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Come here, Botham

Paul Foot, 9 October 1986

High, Wide and Handsome. Ian Botham: The Story of a Very Special Year 
by Frank Keating.
Collins, 218 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 00 218226 2
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... book proves, however, Miller can quickly be rejected for second place. It goes, unquestionably, to Ian Botham. Indeed in one crucial respect, Botham beats even the great Sobers himself. Only 22 times in over a thousand Test matches has a player taken five wickets in an innings and scored a hundred in the same match. Frank Keating tells us: ‘Thirteen players ...

Bond Girl

Fiona Pitt-Kethley, 16 March 1989

... the speedboats, cars and bikes we jealous viewers never could afford. I quite enjoyed the books. Ian Fleming wrote well. I could identify a touch with Bond, liking to have adventure in my life. The girls were something else. All that they earned for being perfect samples of their kind – Black, Asian, White ...

Everything You Know

Ian Sansom: Hoods, 3 November 2016

by Alison Kinney.
Bloomsbury, 163 pp., £9.99, March 2016, 978 1 5013 0740 9
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... and sculptures, Death sometimes accessorised with a jaunty crown, a headwrap, a ladies’ black headdress, or a clutch of worms wriggling through his eye sockets.’ Plus, the hoods we all thought were worn by executioners were more often worn by those about to be executed. Hooded prisoners were not only less likely to resist but less likely to ...


Ian Hamilton: Two weeks in Australia, 6 October 1983

... it could be argued that the Aussies bring it on themselves, with their Barry McKenzies, their Ian Chappells, their self-parodying Foster ads, and so on. And there is the accent: for some reason more readily mimickable than any of our own regional twangs. Theories about the Australian accent are just as snooty as theories about Australia. Some say that it ...


Ian Hamilton: Poets Laureate, 7 January 1999

... rejoicing at the death of his predecessor’. Even Day Lewis’s admiring editor and close friend, Ian Parsons, when he was putting together a Collected Poems, shrank from reprinting the poet’s Laureate offerings. He called these works ‘banal when they were not embarrassingly disingenuous’. And this, over the centuries, has been the way of things with ...

‘OK, holy man, try this

Ian Hamilton: The Hypothetical Philip Roth, 22 June 2000

The Human Stain 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 361 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 0 224 06090 2
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... once all-powerful at Athena, has been forced to retire after being accused of racism by two of his black students. He wants to tell everything to Zuckerman. Now in his early seventies, Silk had almost been destroyed by the injustice that ended his career but, with the help of Viagra, is now enjoying an intense love affair with the much-younger-than-him ...


Ian Hamilton: Whoop, whoop, terrain, 29 April 1999

... that was that. This horror story is one of 28 such tales assembled by Malcolm MacPherson in The Black Box: Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts of In-Flight Accidents and it is no more or less harrowing than most of the others.* The masking-tape oversight was freakish, to be sure, but in this book the freakish comes to seem commonplace: spontaneous fires in the ...

All the Cultural Bases

Ian Sansom, 20 March 1997

Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland 
by Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell.
Faber, 160 pp., £7.99, November 1996, 0 571 17539 2
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... a volcano five times in eruption’). As well as the poems and prose pieces the book includes 52 black and white photographs, all taken by Auden, appendices containing pie-charts and graphs, and a fine, coloured folding map. There is an extensive bibliography and one chapter is entirely devoted to an anthology of excerpts from other books about Iceland. The ...
... into hysteria. The women ululate. A military helicopter waits overhead. A fire-engine sprays the black crowd tautening among the hills of the north-west of the city. Strung with lights and tannoys, the integuments of the half-built blocks and electricity substations whisper the dry earth spooned out, passed among the crowd and eaten. Smoke and fog copulate ...

Sexy Robots

Ian Patterson: ‘Machines Like Me’, 9 May 2019

Machines like Me 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 305 pp., £18.99, April 2019, 978 1 78733 166 2
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... short story by Diane Williams which came into my mind while I was reading Machines like Me, Ian McEwan’s 15th novel. It’s called ‘Machinery’ and it’s 104 words long. It ends: ‘For some idea of the full range of tools at his disposal, one would have to know what human longings are all about, a calm voice says calmly.’ McEwan has always been ...

Treating the tiger

Ian Jack, 18 February 1988

Tales from Two Cities: Travel of Another Sort 
by Dervla Murphy.
Murray, 310 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 7195 4435 1
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... framed along the lines that the time is past when a white woman can attempt to describe the ‘black’ experience of Britain by living among British non-whites as though they were inhabitants of the equatorial rain-forest rather than our neighbours in the next house or (more likely) in the streets over the hill. Several reviewers have already made this ...


Ian Sansom: I was a teenage evangelist, 8 July 2004

... hot, and the music was very loud, and I soon began to feel woozy, as if I were drunk on Pernod and black. I vaguely remember some preaching, something probably about Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? (Romans 8.35), a good preaching text. What I do remember ...

Do you like him?

Ian Jack: Ken Livingstone, 10 May 2012

You Can’t Say That: Memoirs 
by Ken Livingstone.
Faber, 710 pp., £9.99, April 2012, 978 0 571 28041 4
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... Times and TV Times each week with a marker pen obliterating any programme listing that included black or Irish people, gays, lesbians or David Frost’. The relationship cooled when Ken junior joined the Labour Party and ceased completely when he became leader of the Greater London Council, but for a time they lived under the same roof in an intimate and ...

Knights of the King and Keys

Ian Aitken, 7 March 1991

A Dubious Codicil: An Autobiography by 
by Michael Wharton.
Chatto, 261 pp., £15.99, December 1990, 0 7011 3064 4
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The House the Berrys built 
by Duff Hart-Davis.
Hodder, 299 pp., £16.95, April 1990, 3 405 92526 6
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Lords of Fleet Street: The Harmsworth Dynasty 
by Richard Bourne.
Unwin Hyman, 258 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 04 440450 6
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... Practitioners of the black arts of journalism will universally acknowledge that the most accurate as well as the funniest portrayal of their profession is Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Scoop. No one who has ever worked for a paper with a baronial proprietor could fail to recognise Lord Copper and his bevvy of fawning executives ...

A couple of peep-holes in the pillowcase and off we go a-lynching

Ian Hamilton: The Ku Klux Klan, 30 September 1999

Inside the Klavern: The Secret History of the Ku Klux Klan of the Twenties 
by David Horowitz.
Southern Illinois, 191 pp., £39.95, July 1999, 0 8093 2247 1
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... same time, though, they were nothing like as spooky as my Beano visitants. After all, I wasn’t black. Well, not black-skinned. Later on, of course, in my school Liberal Studies classes, I came to a fuller understanding of what these Klansmen were really all about. Even so, I didn’t know much about them, except that ...

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