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Shining Pink

Tam Dalyell

23 May 1985
Death of a Rose-Grower: Who killed Hilda Murrell? 
by Graham Smith.
Cecil Woolf, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1985, 0 900821 76 0
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... the 78-year-old Shrewsbury rose-grower is, I understand, the subject of the largest contemporary police operation, apart from the one set up in the wake of the Brighton bombing. This 96-page book, by GrahamSmith, tackles the mystery in an unusual and imaginative way. We have ‘Hilda’s Tale’: the background of her life until she sold her garden to Percy Thrower. There follows the ‘Detective’s ...
7 January 1988
A Class Society at War: England 1914-18 
by Bernard Waites.
Berg, 303 pp., £25, November 1987, 0 907582 65 6
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Working for Victory? Images of Women in the First World War 
by Diana Condell and Jean Liddiard.
Routledge, 201 pp., £19.95, November 1987, 0 7102 0974 6
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The Countryside at War 1914-18 
by Caroline Dakers.
Constable, 238 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 09 468060 4
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When Jim Crow met John Bull: Black American Soldiers in World War Two Britain 
by Graham Smith.
Tauris, 265 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 9781850430391
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... London had befriended, even fondled, the Africans in a show kraal at Earl’s Court, thus threatening racial pride and the fabric of Empire.) The colour problem returned with a vengeance in 1942, as GrahamSmith unsparingly describes in When Jim Crow met John Bull. The British Cabinet groaned at the prospect of an invasion of black troops. Anthony Eden wanted them sent elsewhere and claimed they would ...

The Bart

Gabriele Annan

10 December 1987
Broken Blood: The Rise and Fall of the Tennant Family 
by Simon Blow.
Faber, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 13374 6
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... a pall of stuffy philistinism, waiting for the unconventional Tennants to kiss it awake. The kiss was administered by the girls: Charlotte, who married Lord Ribblesdale; Lucy, who married Thomas Graham-Smith; Laura, who married Alfred Lyttelton; and Margot, who considerably later married Asquith and had the highest profile of them all. The male Tennants of that generation were not conspicuous for ...
7 March 1991
Gorbachev: The Making of the Man who Shook the World 
by Gail Sheehy.
Heinemann, 468 pp., £16.99, December 1990, 0 434 69518 1
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Gorbachev: Heretic in the Kremlin 
by Dusko Doder and Louise Branson.
Macdonald, 430 pp., £14.95, December 1990, 0 356 19760 3
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The Nationalities Question in the Soviet Union 
edited by Graham Smith.
Longman, 389 pp., £22.50, January 1991, 0 582 03953 3
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... drawn from his native Latvian experience – where, in a population of 2.5 million, a little over 50 per cent are Latvians facing large minorities of Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians and others. As GrahamSmith notes in an essay on Latvia in the volume he edits, ‘the more ethnic politics becomes an issue, the greater the difficulty the Popular Front has in appealing to an audience beyond its titular ...

And what did she see?

Graham​ Robb: The Bête du Gévaudan

19 May 2011
Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast 
by Jay Smith.
Harvard, 378 pp., £25.95, March 2011, 978 0 674 04716 7
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... In the summer of 2007, Jay Smith, who teaches history at the University of North Carolina, was in Paris collecting information for a book about a mysterious beast that terrorised the remote French province of the Gévaudan between ...
9 July 1992
Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... perspective, recognises any duty more important than resentment. This makes him unfair not just to English poets, but to Scottish ones too. Nowhere does he mention (nor did Kenner) W.S. (Sydney) Graham, who took, perhaps at greater cost, the same decision that Tomlinson and Bunting made. Douglas Dunn, whose anthology is blessedly free of the prejudices that constrict Crawford, allows Graham 20 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Second Novel Anxiety Syndrome

22 August 2002
... Report, but then first-time novelists aren’t such sure-fire weapons of mass entertainment as footballers and movie stars, or even TV historians.) It wasn’t always like this. The 25-year-old Graham Greene didn’t get much for The Man Within (1929), his first novel, or rather his first published novel (he’d already had two rejected). On the back of it, however, William Heinemann offered ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Alternative Weeping

7 September 2000
... with the dates on the back – perhaps he does. What a literary festival has over a run-of-the-mill bookshop reading is, of course, the chance to see and hear David Starkey cheek by jowl with Zadie Smith, Roy Strong, Terry Jones, Michael Holroyd and all the other writers showcasing their various talents this year. Such events certainly seem to be increasing rapidly in number and variety. Cheltenham ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Mobile phones

10 July 2003
... considers the social as well as technological aspects of the phenomenon. The conceptual breakthrough that makes mobiles possible was the work of D.H. Ring – born, you might think, like Alexander Graham Bell, to make telephonic history – at Bell Laboratories, New Jersey. There are only so many radio frequencies available; Ring’s brilliant notion was to see that the same frequencies could be used ...

All together

Humphrey Carpenter

7 December 1989
The Safest Place in the World: A Personal History of British Rhythm and Blues 
by Dick Heckstall-Smith.
Quartet, 178 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7043 2696 5
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Mama said there’d be days like these: My Life in the Jazz World 
by Val Wilmer.
Women’s Press, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 7043 5040 8
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Lenya: A Life 
by Donald Spoto.
Viking, 371 pp., £15.95, September 1989, 0 670 81211 0
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... m not a Beatle any more!’ George Harrison is said to have cried delightedly after their last public appearance), and left one wondering how they had managed to stay together so long. Dick Heckstall-Smith defines a band as ‘a passengerless collective’, but he doesn’t say ‘driverless’, and his often rivetingly interesting book, which deals largely with the breakup of bands, frequently ...


Kristin Dombek: Kim Gordon

19 March 2015
Girl in a Band 
by Kim Gordon.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2015, 978 0 571 31383 9
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... where I went to grow up.Kim Gordon​ moved there in 1979, to the city that she’d learned about in art school in LA – the New York of Judson Church and Yvonne Rainer, of Andy Warhol and Patti Smith and Lou Reed. It was disappearing as she arrived, as cities do. She wasn’t sure whether she should be a dancer or artist or filmmaker or writer or musician; what mattered was less what kind of ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... Welsh, Irish or Scottish Gaelic, accompanied by parallel English translations. O’Brien is more Anglocentric: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is in facing-page English, but Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith, for example, occur only in English, and there is no Welsh-language poetry at all. On the other hand, O’Brien’s selection of English-language poetry casts a wider and more ambitious net. ‘Even ...
21 January 1988
The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... we now call ‘English Literature’ is a Scottish invention. Though he had already given his Lectures on Rhetoric and Belies Lettres in Edinburgh, it was at Glasgow University in 1751 that Adam Smith became the first person to give an official university course in English that dealt with the technique and appreciation of modern writers in that language as well as in the Classical tongues. Hugh ...
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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... country house called Dragon House. Kirkland, of the Foreign Office, is young, wealthy, admired and well-connected. The brief section devoted to the adolescence of the children – Della, Bayard and Graham – is ironically presented as idyllic in the traditional sense. It is this, but it is also haunted by past horrors and disasters – pervasive images in all Vansittart’s fiction – such as the ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe

23 May 1996
The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... was an alcoholic and possibly a spy, and that the paper itself was deadly dull. The only previous extended discussion of the Statesman’s first years was Edward Hyams’s ‘house’ history. Adrian Smith makes a fuller attempt to place the early New Statesman in its various political and intellectual contexts and relates the fortunes of the small-circulation political weekly to the seismic political ...

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