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Cleaning up

Ben Whitaker, 17 March 1988

The Underground Empire: Where crime and governments embrace 
by James Mills.
Sidgwick, 1165 pp., £15, November 1987, 0 283 99454 1
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... and the way their parents dress, then The Underground Empire’s first 1100 pages are for you. Mr Mills is a master of that genre of reporting which, when recording a conversation, never fails to detail, not only the décor of the restaurant where it took place (interviews happen mainly at mealtimes) and how the food was cooked, but also adds the biographical ...

Strew the path with flowers

Bernard Porter: Cannabis and empire, 4 March 2004

Cannabis Britannica: Empire, Trade and Prohibition 1800-1928 
by James Mills.
Oxford, 239 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 19 924938 5
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... a fearsome reputation, equal to that of opium. William Caine, an 1890s abolitionist MP quoted by James Mills, claimed it was the ‘most horrible intoxicant the world has yet produced’. In 1924, the Egyptian statesman Mohamed El Guindy called it ‘a terrible menace to the whole world’. A moral panic in the 1920s and 1930s, mainly in America but ...


James Wood, 5 August 1993

The New Poetry 
edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £25, May 1993, 1 85224 244 2
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Who Whispered Near Me 
by Killarney Clary.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1993, 1 85224 149 7
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Sunset Grill 
by Anne Rouse.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, March 1993, 1 85224 219 1
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Half Moon Bay 
by Paul Mills.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, February 1993, 9781857540000
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by Harry Smart.
Faber, 74 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16793 4
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The Autonomous Region 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1993, 9781852241735
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Collected Poems 
by F.T. Prince.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £25, March 1993, 1 85754 030 1
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Stirring Stuff 
by Selwyn Pritchard.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 145 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 9781856193085
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News from the Brighton Front 
by Nicki Jackowska.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 86 pp., £7.99, April 1993, 1 85619 306 3
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Translations from the Natural World 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 67 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 005 0
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... drunks with matches’, and ‘a dawn as pink and blue as litmus paper’. Like Anne Rouse, Paul Mills does not have his own voice: ‘All day the sun was an explosion/ Cooling to long slants in the grass.’ This could have been written any time in the last thirty years, by anyone. But Mills is always a good mimic, and he ...

My Missus

John Sutherland, 13 May 1993

Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 1914-1950 
by Joseph McAleer.
Oxford, 284 pp., £35, December 1992, 0 19 820329 2
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American Star: A Love Story 
by Jackie Collins.
Heinemann, 568 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 434 14093 7
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... public (those readers whose purchases today range from the Sunday Sport, through Guns and Ammo, Mills & Boon, to Asian Babes) are still Laplanders as far as their betters are concerned; nor has academic investigation gone much beyond Orwell’s bathysphere approach. McAleer’s book is one of the first of its kind to work from the archives and business ...


Rose George: In Dewsbury, 17 November 2005

... of the valley, where the mill-owners built their fine houses away from the soot and fibres of the mills along the valley floor. Later, we moved next door, carrying our belongings through a gap in the hedge, before my father died one day in the back yard. The Church of England then made my Yorkshireness even more shaky by providing a free boarding-school place ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... either way, like the signpost to a pair of English villages, we are directed towards ‘the Mills’. Mill St James or Mill St John? On arrival there is no option since only John Stuart Mill is on the map. How frustrating to run out of fresh clues (see Utilitarianism is there, of course) just at the point when an ...

I Love You Still

Russell Jacoby, 9 February 1995

Intellectuals in Exile: Refugee Scholars and the New School for Social Research 
by Claus-Dieter Krohn, translated by Rita Kimber and Robert Kimber.
Massachusetts, 255 pp., $15.95, July 1994, 0 87023 864 7
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... World War One. This precipitated the resignations of two leading historians, Charles Beard and James Robinson, both of whom had long bridled at interference by trustees and college presidents. With some associates at the New Republic, Beard and Robinson hatched plans for a ‘new’ school. ‘New’ was in the air. The New Republic had been founded just ...

