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16 December 1993
Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? 
by Giles Gordon.
Chatto, 352 pp., £16.99, August 1993, 0 7011 6022 5
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Yesterday Came Suddenly 
by Francis King.
Constable, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1993, 9780094722200
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Excursions in the Real World 
by William Trevor.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 09 177086 6
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... as ‘physically a dauntingly large and hairy man’, he adds that there was a Goodman brother who ‘was smaller in stature’. Now I come to think of it, though, that might interest an alien. FrancisKing, in his autobiography Yesterday Came Suddenly, writes as straightforwardly as he has always done. Every so often in the course of his long career as a novelist critics have spoken of the ...


Christopher Ricks

20 May 1982
My Sister and Myself: The Diaries of J.R. Ackerley 
edited by Francis King.
Hutchinson, 217 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 9780091470203
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... about Ackerley and about their relation. This selection from Ackerley’s diaries is about the relation between Ackerley and his sister: about that only, since Nancy is granted no independent life. (FrancisKing does his best to supply her with one in his accommodating introduction.) Given that Ackerley could unquestionably write, his perverse refusal to make real the husband of Nancy, or her son, has ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet

20 May 2004
The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... He is like Denys the Alexandrian, who in Flaubert’s account received orders from heaven to read every book in the world. His head must be dizzy with the minor works of Julian Mitchell and FrancisKing and Brian Patten and Maureen Duffy. His sleep must have been poisoned for years by worries about properly dating Piers Paul Read’s A Married Man. It is, in fact, a disaster to fill a book like this ...
6 March 1986
Aspects of Feeling 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 251 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 7206 0637 3
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... Peter Vansittart, novelist, historian and writer for children, has been singled out for praise by critics as diverse as Philip Toynbee, FrancisKing, Angus Wilson and Andrew Sinclair. All feel that he lacks the large audience he deserves. Yet the curious reader, anxious to gain more information about this somewhat enigmatic writer, of undoubted ...

On David King

Susannah Clapp

21 June 2018
... never find enough images, said Mark Boxer. He was wrong about that. The staff ripped off books for drawings and paintings – and commissioned photographs. Some of the most powerful were by David King. He used to come blazing into the office with his huge black-and-white portraits, already measured up for size: no question, ever, of anything being cropped. One was of the writer Francis Wyndham ...
24 April 1997
... To Francis Stuart on his 95th Birthday You – on a Friday evening in Dublin At the curtain of the 20th century – Dare me to be a child again: ‘Imagine being Dostoevsky ... ’ (Pause) ‘Or a gnat ...

Jousting for Peace

Thomas Penn: Henry VIII meets Francis​ I

16 July 2014
The Field of Cloth of Gold 
by Glenn Richardson.
Yale, 288 pp., £35, November 2013, 978 0 300 14886 2
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... Trying​ to describe the spectacular summit meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I which took place in June 1520, contemporaries fell into a kind of stupor. It was the eighth wonder of the world, said one. Another thought the temporary palaces – erected at staggering expense ...


Francis​ Spufford

2 April 1987
Greyhound for Breakfast 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 230 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 436 23283 9
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Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer 
by Amos Tutuola.
Faber, 156 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14714 3
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... puke’. Now there is a new practitioner, working with a different vernacular and a different elevated diction. The first of the 47 fictions in James Kelman’s Greyhound for Breakfast finds old Francis on a park bench in Glasgow, menaced by vaguely circling winos trying to cadge a cigarette. It was downright fucking nonsensical. And yet it was the sort of incident you could credit. You were ...
22 December 1983
The Other Side of the Fire 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 7156 1809 1
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London Tales 
edited by Julian Evans.
Hamish Hamilton, 309 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 241 11123 4
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by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 413 49350 4
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Good Friends, Just 
by Anne Leaton.
Chatto, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2710 4
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... there is more to things than getting it together (or not) in the capital. Carlo Gebler’s ‘W9’ centres on a middle-aged Polish couple whose son has recently committed suicide. Jane Gardam and FrancisKing are chilling and precise enough in observation to carry off banal-looking themes; Gardam’s tale of imminent Oxbridge entrance and the comparison of A-level grades in leafy Wimbledon has a ...


E.S. Turner

25 June 1987
The Golden Oriole: Childhood, Family and Friends in India 
by Raleigh Trevelyan.
Secker, 536 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 436 53403 7
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... whom he mercilessly depicted in Hindoo Holiday, the name Chhatarpur being changed, by no means unrecognisably, to Chhokrapur. Chhatarpur was visited not only by the latest literary Trevelyan but by FrancisKing and Diana Petre, respectively literary executor and half-sister of Ackerley. Was this mass descent really a good idea? The whiff of scandal had subsided somewhat, but there was understandable ...

At war

Iain McGilchrist

25 January 1990
The Faber Book of Fevers and Frets 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Faber, 364 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 574 15095 1
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... scurrying fugitive clutching the crown jewels as he escapes to Claridge’s in his private jet. All too single, the dramatic images miss their mark. ‘What, into this?’ The words are those of the king of infinite space up against his nutshell, the ‘etherial spirit of man’ as Carlyle put it, up against ‘two or three feet of sorry tripe full of–’, the voice of whatever it is in us which in ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp

19 December 1985
by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... filled with accounts ‘based on’ what someone said, or on what Stevie Smith wrote. But they sometimes allow friends to speak for themselves. What they have to say is far from fulsome. According to FrancisKing, she was ‘a great character’, but ‘not, emphatically, not a nice character’. Elisabeth Lutyens talks of her ‘childishly screaming for attention’. Stalwart chums resented her endless ...
25 October 1979
... got a polaroid. Where’s the Kirlian clapper boy? Akashic flashers, unsheathe your auric fronds and let it all hang out so far you gotta pump air into it. Click. Click. Take infinity! … Crown King Thing. The aura bomb has been detonated. Our energy is continuous and immortal … And so on – when he hits this vein, Heathcote can keep it up indefinitely. But in his best work – The Speakers ...
3 July 1997
The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 347 pp., £20, August 1996, 9780297813484
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... In the spring of 1604, the English were adjusting to the arrival of King James from Scotland, attending to the doings of his first Parliament, and awaiting the arrival of envoys from the King of Spain to negotiate an end to twenty years of war. Peace, even with the Scots, was in the air. This did not please everybody, and some of the people it did not please were Catholics, who thought ...
21 February 1991
About Turn. The Communist Party and the Outbreak of the Second World War: The Verbatim Record of the Central Committee Meetings 1939 
edited by Francis King and George Matthews.
Lawrence and Wishart, 318 pp., £34.95, November 1990, 9780853157267
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... with reservations, that if it was general would leave the Party in a state of complete confusion and helplessness of leadership’. Most, however, fulfilled the role demanded of them by the demon king of this pantomime, Palme Dutt. Dutt dominates and controls these proceedings with a Catoesque monomania and a forensically inflexible vocabulary. As David Edgar has pointed out, Dutt is the one ...

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