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Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... influence on the generations that followed. Following Osborne’s death in 1994, however, David Hare, among others, leaped to the playwright’s defence, in his memorial eulogy and a longer lecture first delivered in 2002 and repeated on the stage of the Royal Court on the 50th anniversary of Look Back in Anger’s opening. Now John Heilpern has taken ...

Quite a Show

Tim Parks: Georges Simenon, 9 October 2014

A Man’s Head 
by Georges Simenon, translated by David Coward.
Penguin, 169 pp., £6.99, July 2014, 978 0 14 139351 3
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A Crime in Holland 
by Georges Simenon, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Penguin, 160 pp., £6.99, May 2014, 978 0 14 139349 0
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... In​ 1974, aged 71, having announced the end of a writing career that had produced nearly two hundred novels, and having retreated from a mansion with 11 servants to a small house in Lausanne where he lived with his second wife’s ex-maid, Georges Simenon dictated his Letter to My Mother, Henriette Simenon née Brüll, who had died four years earlier ...

One Night in Maidenhead

Jean McNicol, 30 October 1997

Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... to her own not terribly tragic life. Early in her suggestive and elegantly written study of Noël Coward and Radclyffe Hall, Terry Castle admits that Hall’s ‘style is for the most part the antithesis of Coward’s – painfully discursive, polemical, almost entirely devoid of gaiety, archness or ambiguity’. Castle ...

Out of the Pound Loney

Ronan Bennett: The demonising of Gerry Adams, 5 March 1998

Man of War, Man of Peace? The Unauthorised Biography of Gerry Adams 
by David Sharrock and Mark Devenport.
Macmillan, 488 pp., £16.99, November 1997, 0 333 69883 5
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... To judge from this biography, the Sinn Féin leader still has some way to go. According to David Sharrock and Mark Devenport, Adams is a ruthless, scheming hypocrite who talks peace in front of the cameras, but in private continues to plot death and misery. He speaks of ‘inclusion’ and publicly condemns sectarianism, but has boasted that he would ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... and Canada there not being much to choose. Easter Monday. Watch two programmes on Noël Coward, wishing now I’d agreed to be interviewed for them. I’d said no on the grounds that my acquaintance with him was too slight, but Wesker appears whose connection was even slighter. I saw Coward first in New York in ...

The Stamp of One Defect

David Edgar: Jeremy Thorpe, 30 July 2015

Jeremy Thorpe 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 606 pp., £25, December 2014, 978 0 316 85685 0
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Closet Queens: Some 20th-Century British Politicians 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 320 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4087 0412 7
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... and subsequent conversations, but he describes how – eventually – a Manchester banker called David Holmes, who’d been best man at Thorpe’s first wedding as well as the Liberal Party’s deputy treasurer, met a South Wales carpet merchant who suggested approaching a Swansea gambling-machine manufacturer who might be able to put them in touch with ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... Both David Cressy and Cynthia Herrup believe they are writing microhistory, a word coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984). Microhistorians have turned to the verbatim records of interrogations kept in the law courts of early modern Europe (or at least those parts of Europe where Roman law procedures were followed) to reconstruct the detailed stories of individual trials ...

Sisterly

A.N. Wilson, 21 October 1993

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 538 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 340 53784 1
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... My great new friend is Noël Coward’, Nancy Mitford confided to a correspondent in 1949. ‘Bliss. He shakes like a jelly at one’s jokes, I adore that.’ It was laughs Nancy Mitford wanted, much more than grandeur. She longs to make people laugh, and sometimes, almost in the manner of a nervous stand-up comedienne, interrupts her letters to make sure that the audience is suitably convulsed ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: David Lean, 3 July 2008

... A recent Italian book on the films of David Lean is called Colour and Dust, and with an amplification or two the phrase offers a pretty good description of his later work. The colour is mainly orange, and a lot of the dust is sand, especially in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). More generally, of course, the phrase evokes the director of swirling epics, a sort of Cecil B ...

He wouldn’t dare

David A. Bell: Bloodletting in Paris, 9 May 2002

Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris 1789-1945 
by Richard D.E. Burton.
Cornell, 395 pp., £24.50, September 2001, 0 8014 3868 3
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... in which he died on a makeshift altar; the brazenly Christ-like representation of his dead body by David; the renaming of Montmartre (Martyr’s Mount) as Montmarat; the chant of ‘cor de Jésus, cor de Marat’ as members of the Cordelier club carried his heart through the streets of Paris. What did this imitation really amount to? Did it simply express a ...

You’ve got to get used to it

John Bayley: David Piper, 15 October 1998

I am well, who are you? 
by David Piper, edited by Anne Piper.
Anne Piper, 96 pp., £12, March 1998, 0 9532123 0 0
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... be made use of in ways that are contextually effective, and surprisingly original. That is what David Piper contrived to do in a brilliant one-off war novel, Trial by Battle. It describes the experiences of a young officer, the reverse of professional, during the 1941 Malayan campaign between the British-Indian Army and the Japanese: the campaign which led ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

Pushkin 
by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... us off with the diplomatic and historical background of Pushkin’s life. Feinstein also mentions David Magarshack’s biography respectfully for what was at the time – 1967 – its up-to-date research but reprovingly for its lack of notes and references. (In fact notes do often appear in Magarshack’s book, as parentheses in the text, and there is an ...

What’s Coming

David Edgar: J.M. Synge, 22 March 2001

Fool of the Family: A Life of J.M. Synge 
by W.J. McCormack.
Weidenfeld, 499 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 297 64612 5
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Interpreting Synge: Essays from the Synge Summer School 1991-2000 
edited by Nicholas Grene.
Lilliput, 220 pp., £29.95, July 2000, 1 901866 47 5
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... Farquhar fits the bill completely. But actor-playwrights go back from Marber, Pinter, Osborne and Coward to Jonson and Shakespeare. And if you leave out the Irish (by birth or upbringing), you lose Congreve, Sheridan, Goldsmith, Wilde and Shaw. The source that gave London The Importance of Being Earnest and Arms and the Man a hundred years ago shows no signs ...

Looking back

Hugh Thomas, 7 July 1983

The Spanish Civil War 
by David Mitchell.
Granada, 208 pp., £9.95, December 1982, 0 246 11916 0
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... has been published by Granada publishers to capitalise on the success of the series. The author is David Mitchell, a writer not previously known in this field. His mission was to incorporate, not only the material used in the television series, but the numerous other interviews which the producers could not use. Granada’s publicity team add the quite false ...

Diary

David Craig: Episodes on the Rock, 13 May 1993

... Broken lines in ink mark Metroway on the left, climbed by Smiler Cuthbertson, Don Whillans, and D. Coward, and Regina Mater on the right, climbed by Ben and Marion Wintringham. Adrian has told us how he was hit by a falling block, which broke his arm. He had to be rescued from the Notch, the col between the massif and Devil’s Tower. Cuthbertson has ...

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