Escaping from Belfast

V.S. Pritchett, 5 February 1981

Green Avenue: The Life and Writings of Forrest Reid 1875-1947 
by Brian Taylor.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £12.50, October 1980, 0 521 22801 8
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... Belfast and to find out what was going on politically in that depressing and bigoted city of linen mills and shipyards. The Orangemen were contemptuous of the Southern Irish and had a blustering condescension to Englishmen like myself, and one of the few people whose talk was a relief from this was Forrest Reid, a novelist and critic in his late ...


Iain Sinclair: My Olympics, 30 August 2012

... bus station with its satellite café. When the bus station was demolished, the café failed. David Mills, the Owl Man of Albion Drive, fenced the site, built hutches for his birds and excavated a carp pool. For years, nobody cared. He had, like so many others in this borough, slipped into a crack between worlds. If the council acknowledged his existence and ...

Comprehensible Disorders

David Craig, 3 September 1987

Before the oil ran out: Britain 1977-86 
by Ian Jack.
Secker, 271 pp., £9.95, June 1987, 0 436 22020 2
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In a Distant Isle: The Orkney Background of Edwin Muir 
by George Marshall.
Scottish Academic Press, 184 pp., £12.50, May 1987, 0 7073 0469 5
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... The coal pit is a field. Urban grasslands and carparks have buried the foundations of the mills. The house he grew up in has been demolished and replaced by a traffic island. The school which taught him the careful handwriting has made way for a supermarket. Such is the life of the industrial heartlands, and has been ever since the upheavals of the ...

What’s Good for India

Akshi Singh: Good for Tata, 4 April 2024

Tata: The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism 
by Mircea Raianu.
Harvard, 291 pp., £35.95, July 2021, 978 0 674 98451 6
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... and ships raised by the government of India occupied the Persian port of Bushehr at great expense. James Outram, who lends his name to many neighbourhoods in India, led the British forces. He returned to India to quell the uprising known as the Indian Mutiny – or, depending on your choice of historian, the First Indian War of Independence. As Indian rebels ...


Ian Sansom: A novel about work, 2 December 2004

Some Great Thing 
by Colin McAdam.
Cape, 358 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 9780224064552
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... toad work had been well and truly forked off their lives. With the notable exceptions of Magnus Mills and James Kelman, most British writers don’t make a habit of writing about what’s at the centre of most people’s lives. And I don’t mean sex: that’s peripheral, like God. The last great English novel about ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... televised judgment than a somewhat tedious literalism of case-building and ‘healing’, the twin mills of justice and therapy (all those trauma counsellors) grinding away deliberately. Willard Down’s ‘Down’s Syndrome’ sign would not last an unlitigated minute in an actual Texas. But again, the opposite of cartoonishness is not the actual. Ever since ...

Tyranny of the Ladle

James C. Scott: Mao’s Great Famine, 6 December 2012

Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine 
by Yang Jisheng, translated by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian.
Allen Lane, 629 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 1 84614 518 6
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Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 
by Frank Dikötter.
Bloomsbury, 420 pp., £9.99, May 2011, 978 1 4088 1003 3
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The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past 
by Gail Hershatter.
California, 455 pp., £37.95, August 2011, 978 0 520 26770 1
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... harmful, they mobilised millions of people for months at a time on massive work sites or steel mills far from home. During an inspection tour in Hunan, Mao’s home province, in 1958, Peng Dehuai was slipped a note by a crippled veteran: ‘The grain is scattered, the potato leaves are withered, and the young and strong are sent to the steel ...

Good for Nothing

James Morone: America’s ‘base cupidity’, 19 May 2005

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America 
by Scott Sandage.
Harvard, 362 pp., £22.95, February 2005, 9780674015104
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... they would make the needful sacrifice of ease and mortification of appetite’. Poor men left the mills and shops, he explained, and immediately plunged into ‘the groggery, the cigar store, the gambling den or some other haunt of vileness’. ‘Inordinate expenditure’ always caused the misery. Foreign observers were startled at the raucous cycles of boom ...

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