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London Review of Crooks

Robert Marshall-Andrews

15 July 1982
Rough Justice: The Extraordinary Truth about Charles Richardson and his Gang 
by Robert Parker.
Fontana, 352 pp., £1.95, October 1981, 0 00 636354 7
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Web of Corruption: The Story of John Poulson and T. Dan Smith 
by Raymond Fitzwalter and David Taylor.
Granada, 282 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 246 10915 7
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Inside Boss: South Africa’s Secret Police 
by Gordon Winter.
Penguin, 640 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 9780140057515
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Crime in Wartime: A Social History of Crime in World War II 
by Edward Smithies.
Allen and Unwin, 219 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 04 364020 6
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... The claim (in the blurb) that such revelations are ‘staggering’ is perhaps over-enthusiastic. Richardson, like most of his ilk, was naturally right-wing, and having been introduced to George Winter, ex-burglar, crime reporter and BOSS spy, and, more important, to Winter’s wife, Richardson was an obvious recruit for dirty tricks in London. He also plainly believed that his work for BOSS would ...

A Winter​ Mind

John Burnside

25 April 2013
... A Scene on the Ice Near a Town’ (c.1615). My particular ideal was a frozen river where, bundled up in whatever came to hand, a newly liberated citizenry ventured onto the ice under a winter sky – and my mind would follow, knowing that this was the closest thing to freedom I could hope for. The skies above those frozen rivers could be translucent, almost blinding, touched with willow ...

‘I thirst for his blood’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Henry James

25 November 1999
Henry James: A Life in Letters 
edited by Philip Horne.
Penguin, 668 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7139 9126 7
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A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 500 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6166 3
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... its having ‘too many opinions & “remarks” & not enough facts & documents’ would have welcomed the editorial scrupulousness and interpretative restraint of Horne’s Life in Letters. Lyndall Gordon also offers her book as a biographical experiment, but her assumptions about what counts as James’s ‘life’ are radically different. ‘James’s own letters,’ she announces at the outset ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter

3 November 2016
The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... any way possible – short of falling into the hands of Michael Winner – ‘to make money for my boys’: Mark Pearce, her second husband, and Alexander, the couple’s son, born in 1983. As Edmund Gordon says towards the beginning of his biography, Carter was never so widely acclaimed in life as she would be in the weeks and years after her death. The tributes were long, sometimes fulsome, always ...

Third Way, Old Hat

Ross McKibbin: Amnesia at the Top

3 September 1998
... The departure of Frank Field, the enthusiastic reception by the Parliamentary Labour Party of Gordon Brown’s spending plans, together with the increasingly desperate attempts by the Government’s leading members, particularly the Prime Minister himself, to discover a Third Way, represent an ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86

20 December 2018
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... she told her brother, ‘is an abnormally altruistic person, and I have realised lately that we have to fight against her selflessness as we would fight against a deadly disease’. The ‘great god Gordon’ Lameyer, a tall, handsome, American-jawed – I might as well say it – hunk, arrived in spring 1953, along with acceptances of three poems by Harper’s (though they didn’t take ‘Mad Girl ...

Maggiefication

Peter Clarke

6 July 1995
The Path to Power 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 656 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 00 255050 4
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... it is Thatcher, because that is how she intended to sound. We know that this is literally true from the way in which, on becoming leader of the Conservative Party, she put herself in the hands of Gordon Reece, a former television producer, who knew just what needed to be done. The hair was wrong, too suburban: it was restyled. The clothes were wrong, too fussy: they were replaced. The voice was ...

Unfrozen Sea

Michael Byers: The Arctic Grail

22 March 2007
... was staring at Foxe Basin. A shallow expanse of ocean the size of England, the basin usually freezes over by early October, enabling the Inuit to travel across to Baffin Island to hunt caribou. This winter, the local council in Igloolik was considering chartering a plane to take the hunters across the unfrozen sea. A few hours before I spoke with Immaroitok, I’d sailed through Fury and Hecla Strait ...

