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Lady Rothermere’s Fan

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 7 November 1985

The Letters of Ann Fleming 
edited by Mark Amory.
Collins, 448 pp., £16.50, October 1985, 0 00 217059 0
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... shows a doubtful sense of what’s what. Ann Fleming was married for 12 not very happy years to Ian Fleming, with whom she’d been infatuated for most of her life. Her previous husbands, Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail, and Lord O’Neill, never counted for much, though she had had a glamorous life with Rothermere and had been in love with him ...

Don’t teach me

Gillian Darley: Ernö Goldfinger, 1 April 2004

Ernö Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect 
by Nigel Warburton.
Routledge, 197 pp., £30, November 2003, 0 415 25853 7
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... No sooner had he achieved some architectural renown than he was caricatured, at least in name, as Ian Fleming’s villain. Sensing anti-semitism, he sued and was placated out of court with his costs, an agreement that ‘Auric’ always be used in front of the villain’s name, and half a dozen copies of the offending novel. Which didn’t stop a stream of ...

Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman, 17 June 2021

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 642 pp., £9.99, March, 978 0 00 834003 2
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The Beatles and Sixties Britain 
by Marcus Collins.
Cambridge, 382 pp., £90, March 2020, 978 1 108 47724 6
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The Beatles in Context 
edited by Kenneth Womack.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £74.99, January 2020, 978 1 108 41911 6
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... a xerox of the kind of burly yet benevolent patron who first booked the Beatles.) As Spencer Leigh remarks in ‘The Beatles on the Reeperbahn’, his essay in The Beatles in Context, ‘Liverpool and Hamburg were of a similar size, populated with proud residents who regarded themselves as somehow separate from the rest of the country. Both cities were ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange, 6 March 2014

... him – its editor, Alan Rusbridger, showed concern for his position, as did the then deputy, Ian Katz, and others – but he talked about its journalists in savage terms. The Guardian felt strongly that the secret material ought to be redacted to protect informants or bystanders named in it, and Julian was inconsistent about that. I never believed he ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... without any formal or hierarchical career structure. So the majority are actresses (Elsie and Leigh), academics (Cam and Darbishire), artists (Bell, Cohen, Knight) or authors (Allingham, Blyton, Compton-Burnett, Sackville-West and Sitwell), topped off with occasional politicians (Astor, Bonham Carter and Lady Lloyd-George) and royals (Princess ...

Ghost Ions

Jonathan Coe: AA-Rated Memories, 18 August 2022

Offbeat: British Cinema’s Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems 
edited by Julian Upton.
Headpress, 595 pp., £22.99, April, 978 1 909394 93 3
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The Magic Box: Viewing Britain through the Rectangular Window 
by Rob Young.
Faber, 500 pp., £12.99, August, 978 0 571 28460 3
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... television, an alternative to the more respectable version that has tended to focus on Loach and Leigh, Powell and Pressburger, Lean and Reed, the Boultings and Woodfall (although Tom Jones does get a long and interesting discussion here). Or at least, that’s the way this book might have been seen fifteen years ago. Now, in fact, many of the works he ...


Julian Barnes: A Portrait of Lucian Freud, 5 December 2013

Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud 
by Martin Gayford.
Thames and Hudson, 248 pp., £12.95, March 2012, 978 0 500 28971 6
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Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist 
by Geordie Greig.
Cape, 260 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 224 09685 0
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... and greener, his canvases larger; some of his sitters grew larger too, culminating in the enormous Leigh Bowery and Sue Tilley the benefits supervisor (perhaps the most famous fat woman since Two-Ton Tessie O’Shea). Freud liked to emphasise his own incorrigibility, his instinct to do the opposite of what he was told to do; and several times in interviews he ...

Touch of Evil

Christopher Hitchens, 22 October 1992

Kissinger: A Biography 
by Walter Isaacson.
Faber, 893 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 571 16858 2
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... gamely but irrelevantly does, is like poring for clues over the crabbed, cretinous scrawl of Ian Brady. Such a man needs scope. Scope! And scope is what, by relentless fawning on impressionable creatures, Henry finally got. It’s a tale well worth the telling. When the American élite divided over the war in Vietnam, Kissinger was in a quandary. He ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... Woman.15 April. Watch five minutes of Have I Got News for You with Nigel Farage the guest and Ian Hislop and Paul Merton their usual genial selves. I never quite understand why they are happy to sit on a panel with the likes of Farage, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Clarkson et al. Their reasoning would, I imagine, be that this gives them the opportunity to have ...

Narco Polo

Iain Sinclair, 23 January 1997

Mr Nice: An Autobiography 
by Howard Marks.
Secker, 466 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 436 20305 7
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Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix 
by Carmen St Keeldare.
Bluedove, 225 pp., £12.99, September 1996, 0 9528298 0 0
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... took place in Highgate.’ He adapts the tone and texture of other ex-spooks who ‘went over’: Ian Fleming, John le Carré. He admits that his dialogue is invented, all his East End villains are squeezed into one composite character, Mickey Williams. MI6 became nervous of the Marks connection in the wake of the Littlejohn affair, two brothers they had ...

A Ripple of the Polonaise

Perry Anderson: Work of the Nineties, 25 November 1999

History of the Present: Essays, Sketches and Despatches from Europe in the Nineties 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
Allen Lane, 441 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 7139 9323 5
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... zones – the terrains of St John Philby and Robert Byron, of Norman Douglas and Patrick Leigh-Fermor, of R.W.Seton-Watson and Rebecca West. Sorties farther afield – like Peter Fleming’s expeditions to the Gobi or Matto Grosso – were fewer. Paradoxically, the vast expanse of the Empire itself was not fertile soil for this kind of ...

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