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Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis, 4 April 2002

Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... which made him the upper classes’ favourite, and most expensive, legal confidant. In 1865, Sir James Willes wept as he sentenced Constance Kent to death for suffocating her little brother and hiding his body in the vault of an outside privy. That’s the sort of court-room occasion the Victorians loved. Newspaper agitation for the commuting of death ...

Nostalgia for the Vestry

James Buchan: Thatcherism, 30 November 2006

Thatcher and Sons: A Revolution in Three Acts 
by Simon Jenkins.
Allen Lane, 375 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 7139 9595 5
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... on the queen and no doubt wrote the words as an aide-memoire on the short drive back through St James Park from Buckingham Palace. It is as if on 18 June 1940 Churchill had had before him in the House of Commons a note saying Battle – France – Over – Battle – Britain – Begin. In her 11 years in power, Thatcher duly gave the public all the ...

With Bit and Bridle

Matthew Kelly: 18th-Century Ireland, 5 August 2010

Eighteenth-Century Ireland: The Isle of Slaves 
by Ian McBride.
Gill and Macmillan, 563 pp., £19.99, October 2009, 978 0 7171 1627 0
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... On 12 March 1689, James II, the deposed king of England and Ireland, Catholic and absolutist, landed at Kinsale on the south coast of Ireland with a substantial French force. He had fled England a few months before when William and Mary had been declared joint sovereigns – the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution ...

The Party and the Army

Ronan Bennett, 21 March 1996

... plain wrong. The Sunday Times, for example, was demonstrably mistaken when it announced that Gerry Kelly, one of Sinn Fein’s chief negotiators at Stormont, is a highly placed IRA man who is not even a member of the Party. Kelly, who was sentenced to life imprisonment after the 1973 Old Bailey bombing, may or may not be a ...


James Lever: Nicola Barker, 9 September 2010

Burley Cross Postbox Theft 
by Nicola Barker.
Fourth Estate, 361 pp., £18.99, April 2010, 978 0 00 735500 6
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... or ‘she scowled’ or ‘he shrugged’. (‘She gazed over at him, frowning’: page 700. ‘Kelly frowned, confused,’ ‘he frowned’: page 702. ‘Gary frowned,’ page 703. ‘He frowned … his frown deepened’: page 704.) People do all this frowning and scowling because there is so much ‘Wait, are you saying that … ?’ or ‘What do you ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman, 3 January 2008

... and studied the same subject. As well as the two Milibands, Balls and Cooper, Jacqui Smith, Ruth Kelly, James Purnell, David Cameron and William Hague all went to Oxford and read PPE. The exceptions to this rule are George Osborne (Oxford, history), Boris Johnson (Oxford, classics), Michael Gove (Oxford, English) and a ...

Englishmen’s Castles

Gavin Stamp, 7 February 1980

The Victorian Country House 
by Mark Girouard.
Yale, 470 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 300 02390 1
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The Artist and the Country House 
by John Harris.
Sotheby Parke Bernet, 376 pp., £37.50, November 1980, 0 85667 053 7
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National Trust Studies 1980 
edited by Gervase Jackson-Stops.
Sotheby Parke Bernet, 175 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 85667 065 0
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... the few country-house painters of this century, notably Rex Whistler, John Piper and Felix Kelly, on the grounds that the tradition had been broken. As their work would scarcely have been disproportionately large had it been included, this is a pity, especially as, in the cases of Whistler and Kelly, it was a ...

I didn’t do anything wrong in the first place

David Runciman: In the White House, 11 October 2018

Fear: Trump in the White House 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon & Schuster, 448 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 1 4711 8129 0
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... Trump raged. “Of course he’s got an axe to grind with me.”’ And before Mueller there was James Comey, whom Trump fired as director of the FBI, thereby provoking an enormous and entirely predictable backlash. But Trump can’t understand it. He fired him! ‘I am the president. I can fire anybody that I want. They can’t be investigating me for ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter, 7 March 1996

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... and tilted somehow, like the Tower of Pisa, wearing a cape and a hat and small round glasses, like James Joyce’, could be picked out of a crowd. The author has a nice ear for the tones and riffs of American speech, a sharp loving eye for tacky motels, country barbecue joints and New York subways, and a contagious fascination with the high-stake gambles of ...

Lumpy, Semi-Dorky, Slouchy, Smarmy

John Lanchester, 23 August 2001

Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous 
by Don Foster.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 333 78170 8
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... worse. In their desperation the cops had in December consulted a New York psychiatrist called James Brussel, described by John Douglas as ‘the father of behavioural profiling’. Douglas is the FBI man who inspired Thomas Harris to invent the character Jack Crawford in the Hannibal Lecter novels, so he should know. This is the psychological portrait ...

On the highway

Jonathan Coe, 24 March 1994

by Joseph O’Connor.
Flamingo, 426 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 224301 6
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Resurrection Man 
by Eoin McNamee.
Picador, 233 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 330 33274 0
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by Emma Donoghue.
Hamish Hamilton, 232 pp., £9.99, January 1994, 0 241 13442 0
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... central character’s upbringing are disposed of in a brief, arresting first chapter. As Victor Kelly makes his inexorable progress through the ranks of the ‘men of violence’, however, his mother is never far from his thoughts. There’s a cinematic subtext to the novel which finds analogies for Kelly’s psychosis in ...


Peter Wollen: In the Tunnel, 28 April 1994

... foot of the falls. Marilyn Monroe wears them in the movie, Niagara, and you can see them on Gene Kelly and the gang in the pre-credit sequence of Singin’ in the Rain. Once we were kitted out against quakes and floods, we gave up our passports for inspection and were taken by bus to a security office at the head of the gigantic well which had been sunk at ...


David Bromwich: The Snowden Case, 4 July 2013

... of the possible scope of NSA operations in December 2005 when the New York Times ran a story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau on massive warrantless surveillance: ‘Bush Lets US Spy on Callers without Courts’. The government was demanding and getting from the telecoms all the records it wanted of calls both to and from their customers. But the feed had ...

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... and Cliff Richard. ‘Here they come,’ the BBC said. ‘Oh, they look a bit awkward,’ said James Whitaker, Royal Expert. ‘Oh well. Never mind. She’s finally got him in her grip.’ ‘I don’t think I am wallowing in exuberant excitement,’ said Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror. ‘I think there will be a sigh of relief among the ...

Short Cuts

Mattathias Schwartz: John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness, 16 July 2020

... rounds that he might be restrained by an ‘axis of adults’: Tillerson, as secretary of state; James Mattis, as secretary of defence; and John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff. Bolton wants to place himself outside this particular axis. He blames his colleagues for the administration’s chaotic lack of process, and for ...

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