Into the Second Term

R.W. Johnson: New Labour

5 April 2001
Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Hamish Hamilton, 434 pp., £17.99, September 2000, 0 241 14029 3
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Mandelson and the Making of New Labour 
by Donald Macintyre.
HarperCollins, 638 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 00 653062 1
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Mo Mowlam: The Biography 
by Julia Langdon.
Little, Brown, 324 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 316 85304 6
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Ann Widdecombe: Right from the Beginning 
by Nicholas Kochan.
Politico’s, 302 pp., September 2000, 1 902301 55 2
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The Paymaster: Geoffrey Robinson, Maxwell and New Labour 
by Tom Bower.
Simon and Schuster, 272 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 7432 0689 4
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The Future of Politics 
by Charles Kennedy.
HarperCollins, 235 pp., £17.99, September 2000, 0 00 710131 7
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... that Britain would not join the euro during the current Parliament was taken. Aware of the increase in Euroscepticism from Philip Gould’s focus groups and daily readings of the Sun and the Mail, Gordon Brown’s press secretary, Charlie Whelan, and his economic adviser, Ed Balls, sent the Times a fax hinting at a major policy change while Whelan tried to persuade the Sun to go with the headline ...
24 January 1980
Looking for Laforgue 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 248 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 85635 285 3
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A Night of Serious Drinking 
by René Daumal, translated by David Coward.
Routledge, 150 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0325 0
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... student he had feverish fantasies of a martyr’s passion and monastic dreams of taking off for mountain-top or desert in search of purification. It is curious to find that for five months in the winter of 1879-80 Laforgue, too, played at asceticism as a kind of stunt: ‘I acted the little Buddha on two eggs and a glass of water per day … At nineteen I dreamed of going out into the world barefoot ...

Helter-Skelter

Edmund Gordon: ‘Melmoth’

3 January 2019
Melmoth 
by Sarah Perry.
Serpent’s Tail, 271 pp., £16.99, October 2018, 978 1 78816 065 0
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... but sympathetic to religious sentiment, can feel at home. In Melmoth, Perry’s new novel, the anachronistic traffic is productively reversed: the frame narrative takes place in Prague, in the winter of 2016-17, but the baroque prose and heavy Gothic furniture (crumbling churches, gathering jackdaws, a bound manuscript that gives off ‘an animal smell, like the leather was rotten’) conspire to ...

Diary

Jean Sprackland: In the Mud

6 October 2011
... Nine o’clock on a winter morning. I crunched my way through sand-dunes hardened and sheened with frost, then slithered over a sheet of ice. Under the ice, pale bubbles swelled and skittered away from my tread. The tideline ...

Preacher on a Tank

David Runciman: Blair Drills Down

7 October 2010
A Journey 
by Tony Blair.
Hutchinson, 718 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 09 192555 0
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... possibly help. But it is also hard to avoid the thought that Blair is himself shirking the real question. He faced two serious and determined enemies during his time in Downing Street: al-Qaida and Gordon Brown. One, he concluded, represented a force so strong and rooted that it had to be uprooted and destroyed, since confrontation was inevitable; the only question was when and how. The other had to ...

Gilded Drainpipes

E.S. Turner: London

10 June 1999
The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present 
by Peter Thorold.
Viking, 374 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 670 87480 9
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The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture 
by Mordaunt Crook.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 7195 6040 3
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... My worthiest ancestor, who in 1780 saved London from desolation – as I like to think – by ordering his redcoat militia to fire on the mob in the Gordon Riots, had another claim to notice. As a sheriff of London, Sir Barnard Turner was instrumental in abolishing Tyburn as a place of execution. In so doing he ended the tumultuous turnout of ruffians ...
2 March 1989
Breach of Promise: Labour in Power 1964-1970 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 433 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12683 5
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James Maxton 
by Gordon​ Brown.
Fontana, 336 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 00 637255 4
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Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888-1988 
edited by Ian Donnachie, Christopher Harvie and Ian Wood.
Polygon, 184 pp., £19.50, January 1989, 0 7486 6001 1
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... It sits at the top of the building, in the room where Ken Currie’s controversial Rivera-style murals of working-class history can be seen around the ceiling: but the speeches were made in the Winter Garden downstairs, where heavy rain dripping through the glass roof and a chill which gnawed one’s bowels did not dismay the two hundred people who had gathered to honour the man who from 1935 to ...

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