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Wayne’s World

Ian Sansom, 6 July 1995

Selected Poems 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Penguin, 151 pp., £5.99, August 1994, 0 14 058735 7
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... Then one comes across the poem ‘Army’, published by the preternaturally far-sighted Howard Sergeant in the pamphlet Fleshweathercocks in 1973, when Duffy was just 18 years old. It begins: Hello mother! It’s your eldest son back from the nuclear war, well, half of me anyway. How are you mother? Oh it’s good to see you too, considering ...

Wild Horses

Claude Rawson, 1 April 1983

‘The Bronze Horseman’ and Other Poems 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by D.M. Thomas.
Penguin, 261 pp., £2.95, September 1982, 0 14 042309 5
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Alexander Pushkin: A Critical Study 
by A.D.P. Briggs.
Croom Helm, 257 pp., £14.95, November 1982, 0 7099 0688 9
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‘Choiseul and Talleyrand’: A Historical Novella and Other Poems, with New Verse Translations of Alexander Pushkin 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 88 pp., £5.25, July 1982, 0 370 30924 3
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Mozart and Salieri: The Little Tragedies 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Antony Wood.
Angel, 94 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 946162 02 6
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I have come to greet you 
by Afanasy Fet, translated by James Greene.
Angel, 71 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 946162 03 4
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Uncollected Poems 
by John Betjeman.
Murray, 81 pp., £4.95, September 1982, 0 7195 3969 2
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Travelling without a Valid Ticket 
by Howard Sergeant.
Rivelin, 14 pp., £1, May 1982, 0 904524 39 6
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... with de haut en bas mimicry reminiscent of Ford Madox Ford’s attempts to enter the minds of sergeant-majors. It ends with a throb of sentimental patness: And those last months when she was really bad, They were the only pleasures that she had. In between are some moments of classic Betjeman: crushing bereavement, memories of touching happiness derived ...
Talking Blues: The Police in their Own Words 
by Roger Graef.
Collins Harvill, 512 pp., £15, May 1989, 0 00 272436 7
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... Trafalgar Square were stopped four times, searched for drugs and racially abused. A woman police sergeant reports here: ‘I’ve experienced severe problems because, on more than a couple of occasions, I wouldn’t sleep with the senior officers. If you say no, they take it as a personal insult; and no matter what they say, they really do take it out on ...

Wrath of the Centurions

Max Hastings: My Lai, 25 January 2018

My Lai: Vietnam, 1968 and the Descent into Darkness 
by Howard Jones.
Oxford, 504 pp., £22.99, June 2017, 978 0 19 539360 6
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... hatreds and prejudices. And an arrogance tempered their ingrained American idealism.’ His sergeant observed that during the Korean War, he had seen men sight in their rifles by firing at farmers: ‘Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average 19-year-old American boy.’ He was ...

Cheering us up

Ian Jack, 15 September 1988

In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... said.’ According to the Observer of 10 July 1984, ‘he won a Distinguished Conduct Medal as a sergeant in the Somerset Light Infantry in 1914.’ It was Laurence Marks who dug up the last of these career alternatives. Marks, a most scrupulous journalist, had interviewed Archer and then thought he should check his father’s precise status in the Army. The ...

How Dirty Harry beat the Ringo Kid

Michael Rogin, 9 May 1996

John Wayne: American 
by Randy Roberts and James Olson.
Free Press, 738 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 02 923837 4
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... and a pinstripe suit’. ‘Now we don’t want to see no John Wayne performances out here,’ a sergeant tells his platoon in Vietnam. We see them anyway, collected in Slotkin’s book and in Warrior Dreams (1994) by James William Gibson. When Philip Caputo joined the Marines, he saw himself ‘charging up some distant beachhead, like John Wayne in Sands of ...

