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7 December 1989
Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective​ in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... are in their own right, can never be as attractive as stories about a detective.’ Attractive as detective stories he may mean, but wouldn’t that be pretty much tautological? Certainly readers of GeorgeV.Higgins and Elmore Leonard would be surprised by the claim as it stands. Binyon also accepts without questioning the distinction between detective fiction and thrillers, or what he sometimes calls ...

Cromwell’s Coven

John Sutherland

4 June 1987
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 390 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14823 9
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Without Falling 
by Leslie Dick.
Serpent’s Tail, 153 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 1 85242 005 7
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 360 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 233 98110 1
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... assault and theoretic demand which the novel makes of its reader. In a literary culture dominated by gentility and middlebrowism Without Falling is itself something of a bomb. I have the problem with GeorgeV.Higgins’s fiction that however carefully I read it, I never quite know what’s going on. Half one’s time seems to be spent going backwards rather than forwards through the pages. The problem ...


John Sutherland

19 August 1982
A Prodigal Child 
by David Storey.
Cape, 319 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02027 7
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The Prodigal Daughter 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 447 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 340 27687 8
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by John Stonehouse.
Cape, 318 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 224 02019 6
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The Man from St Petersburg 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 241 10783 0
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The Patriot Game 
by George Higgins.
Secker, 237 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 19589 5
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... there is a quite preposterous scene in which Walden, surprised in a Savoy suite, launches himself forward like a silly-mid-on fielder to catch a glass phial of nitroglycerine thrown by the assassin. GeorgeV.Higgins is a novelist whom a large number of American critics think very well of. In this country he’s probably best-known as the author of the work on which the film The Friends of Eddie Coyle ...


John Brown

18 November 1982
Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Richard Layman.
Junction, 285 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 86245 027 6
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... reputations to critics who neither know nor like crime fiction; even if Hammett is one of these novelists – and he certainly suffers badly by comparison with James Crumley, John D. MacDonald and GeorgeV.Higgins, the present-day masters – he deserves more serious critical attention than Layman can manage. The next section of Shadow Man returns to biography proper, and the book picks up, weaving ...
8 July 1993
Swing Hammer Swing! 
by Jeff Torrington.
Secker, 416 pp., £8.99, August 1992, 0 436 53120 8
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Looking for the Possible Dance 
by A.L. Kennedy.
Secker, 254 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 436 23321 5
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The Lights Below 
by Carl MacDougall.
Secker, 254 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 9780436270796
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... system (‘a stink and a hassle and a way of life’), to long passages of dialogue where characters spill their personal histories with a refreshing lack of naturalism that recalls the work of GeorgeV.Higgins; from discursive passages on local history, to the kind of bar-room monologues which typify the spoken energy of the new Glaswegian writing, to a remarkable lyricism about Glasgow and its ...
18 September 1980
The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 
edited by D.S. Higgins.
Cassell, 299 pp., £14.95, May 1980, 0 304 30611 8
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... Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, published 95 years ago. Its pages are falling out and its binding has been worn to threads and cardboard. Clearly students told off to go and read Wittgenstein and George Eliot have been spending delicious secret hours enjoying Allan Quatermain’s phlegmatic accounts of people crushed to death, impaled, dismembered and beheaded. (Anyone imagining that ‘violence ...
16 April 2014
... Tory Party members are, for the most part, deeply sceptical – I have spoken at fringe meetings at Tory conferences where the mood could best be described as hostile – yet David Cameron and even George Osborne appear genuinely committed to the project. They see it as a way of boosting business and of demonstrating their credentials as modernisers. They also believe it will help their electoral ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason

7 September 2000
Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative​ Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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... cosmopolitan brotherhood. ‘We begin our publick affections in our families,’ Burke wrote. The pathos, suffering and vulnerability associated with the French King were easily transferred to George III, who was endlessly depicted as a loyal husband and kind father. Such images were not without ambiguity, however, since they also portrayed the King as feminised. ‘The King came to be presented ...


Brigid Brophy

2 December 1982
Bernard Shaw: The Darker Side 
by Arnold Silver.
Stanford, 353 pp., $25, January 1982, 0 8047 1091 0
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Bernard Shaw and Alfred Douglas: A Correspondence 
edited by Mary Hyde.
Murray, 237 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3947 1
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... vaporisings (sudden and painless disappearances) in The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles. This he traces, often convincingly, to Shaw’s need to wish away the intrusion into Shaw’s infancy of George John Vandaleur Lee – or, rather, the intrusion of the suspicion that Lee had been the lover of Shaw’s mother and was, perhaps, Shaw’s real father. In the teacher-pupil (or sculptor-statue ...


Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... any longer.’ When the pianist John Lewis, the leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet, heard Coleman perform with Cherry in Los Angeles, he compared them to ‘twins’: ‘they play together like I’ve never heard anybody play together.’In November 1959, Coleman took his new quartet – Cherry, who played on a small Pakistani pocket trumpet; Charlie Haden, a white bassist from a family of country ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George​ Yeats?

20 February 2003
Becoming GeorgeThe Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... In 1979, in a preface to a new edition of Yeats: The Man and the Masks, Richard Ellmann wrote about 46 Palmerston Road in Rathmines in Dublin, where George Yeats lived between her husband’s death in 1939 and her own death almost thirty years later. Mrs Yeats lived, Ellmann wrote, among the dead poet’s papers. ‘There in the bookcases was his ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland

11 July 1991
The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... Olive’s engagement to, and seduction by, Julius Gau when she was 17 – an event that is conventionally thought to have provoked lifelong neurosis about sex. The Companion does not record that George Meredith was instrumental in getting The Story of an African Farm published (poor old Meredith also loses his credit for helping Ouida and Marie Corelli into print). In her later career in England ...


Tim Hilton: Art Talk

19 November 1992
... from the demotic colloquy of the studios. The way that artists talk – and learn to talk – does not much resemble the way that people write about art, whether in books or in newspapers. Lately I’ve heard many reports from old art schools that are now part of institutions newly designated as universities. Administrators keep coming and looking at us, say my informants: they look and look and ...

Break their teeth, O God

Colin Kidd: The Trial of Sacheverell

20 August 2014
Faction Displayed: Reconsidering the Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Mark Knights.
Wiley-Blackwell, 132 pp., £19.99, February 2012, 978 1 4443 6187 2
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The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Brian Cowan.
Wiley-Blackwell, 307 pp., £22.99, November 2012, 978 1 4443 3223 0
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... The birth​ of Prince George obviates the immediate need for the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 which introduced gender equality into the line of succession. Section 2 of the Act addresses, though only in part, another ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland

17 July 1980
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... Ever since its rise the novel has flirted with authorial anonymity and pseudonymity. Great unknowns, pen names and spoof attributions figure centrally in the genre’s history, from Scott, to George Eliot, to Kilgore Trout. According to the massive, nine-volume Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature there are, largely speaking, only three reasons for masked authorship, all ...

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