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MacInnes’s London

Michael Mason, 16 October 1980

City of Spades Mr Love and Mr Justice Absolute Beginners 
by Colin MacInnes.
Allison and Busby, 254 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85031 331 7
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... With his three London novels Colin MacInnes hit on a marvellous subject-matter, into which he saw deeply. In other departments, however, he did not have the qualities to match. The books are consequently a frustrating experience – giving the sense of something thwarted, or half-realised. Taken as a group, indeed, they testify to the author’s unease about how best to convey his materials and vision ...


Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic, 27 May 2010

... have the membership card for Muriel’s Colony Club in Dean Street, which someone – most likely Colin MacInnes – pressed on me, but alcoholic camp was not my scene, nor jazz theirs, even though at one time they had decent background music played by an agreeable West Indian pianist. I was commissioned almost immediately to write a book. More to the ...

A Good Girl in Africa

D.A.N. Jones, 16 September 1982

Double Yoke 
by Buchi Emecheta.
Dgwugwu Afor, 163 pp., £3, September 1982, 0 9508177 0 8
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The Aerodrome 
by Rex Warner.
Bodley Head, 304 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 9780370309262
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AVery British Coup 
by Chris Mullin.
Hodder, 220 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 340 28586 9
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An Ice Cream War 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 370 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 241 10868 3
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Tempting Fate 
by Michael Levey.
Hamish Hamilton, 220 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 241 10801 2
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... met this clever-naif teenage narrator before, in the novels of J. D. Salinger, Denton Welch and Colin MacInnes. But the device is still successful; and Nicky is, in a surprising way, a prize ...


James MacGibbon: Fashionable Radicals, 22 January 1987

... volumes of Greek myths and Noel Annan’s Leslie Stephen, as well as novels by Thomas Hinde and Colin MacInnes. There was also the peculiar satisfaction of publishing books right outside one’s ken. When we took on Great Horses of the Year, my ignorance of the turf was such that when one of my salesmen suggested that the bookmaker William Hill might ...
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... Absolute Beginners began as a poetic fantasy about the Fifties, which the ingenious author, Colin MacInnes, had carefully disguised as a documentary about teenagers (few of whom appear in the book): when this rave-from-the-grave was exhumed as a Bowie movie of the Eighties, all the faked-up realism had disappeared. It was total fantasy, but not ...

Seventy Years in a Colourful Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: The Soho Alphabet, 16 July 2020

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia 
by Darren Coffield.
Unbound, 364 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 1 78352 816 5
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... and her flow of ‘liberating smut’, her job was ‘the constant exercise of social flair’, as Colin MacInnes called it.Within a year or so of the club’s opening, Bacon brought in the crème de la crème of English debauchery. The room swayed. Against the bar, and against most things, you might have found Nina Hamnett next to Louis MacNeice, the ...

Angela and Son

Dan Jacobson, 2 August 1984

Inside Outsider: The Life and Times of Colin MacInnes 
by Tony Gould.
Chatto, 261 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 7011 2678 7
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... interesting parts of the lives of writers often enough take place before they become writers. In Colin MacInnes’s case, one might say that some of the most interesting parts of his life took place before he was born. He was the great-grandchild of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Burne-Jones, and was thus connected with both the Kipling and the ...

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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... 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 Baron’s Harryboy Boas, a ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... about he developed through the succeeding volumes a style marked by dazzling feats of compression. Colin MacInnes’s essay of 1960 on Pevsner’s English is also reprinted in A Celebration. It compares him, not very illuminatingly, with Conrad but does little to characterise him as a writer. At the Architectural Review in the 1930s, James Richards had ...

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