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True Grit

David Craig

8 February 1996
Wainwright: The Biography 
by Hunter Davies.
Joseph, 356 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 7181 3909 7
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... he adds: ‘And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.’ And so it might. As HunterDavies tells us in this first, thorough biography of the man, two months after he died in January 1991 at the age of 84, his wife and an old friend, both in their 70th year, climbed up to the tarn at ...
18 December 1986
Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... it. The more detail he offers, the less I find myself believing it. On board the Gosfield Maid, he seems trustworthy: on dry land, I think him no more credible than the posters that annoy him. HunterDavies is an expense-account tourist, not a traveller. The moral of The Grand Tour is that it is now impossible to make such a tour, except as an irony. In the 18th and 19th centuries, those who made ...

What do you do with them?

Rose George: Eddie Stobart

4 April 2002
The Eddie Stobart Story 
by Hunter Davies.
HarperCollins, 282 pp., £14.99, November 2001, 0 00 711597 0
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... things and has no interest in sport of any form, despite sponsoring Carlisle United FC’. He has a Ferrari he doesn’t drive and a yacht he doesn’t sail. He relaxes on a mechanical digger. HunterDavies calls him the ‘greatest living Cumbrian’. Davies’s book trundles slowly through the birth and marriage of Stobart’s grandfather John and his father’s business beginnings (lime ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Enough about Politics

15 April 1982
... Labour Party that aspires to become respectable is a Labour Party doomed to decay. That is enough about politics, indeed too much. Instead, a warm welcome for a new book by that indefatigable tramper HunterDavies. This one is A Walk along the Tracks,* an exploration of the disused railway lines which have now accumulated to 8,000 miles, with no doubt more to come. Some of these lines have been taken ...
19 December 1985
Elvis and Me 
by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Sandra Harman.
Century, 320 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7126 1131 2
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Are you lonesome tonight? 
by Alan Bleasdale.
Faber, 95 pp., £3.95, September 1985, 0 571 13732 6
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Elvis and Gladys 
by Elaine Dundy.
Weidenfeld, 353 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 9780297782100
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The Johnny Cash Discography 
by John Smith.
Greenwood, 203 pp., £29.95, May 1985, 0 313 24654 8
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Horse’s Neck 
by Pete Townshend.
Faber, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1985, 9780571138739
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Like Punk Never Happened 
by Dave Rimmer.
Faber, 191 pp., £4.95, October 1985, 0 571 13739 3
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Starlust: The Secret Fantasies of Fans 
by Fred Vermorel and Judy Vermorel.
Comet, 253 pp., £4.95, August 1985, 0 86379 004 6
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The Beatles 
by Hunter Davies.
Cape, 498 pp., £12.95, December 1985, 0 224 02837 5
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... As the Vermorels have it, ‘pop is a frustration machine’, and hostility offers comfort to unconsummated passions that have to consume. John Lennon’s death illustrates the dangers. According to HunterDavies, whose 1968 biography of the Beatles is now updated and revamped (but not enriched by Paul McCartney’s carping account of his friend), it also illustrates Lennon’s ‘enormous contribution ...

Not My Fault

John Lanchester: New Labour’s Terrible Memoirs

17 July 2008
Speaking for Myself: The Autobiography 
by Cherie Blair.
Little, Brown, 421 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 4087 0098 3
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Prezza, My Story: Pulling No Punches 
by John Prescott, with Hunter Davies.
Headline, 405 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 7553 1775 2
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A Question of Honour: Inside New Labour and the True Story of the Cash for Peerages Scandal 
by Michael Levy.
Simon and Schuster, 310 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 84737 315 1
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... help feeling, after reading 400-odd pages of her memoir, that I still haven’t heard her real voice. A pity, since she seems not to have had a ghost, unlike John Prescott, who was ventriloquised by HunterDavies; Michael Levy credits a journalist friend, Ned Temko, for his ‘invaluable help, talent and patience’. You certainly don’t hear the Cherie described by Michael Levy, ‘every bit the get ...
7 March 1991
The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... an invitation to the Magazine’s Christmas party – possibly the trendiest event of the Sixties – was eagerly lobbied for by our detractors. Perhaps the epitaph for the Magazine – long after HunterDavies, that other Sixties figure, had been hired to tame it – was the final meeting between McCullin and Andrew Neil, Murdoch’s Editor on the Sunday Times, when McCullin was sacked. His images ...