Night-Flights

D.A.N. Jones, 18 September 1986

Search Sweet Country 
by B. Kojo Laing.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 0 434 40216 8
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The Jewel Maker 
by Tom Gallagher.
Hamish Hamilton, 180 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 241 11866 2
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The Pianoplayers 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 208 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 09 165190 5
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An After-Dinner’s Sleep 
by Stanley Middleton.
Hutchinson, 224 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 09 163620 5
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Coming Home 
by Mervyn Jones.
Piatkus, 263 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 86188 525 2
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... a personal appearance in the final story, ‘To die in Copenhagen’. The narrator of the tales is Howard Murray, a Scottish playwright, who travels to Denmark, as well as Dublin, London and New York in the course of the book. Tom Gallagher is himself a Scottish playwright, best-known as the author of Mr Joyce is leaving Paris: he has written other plays, two ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... to have fared badly. I’ve always thought the house in the original television series, Castle Howard, was ill-chosen, though it’s a mistake the new version replicates. I may have told this story before (I feel I’ve told most stories before), but when Derek Grainger, the producer of the TV version, asked me to adapt it he admitted a little shamefacedly ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1996, 2 January 1997

... Second War such as those of Nancy Mitford and James Lees-Milne is Stuart Preston, nicknamed the Sergeant, an American serviceman who came over to work at US HQ in London, later taking part in the invasion. He seems to have very rapidly become a feature of the upper-class English social scene, setting hearts of both sexes a-flutter. Lees-Milne notes ...

Nothing like metonymy when you’re at the movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Third Man & Other Stories’, 8 November 2018

The Third Man & Other Stories 
by Graham Greene.
Macmillan, 342 pp., £9.99, July 2017, 978 1 5098 2805 0
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... man investigating the Harry Lime affair, Major Calloway, a figure wonderfully played by Trevor Howard in the movie. His indifference must be a mask, of course. Deep within him, as any dictionary of clichés will tell us, there are surely layers of kindness and moral concern. But what a mask. Calloway’s apparent willingness to expect the worst of people ...

Why do you make me do it?

David Bromwich: Robert Ryan, 18 February 2016

... by his friend Richard Brooks, and his memories of Camp Pendleton, where he had served as a drill sergeant in 1944 and 1945, brought the character close to home. ‘I know that son of a bitch,’ he said of the brutal anti-Semite in the script, named Montgomery. ‘No one knows him better than I do.’ Montgomery looks as if he was born in uniform, and is ...

The Party and the Army

Ronan Bennett, 21 March 1996

... press with the result that the civil servants responsible received a slating from Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, and a new policy was instituted, barring the transfer of any prisoner without ministerial approval. The whole process then went into low gear as transfers were delayed or refused altogether. In January 1995, in an effort to prevent the ...

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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... by Eric Hiscock in the Bookseller). Duffy is a bisexual private detective, formerly a detective sergeant covering Soho. He becomes mixed up in complicated skulduggery involving a porn king and the bent superintendent who fitted him up and got him dismissed from the force. After a number of adventures with men, women and a seven-year-old boy (the only person ...

Diary

Jonathan Lethem: My Marvel Years, 15 April 2004

... an extended argument with his own mother about whether the Beatles were better before or after Sergeant Pepper – my mother on the side of ‘I Am the Walrus’, me on the side of ‘Drive My Car’.At the moment in my childhood I’m describing, bodies were beginning to change, and the exact degree and nature of their changes created some psychological ...

Ça va un peu

Adam Shatz: Congo, 22 October 2014

Congo: The Epic History of a People 
by David Van Reybrouck.
Fourth Estate, 656 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 00 756290 9
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... has inspired such an outpouring of accomplished writing, from Wrong to Gérard Prunier, from Howard French to Jason Stearns, to say nothing of Adam Hochschild’s study of the Free State, King Leopold’s Ghost, and Neal Ascherson’s The King Incorporated. David Van Reybrouck’s enormous history is the latest addition to this literature. Van Reybrouck ...

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