Here are the last six ‘I remember’s from his sparklingly original and ‘totally great’ (to use one of his own favourite locutions) memoir, I Remember, issued in four instalments ...
2 October 1997
Grace Notes 
by Bernard​ Mac Laverty.
Cape, 277 pp., £14.99, July 1997, 9780224044295
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... all shades of grey with the stern black and white of the keys. Normally it’s just a cop-out, borrowing the sonorous qualities of one art-form to make up for the artistic failings of another. Bernard Mac Laverty’s strength has always been his linguistic focus on minutiae, his depiction of the parochial through luminescent language. Lines from his short stories fizzle in the memory years after ...
24 February 1994
The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... than films of ‘swinging London’ like Blow Up or Darling, which offer adolescent fantasies of sexual freedom when the reality for most punters must have been closer to Carry On Camping, with Bernard Bresslaw and Sid James making a pathetic pilgrimage to a nudist camp in order to gaze longingly at the ‘birds’ – pop-eyed, helpless and fundamentally out of the running. What Williams and the ...
15 September 1988
Bernard​ Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard​ Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard​ Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... crisis: but Shaw was incapable of the attentiveness called for, and it ended in tears. Remembering this debacle, he later took a strong line about feminine demands on him, somewhat in the manner of Dick in The Devil’s Disciple. Among those he tormented were Edith Bland, whose husband Hubert was unfaithful. Failing to get Shaw into bed, she made her famous complaint: ‘You had no right to write ...

Oedipal Wrecks

Michael Mason

26 March 1992
Fates Worse than Death 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 240 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 224 02918 5
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... of Breakfast of Champions. Slapstick even contains brief reappearances by some of the old loyal cast of characters, supposedly abandoned, such as Norman Mushari and Winston Niles Rumfoord. In Deadeye Dick (1982) the setting is Midland City, where Breakfast of Champions was set, with many of its inhabitants revived also. The narrator and hero of Bluebeard (1985) is another character from that novel ...

Thank God for Traitors

Bernard​ Porter: GCHQ

18 November 2010
GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency 
by Richard Aldrich.
Harper, 666 pp., £30, June 2010, 978 0 00 727847 3
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... presumably, because his book went to press before it was revealed – in April – that Wilson had been right. In the 1970s journalistic suspicion and criticism of the ‘secret state’ mounted. Dick White, a head of SIS, told a colleague that even his own children had complained about his ‘shady business’. He had replied: ‘Do you consider me to be any less good a husband and father and ...

All Too Firmly Planted

Bernard​ Bailyn

10 November 1994
Mobility and Migration: East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629-1640 
by Roger Thompson.
Massachusetts, 305 pp., £39.50, April 1994, 0 87023 893 0
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Adapting to a New World: English Society in the 17th-century Chesapeake 
by James Horn.
North Carolina, 461 pp., $65, September 1994, 0 8078 2137 3
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... hardly reduce[d] their sense of belonging to a tightly knit small-town world’. As for artisans and farmers, Thompson has clear sailing. These were no ambitious, enterprising, wandering Dick Whittingtons (apparently his base-line point of comparison), whatever their ‘restless, youthful mobility’; they neither wanted nor achieved much betterment. They were ‘resolutely rooted ...

The it’s your whole life

Iain Bamforth: Jean-Claude Romand

22 March 2001
The Adversary: A True Story of Murder and Deception 
by Emmanuel Carrère, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Bloomsbury, 183 pp., £14.99, January 2001, 0 7475 5189 8
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... phoned the police. Romand had met her in Paris on the Saturday evening (the post-mortems showed that the family had been killed in the morning): they were supposed to be dining at Fontainebleu with Bernard Kouchner, who Romand claimed was a friend; on the way there he had attacked and tried to strangle her. All she had wanted was the return of her savings – 900,000 francs she thought she had invested ...

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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... cases, taking little part in the investigation of crime, and so didn’t figure much in the press. In fiction, however, they were paramount. Here they eclipsed outlaw heroes of folk tradition – Dick Turpin, Jonathan Wild, Dick Sheppard – and usurped the leadership of the police in the fight against delinquency and disorder. The prolific Stephen Knight has calculated that Sherlock Holmes had at ...

Lost Empire

D.J. Enright

16 October 1980
Earthly Powers 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 650 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 09 143910 8
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... believe.) ‘Richardtionary’ is the polite homosexual term for a useful book of reference: what, indeed, you might call an ‘aide de camp’. (Less politely, ‘shonnary’: ‘I always leave the dick out.’) The Rilke joke – ‘“The last time I saw him was in a café in Trieste. He cried.” “He often cried. But nobody heard him among the angelic orders”’ – palls on the reprise. Far ...

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