The Pouncer

Julian Barnes

3 March 1983
The Mystery of Georges Simenon 
by Fenton Bresler.
Heinemann, 259 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 434 98033 1
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... I always let them have their pleasure first. And of course I was enough of a connoisseur to know if their pleasure was faked.’ The connoisseur, the gentleman: elsewhere he becomes the big-game hunter, and the tourist among women. Naturally, though, Simenon didn’t exceed the number of Casanova’s conquests merely out of sport, out of a pure love of sex. As he told Fellini in interview: ‘It ...

They would have laughed

Ferdinand Mount: The Massacre at Amritsar

4 April 2019
Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre 
by Kim A. Wagner.
Yale, 325 pp., £20, February, 978 0 300 20035 5
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... many times, but rarely with such narrative vigour and moral passion as by Kim Wagner in this centenary account. He quotes at length from Dyer’s own evidence to the commission of inquiry led by Lord Hunter, who had been solicitor general for Scotland in the Asquith government. Again and again, Dyer convicts himself out of his own mouth. As his friend Major General Nigel Woodyatt later told him, ‘he ...

Fumbling for the Towel

Christopher Prendergast: Maigret’s elevation to the Panthéon

7 July 2005
Romans: Tome I 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1493 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011674 3
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Romans: Tome II 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1736 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011675 1
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... I am old enough to remember the Maigret series on television, with Rupert Davies in the starring role. To the accompaniment of a mildly haunting theme tune, a portly figure would appear onscreen, drably but comfortably dressed in raincoat and hat, strolling through the damp, mist ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest

22 March 2018
TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... the bourgeois setting of The Merry Wives of Windsor, the farcical charade in Windsor Forest brings memories of the Wild Hunt, as Falstaff – visibly transfigured by the buck’s horns of Herne the Hunter – is tormented by Mistress Quickly’s Fairy Queen and Pistol’s Hobgoblin. The forest is always liable to appear as the unsettled and unsettling opposite of the urban world, a threatening other ...
16 November 2000
Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition and Sexual Conflict 
by Tim Birkhead.
Faber, 272 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 571 19360 9
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... in the hope of catching animals having sex with each other, and when they do, splash their names and their pictures over the pages of the science journals. It doesn’t always work out. Fiona Hunter and a colleague, later to expose what the mainstream media dubbed ‘penguin prostitution’ in the Antarctic, once watched a colony of fulmars on Fair Isle for 56 days on the trot, 18 hours a day ...

Bloody Horse

Samuel Hynes

1 December 1983
Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 277 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 19 211750 5
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The Selected Poems of Roy Campbell 
edited by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 131 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 9780192119469
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... what is not individual in them. A particular virtue of the book is that it corrects and deflates the stories which Campbell circulated as biographical truths: that in his youth he had been a keen hunter and horseman in Natal (he was no good at either); that he was a successful bullfighter (he tried, but was tossed, and the bull stepped on his foot); that he had fought for Franco; that he had fought ...

Mingling Freely at the Mermaid

Blair Worden: 17th-century poets and politics

6 November 2003
The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives 
edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies.
Ashgate, 213 pp., £45, November 2003, 0 7546 0681 3
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The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair 1603-60 
by Alastair Bellany.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £45, January 2002, 0 521 78289 9
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... divisive and destructive consequences of the Civil Wars, which shattered the unifying assumptions both of the political and of the intellectual world. The wars removed the mysteries of politics. G.K. Hunter has remarked on the contrast between The Faerie Queene and Dryden’s allegory of the exclusion crisis a century later, Absalom and Achitophel. Spenser linked politics to mythology, cosmology ...
19 August 1982
The Struggle for the Falkland Islands 
by Julius Goebel, introduced by J.C.J. Metford.
Yale, 482 pp., £10, June 1982, 0 300 02943 8
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The Falklands Islands Dispute: International Dimensions 
edited by Joan Pearce.
Chatham House, 47 pp., £2.75, April 1982, 0 905031 25 3
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The Falkland Islands: The Facts 
HMSO, 12 pp., £50, May 1982, 0 11 701029 4Show More
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... English as if there was no doubt about it, but then one is written by a former Governor of the Islands, and the other by a former bishop. Here one could quote, to some purpose, the actress Mandy Rice-Davies. Fifty-five years after Goebel’s book first came out it is still not clear who discovered the islands. It is doubtful if it ever will be. Goebel follows his energetic examination of all the known ...

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