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The Right to Murder

Gaby​ Wood: ‘In a Lonely Place’

22 March 2018
In a Lonely Place 
byDorothy B. Hughes.
NYRB,​ 224 pp., $14.95, August 2017, 978 1 68137 147 4
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In a Lonely Place 
directed byNicholas Ray.
Criterion Collection, £14.99
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... stories are inquiries of one kind or another, the movie seems to suggest, perhaps they differ only in their relative violence. When filming began, Ray was married to its female lead, Gloria Grahame; by the time it ended, they were living apart. Ray said it was ‘a very personal film’ – and as parting gifts go, it was both poisonous and immortal. The book on which the film is based – a noir ...

The Best

Tom Shippey

22 February 1996
Alfred the Great 
byDavid Sturdy.
Constable, 268 pp., £18.95, November 1995, 0 09 474280 4
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King Alfred the Great 
byAlfred Smyth.
Oxford, 744 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 822989 5
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... the Hammer of the Scots can occupy all history books as ‘Edward the First’, his namesakes the Confessor and the Elder literally felt not to count – even though the latter’s mark may still be visible on the shire system of Central England. As for the Egberts and Oswigs and Cerdics, the incompetences of modern spelling have left them all unpronounceable, vaguely ludicrous. To this general ...

Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen

14 January 2002
Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
byDamien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
byLee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
byChristopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... At the height of Steve McQueen’s fame in 1968, after a run of huge box-office successes – The Sand Pebble, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt – it was Robert Mitchum, his elder by 13 years and a star for more than twenty, who was voted the screen’s ‘godfather of cool’ on America’s university campuses. Both men had got to where they were by doing or seeming to do ...
6 December 1984
Agatha Christie 
byJanet Morgan.
Collins, 393 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 00 216330 6
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... elsewhere is no excuse for the omission. But the biography certainly fulfils what was presumably the family’s main aim: it lays, once and for all, the malicious rumours and vulgar gossip put about by other writers on the subject of Agatha Christie’s ten days’ disappearance in 1926, providing an authoritative, as well as authorised, explanation for the event. It must surely have been a relief ...
9 October 1986
Innocence 
byPenelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 224 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 00 223105 0
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The Dresden Gate 
byMichael Schmidt.
Hutchinson, 152 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 09 165510 2
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First Fictions: Introduction 9 
byDeborah Moffat, Kristien Hemmerechts, Douglas Glover, Dorothy​ Nimmo and Jaci Stephen.
Faber, 255 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 0 571 13607 9
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Continent 
byJim Crace.
Heinemann, 154 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 434 14824 5
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... and tells him so, offering to marry him. It looks as if the novel is heading for a parallel pairing: but disconcertingly Cesare doesn’t respond, except to indicate that he knows Barney loves him. By one hint only (and Fitzgerald requires us to read attentively) it is signalled that Cesare, though sympathetic to Barney, is in love with Chiara. This in turn explains his otherwise inexplicabl...
25 February 1993
Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
byTony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
byJames Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
byLeonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
byRobert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... A motor eased alongside Tony at the corner of Blythe Street, Bethnal Green. Ron and Reg were inside, keeping company with a known associate, Dickie Morgan. Reg was nicely cased in a blue three-piece by Woods of Kingsland Road. Dickie matched him. (The Twins were very influential that way. All the faces were expected to dress to a middle-management standard.) Reg was, as Tony acknowledges, ‘one of ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies

26 January 2012
An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
byJ. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... then just as certain as you sit there, in the period of our lives you will see a Red world.’ So began the 1954 Senate hearings on subversive influence in the army. But those hearings turned out to be McCarthy’s last crusade; in a formal and spectacular sense, his career ended when Joseph Welch, a Boston lawyer and counsel for the army, replied to the ascription of Communist connections to a ...
15 June 2016
What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography 
byAlan Light.
Canongate, 309 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78211 871 8
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... than her pay as an accompanist to a New York vocal coach, would help her to defray the cost of piano tuition and to pursue her lifelong ambition to become America’s first black classical pianist. By her own account, the Midtown was a ‘crummy joint’ but she approached it as a classical venue. For the gig, she brought her make-up, a pink chiffon dress, and a stage name, improvised on the spot ...

Why name a ship after a defeated race?

Thomas Laqueur: New Lives of the ‘Titanic’

24 January 2013
The Wreck of the ‘Titan’ 
byMorgan Robertson.
Hesperus, 85 pp., £8, March 2012, 978 1 84391 359 7
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Shadow of the ‘Titanic’ 
byAndrew Wilson.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 84739 882 6
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‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered 
byStephanie Barczewski.
Continuum, 350 pp., £15.99, December 2011, 978 1 4411 6169 7
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The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’: Day by​ Day Facsimile Reports 
byMichael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton.
Transatlantic, 127 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 907176 83 8
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‘Titanic’ Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew 
byRichard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 404 pp., £9.99, September 2012, 978 0 00 732166 7
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage 
byHugh Brewster.
Robson, 338 pp., £20, March 2012, 978 1 84954 179 4
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‘Titanic’ Calling 
edited byMichael Hughes and Katherine Bosworth.
Bodleian, 163 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 85124 377 8
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... core business is RMS Titanic Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary that has exclusive rights to salvage artefacts from the wreck that was discovered under 12,500 feet of water in 1985. The spoils can be seen by the public in ‘Titanic’: The Experience next to Disney World in Orlando or in ‘Titanic’: The Artefact Exhibition at several venues, among them the Atlantic Station in Atlanta and the ...

Biscuits. Oh good!

Anna Vaux: Antonia White

27 May 1999
Antonia White 
byJane Dunn.
Cape, 484 pp., £20, November 1998, 9780224036191
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... is what appears to have stuck in the public mind (if anything was sticking at all). Hopkinson’s memoir cannot have helped, though she had meant it to ‘correct’ the view of her mother given by her sister. For one thing, it was suggested she write it after she’d impressed the audience at a PEN club memorial with her description of how moody her mother was and how frightened she had been ...
6 February 2014
Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
byDavid Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited byKatherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... But surely a bit of relief lies in the notion that one doesn’t necessarily have the last (or even the first) say on how one appears. That’s the gossip’s privilege, and damnable as it might be, it can’t be much worse than the opposite, where everybody gets to be his own oily publicity machine. Not many writers have the gift of seeing themselves as others see them, and gossips, like ...

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