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Don’t blame him

Peter Brown: Constantine

22 April 2015
Constantine the Emperor 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 368 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 975586 8
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... any legacy of the late antique world of which they disapprove – anti-Semitism, the secular power of the church, the rise of intolerance, the spirit of the Crusades – blame it on Constantine. DavidPotter punctures this inflated image. This doesn’t mean he cuts Constantine down to size: far from it. Potter has done something far more difficult. He has examined, with gusto and an unrivalled ...

Goose Girl

Josephine Quinn: Empress Theodora

3 May 2017
Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 277 pp., £17.99, January 2016, 978 0 19 974076 5
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... Roman Republic was recorded in a funeral speech given by her husband and inscribed on her tombstone. Theodora and attendants, from a sixth-century mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna DavidPotter’s contribution to the series is a life of the sixth-century Byzantine empress Theodora, the wife of Justinian, who ruled the eastern Roman provinces from Constantinople for almost forty ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski

14 December 1995
Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis PotterA Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... The death of Dennis Potter may have been authored by God, but it was adapted for television by Potter himself. It began after a brief report in the Guardian suggested that Potter’s terminal cancer related to his lifelong addiction to nicotine. By return there was a gleeful letter from Potter revelling in the Potteresque fact that far from his ‘beloved cigarettes’ being ...

At the British Library

Katherine Rundell: Harry Potter

14 December 2017
... for the painstaking intricacy of the texts themselves. In the nine years that I’ve been writing children’s fiction, one of the questions I’ve been most often asked is ‘Are they any good, the Potter books?’ – a question which, like the Latin prefix num, anticipates the answer ‘no’. A phoenix from a 13th-century bestiary A lot of their power comes from appealing to the fairy-tale ...

The Potter, the Priest and the Stick in the Mud

David​ A. Bell: Spain v. Napoleon

6 November 2008
Napoleon’s Cursed War: Popular Resistance in the Spanish Peninsular War 
by Ronald Fraser.
Verso, 587 pp., £29.99, April 2008, 978 1 84467 082 6
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... as fifty thousand dead. After three more years of fighting, Bonapartist rule extended, in theory, over almost all of Spain. Yet guerrilla bands under chieftains with colourful nicknames like ‘The Potter’, ‘The Priest’ and ‘The Stick in the Mud’ (El Empecinado) made large stretches of the countryside ungovernable, forcing the French to travel in armed convoys and to employ increasingly ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bookshops

14 December 2000
... have been criticised for trying to force small publishers into selling all their titles to the chain at a discount of 50 per cent. Coming under fire at a meeting of the Independent Publishers Guild, David Kneale, the managing director of Waterstone’s, reminded delegates that ‘we have shareholders and have to make a profit.’ He changed tack later, insisting that his first responsibility was to ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Little England

24 May 2001
...  there’s Jilly Cooper, Peter Hitchens, Norris McWhirter, mad Patrick Moore – includes the name of the universally adored J.K. Rowling OBE. Is this not taking the antique Englishness of Harry Potter just a little too far? But then I remember that the ‘feasts’ served up at Hogwarts boarding school are of ‘roast beef, roast chicken . . . lamb chops . . . Yorkshire puddings . .  ...

Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder

10 December 1987
Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David​ Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 00 271463 9
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The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14925 1
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... Like Hoyle and Stephen Potter, Georges Perec was a devotee of indoor games. La Vie Mode d’Emploi (1978), a title combining lifemanship, gamesmanship and one-upmanship, was the monumental creation of an author whose other ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flashman

9 May 2002
... It’s hard to imagine anyone settling down to write the further adventures of that Harry Potter of the 1830s, Tom Brown; even harder to imagine anyone settling down to read them. (Thomas Hughes did in fact write a sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, but it’s never done as well as Tom Brown’s ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

30 November 2017
Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... Orson Welles, José Ferrer, Tony Randall and many others have brought him to some sort of audio or audio-visual life, but the relatively recent personifications by Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David Suchet dominate most memories. None of these figures much resembles the ‘short, stout, elderly man, his hair cut en brosse’ that Agatha Christie describes. Well, they often manage the stout bit ...
20 November 1986
News from Nowhere 
by David​ Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... A drunken American historian once lurched over to David Caute at a party and told him: ‘Having read your last novel, or part of it, I’d advise you to give up writing fiction – if you weren’t such a lousy historian.’ Caute, a connoisseur of ...


Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound

6 March 1997
... electronic and online) than the half a million last time round. In another recent initiative, Labour has been keen to register all students to vote ... twice (‘a civil rights issue’, says Ruth Potter, the National Secretary for Labour Students). Portsmouth South has a (Tory) majority of only 242; Loughborough, Cambridge, Oxford West, Exeter and others will have close calls. Major called the last ...

Wrath of the Centurions

Max Hastings: My Lai

25 January 2018
My Lai: Vietnam, 1968 and the Descent into Darkness 
by Howard Jones.
Oxford, 504 pp., £22.99, June 2017, 978 0 19 539360 6
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... army for years sustained a legend that it achieved success in its colonial ‘brushfire wars’ through the efforts of kindly Tommies in winning hearts and minds. Recent studies – for instance, David French’s excellent The British Way in Counter-Insurgency 1945-67 – show that in Malaya, Cyprus, Aden and Kenya British soldiers in fact displayed frequent brutality, often condoned by their ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Wonder Woman’

12 July 2017
Wonder Woman 
directed by Patty Jenkins.
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... at, this clever move turns crude almost instantly. Ares is Sir Patrick Morgan, a British politician who seems to have been both for and against the armistice, expertly and unctuously represented by David Thewlis in his Harry Potter schoolmaster mode, and who appears to Diana as the god himself, levitating, changing forms and throwing thunderbolts. Finally, and this is probably the film’s low point ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire

22 December 2019
... Studios in Borehamwood were founded in 1914, and eighty years later Warner Brothers opened studios on the site of the former Leavesden aerodrome at Abbots Langley – they’re now home to Harry Potter World. How can knobbly Knebworth House, which looks as though it’s built of papier-mâché, compete? In 1843 Edward Bulwer-Lytton had the Tudor manor house remodelled – in Pevsner’s words – ...

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