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Brought to book

Gordon Williams, 7 May 1981

Ronnie Biggs: His Own Story 
by Michael Joseph.
Sphere, 238 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 9780718119720
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A Sense of Freedom 
by Jimmy Boyle.
Pan, 264 pp., £1.25, September 1977, 0 330 25303 4
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... Train-robber Biggs and murderer Boyle present in their testaments a challenge to our moral reflexes. Both authors have appalling records: South Londoner Biggs with countless petty interviews, conspiracy to commit biography, and now brazen autobiography executed in ruthlessly-priced hard-back, plus indecent exposure on a Sex Pistols waxing: Glaswegian Boyle with an audaciously publicised apologia here compounded in paperback, cold-blooded participation before the fact in a television film witnessed by millions of law-abiding citizens, and flagrant indulgence in the plastic arts (to wit, sculpture with a sharp instrument) under the very noses of the prison authorities ...

Hard Man

Ian Hamilton, 16 October 1980

Walk Don’t Walk The Camp From Scenes Like These 
by Gordon Williams.
Allison and Busby, 264 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85031 309 0
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... Gordon Williams, formerly Gordon M. Williams: born 1934, educated at the John Neilson Institution in Paisley. Worked in Scotland as a farm labourer and newspaper reporter before undergoing National Service in Germany with the RAF. Has worked as a novelist for 16 years, based mainly in Soho but with a spell of rural isolation on the edge of Dartmoor ...

Chances are

Michael Wood, 7 July 1983

O, How the wheel becomes it! 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 143 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 434 59925 5
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Brilliant Creatures 
by Clive James.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 224 02122 2
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Pomeroy 
by Gordon Williams.
Joseph, 233 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2259 3
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... decision worth pondering. Shadbold’s roulette and James’s chapter of accidents become poker in Gordon Williams’s lively novel Pomeroy. Up there in Dawson City, One-Eye Riley the mad gambler was asked: ‘Is it true you regard poker as a matter of life or death?’ He replied: ‘Hell, no, cards is serious.’ John Stockley Pomeroy is a West ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes, 23 October 2003

The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... find it unless you put it there. The most irritatingly intrusive comments come from a certain Gordon Williams, who sniffs out dirty and often dotty double meanings all over the place. I was surprised to find that the Mower poems are to be thought of not only as a group but as a sequence during which the Mower changes from a champion of pastoral ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... of his, in the TLS, about a subsequent book of mine: ‘There is even a case to be made for Giles Gordon being the only true inheritor of the late B.S. Johnson’s mantle as one of the serious Anglicises of French modes.’ Heady stuff. No British reviewer or critic would write like that now. Many younger readers (older readers too) have no awareness of ...

A Life of Its Own

Jonathan Coe, 24 February 1994

The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... stands English comedy,’ David Frost is reported to have declaimed, as Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams stood side by side on his doorstep. Williams was unimpressed. ‘I thought to myself, “Then many people would be lacking in perception,” but shouted drunken goodbyes and reeled down the street into a taxi.’ What ...

You’re only interested in Hitler, not me

Susan Pedersen: Shirley Williams, 19 December 2013

Shirley WilliamsThe Biography 
by Mark Peel.
Biteback, 461 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84954 604 1
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... Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum. Why didn’t Williams achieve more politically? Why did the polarising, hectoring Margaret Thatcher, rather than the consensus-seeking, appealing Williams, become Britain’s first woman prime minister? This is a common question ...

Jingoes

R.W. Johnson: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War, 6 May 2004

The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War 
by Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, May 2003, 0 521 82453 2
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... mixture is an evil,’ Smuts warned when it was first suggested that Khama wished to marry Ruth Williams, a white woman. This was enough to panic the postwar Labour government, and when Churchill returned to power Smuts advised him that the Khama case was ‘full of dynamite’. The affair has come to look steadily worse. British politicians tried every ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: On commemoration, 6 March 2008

... as to why the world is caught up in a ‘global rush to commemorate atrocities’, as Paul Williams puts it in Memorial Museums (Berg, £19.99). There is no doubting the evidence. A non-exhaustive list at the beginning of the book includes 24 museums, sites or artefacts marking atrocities, disasters and ‘crimes against humanity’, of which only ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael Newton: Charles Williams, 8 September 2016

Charles WilliamsThe Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... full of joy Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan.If Auden were on the circuit now, he’d still find plenty of Tolkien addicts, but he’d go a long way before stumbling on a Charles Williams fan. Charles Williams influenced a ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

Duffy 
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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... his writing self. One notes, in support of this, the prominence in the novels of heroes like Gordon Comstock who break with their stultifying families. And it is interesting, in the light of the works reviewed here, that Patricia Highsmith also seems to have been one of those who felt the need to rename herself before going on to make a name for herself ...

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini, 13 August 2020

... and 17th-century literature, and that his most important early mentor had been the eccentric D.J. Gordon, who specialised in the relations between literature and spectacle in the Stuart period. So the venue and the occasion for this early exercise in learned reviewing made sense. I also knew that at this stage in his life Frank had been particularly impressed ...

Memories are made of this

Patricia Beer, 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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... I was well into Giles Gordon’s Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? before I noticed that other readers were taking the book seriously, often to the point of denunciation. Up to then I had been assuming that it had set out to be an ingenious spoof, a sort of hoax or parody which had failed to make its intentions thoroughly clear; and that was nothing to be censorious about ...

Dear boy, I’d rather see you in your coffin

Jon Day: Paid to Race, 16 July 2020

To Hell and Back: An Autobiography 
by Niki Lauda.
Ebury, 314 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 5291 0679 4
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A Race with Love and Death: The Story of Britain’s First Great Grand Prix Driver, Richard Seaman 
by Richard Williams.
Simon and Schuster, 388 pp., £20, March, 978 1 4711 7935 8
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... million a year developing their vehicles, or £380 million if you include engines. ROKiT Williams Racing, the lowest-spending team of the last few years, had a budget of £106 million in 2019; its car was the slowest on the grid by far. Most drivers start young, racing in go-karts from the age of five or six and moving up through Formulas 4, 3 and 2 ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... of the human spirit, which there is no reason to believe he ever entirely abandoned. For Raymond Williams, Establishment-bred leftists who finally revert to type can be seen as cases of what he calls in Culture and Society ‘negative identification’. The dissident offspring of the upper middle class throws in his lot with the militant proletariat, largely ...

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