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Spadework

John Brown, 18 November 1982

Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Richard Layman.
Junction, 285 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 86245 027 6
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... a repetition of Hammett’s account, via the character of Casper Gutman, of the Hospitalers of St John – the purpose of which, it seems, is to allow Layman to observe that, contrary to what Hammett/Gutman says, the Hospitalers refused to move from Rhodes to Malta and were given four islands by Charles V, not three. There are some crime novelists (Raymond ...

Natural Species

D.J. Enright, 6 August 1981

... There’s a law these days against the extirpation of a Natural species ... So John Brown assures himself As he moves with care down the Underground corridors. A poster for panties carries a sticker:     ‘This degrades women.’ For Brown himself is the sole survivor of one such Natural species: the John Browns ...

Better and Worse Worsts

Sadakat Kadri: American Trials, 24 May 2007

The Trial in American Life 
by Robert Ferguson.
Chicago, 400 pp., £18.50, March 2007, 978 0 226 24325 2
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... On 16 October 1859, a white anti-slavery agitator called John Brown led 21 followers in a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A previous expedition against a Kansas slave-owning settlement had ended in five deaths, but Brown had far grander hopes for his new enterprise – to start an insurrection across the South ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine, 16 August 1990

Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... and virtually absented herself from London altogether. She found consolation in the company of John Brown, and Thompson suggests that there was more to Victoria’s involvement with her Highland servant than it has been usual to suppose. Inevitably, there was widespread and growing dissatisfaction at the Queen’s non-performance of her public ...

Farewell Hong Kong

Penelope Fitzgerald, 24 February 1994

The Mountain of Immoderate Desires 
by Leslie Wilson.
Weidenfeld, 374 pp., £15.99, February 1994, 0 297 81371 4
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... father and mother. He believes that he is the illegitimate son of Queen Victoria by her servant John Brown, who must have ‘lifted his kilt’ on some unrecorded occasion. Everywhere, on tea-caddies and biscuit-tins, he looks proudly at images of his mother’s face. Samuel believes it, but we don’t, any more than we believe Pip’s great ...

Drink it, don’t eat it or smoke it

Mike Jay: De Quincey, 13 May 2010

The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey 
by Robert Morrison.
Weidenfeld, 462 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 297 85279 7
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... of dream and reverie was already familiar. As far back as 1701, the doctor and opium enthusiast John Jones said of the intoxicated (and intoxicating) state it brought about that ‘people do commonly call it a heavenly condition, as if no worldly Pleasure was to be compared with it’; and indeed Jones went further than De Quincey ever would in describing ...

Heart-Stopping

Ian Hamilton, 25 January 1996

Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost 
by David Bennie.
Mainstream, 221 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 85158 757 8
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Achieving the Goal 
by David Platt.
Richard Cohen, 244 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 86066 017 7
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Captain’s Log: The Gary McAllister Story 
by Gary McAllister and Graham Clark.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 9781851587902
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Blue Grit: The John Brown Story 
by John Brown and Derek Watson.
Mainstream, 176 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 1 85158 822 1
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Kicking and Screaming: An Oral History of Football in England 
by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward.
Robson, 370 pp., £16.95, October 1995, 0 86051 912 0
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A Passion for the Game: Real Lives in Football 
by Tom Watt.
Mainstream, 316 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 1 85158 714 4
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... called Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost, and, yes, the paradise in question is indeed John Milton’s – or Big John’s (as he is called here):    Beating Airdrie in this year’s final has hardly sent warning shock-waves reverberating around the football giants of Europe, but having witnessed the ...

An Attic Full of Sermons

Tessa Hadley: Marilynne Robinson, 21 April 2005

Gilead 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 282 pp., £14.99, April 2005, 1 84408 147 8
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... by the Congregationalist minister of just such a small, left-behind community, in Iowa in 1956. John Ames is in his seventies, married to a much younger second wife, Lila, and with a seven-year-old son; the novel is written in the form of a letter for the boy to read when he is an adult. Ames adds to the letter day by day; alongside stories out of the past ...

Credibility Brown

Christopher Hitchens, 17 August 1989

Where there is greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future 
by Gordon Brown.
Mainstream, 182 pp., £4.95, May 1989, 1 85158 233 9
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CounterBlasts No 3: A Rational Advance for the Labour Party 
by John Lloyd.
Chatto, 57 pp., £2.99, June 1989, 0 7011 3519 0
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... are of an age, and both have backgrounds in a harder Left than the one they now espouse. Gordon Brown was one of the convenor/editors of the Red Paper for Scotland in the early Seventies, and John Lloyd saw the inside of the Communist Party before helping to found a pro-European Marxist tendency at about the same ...

Brown v. Salmond

Colin Kidd: The Scottish Elections, 26 April 2007

... as a nationalist alternative. Nothing exemplified the new political culture more tellingly than John McGrath’s play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil (1973), which the 7:84 theatre company took on tour round Scotland. The play itself was impeccably socialist; but audiences were more alert to its unintended nationalist message. Indeed, there ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... Strahan, Thomas Cadell (father and son) and George Robinson in London, and Alexander Kincaid, John Balfour, John Bell and William Creech in Edinburgh, were not ‘mechanicks’ as Strahan once complained, but collaborators in a London-Edinburgh publishing enterprise that put Scotland on the literary map. For ...

Just going outside

D.J. Enright, 30 January 1992

The Birthday Boys 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £12.99, December 1991, 0 7156 2378 8
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... that had hung in his nursery, he meets Queen Victoria, seated on a piebald pony and attended by John Brown. (The expedition’s ponies had suffered atrociously.) ‘ “Happy Birthday,” sang the man holding the bridle. And oh, how warm it was.’ This may strike us as well over the top, uncharacteristic of the author, an afterglow from Peter Pan. Yet ...

John Bayley writes about Graham Greene

John Bayley, 25 April 1991

... designed to be merely Satanic, in the spirit of Conrad’s melodramatic characters, like Gentleman Brown or Mr Jones. Pinkie is strictly for the book. When the famous record to which the heart-broken Rose listens has stopped playing, he vanishes into limbo. Greene was less than ingenuous when he commented, in the second instalment of his autobiography, Ways of ...

Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog, 8 October 2015

London Fog: The Biography 
by Christine Corton.
Harvard, 408 pp., £22.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08835 1
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... and fumes from coal (‘sea-coal’) burned in breweries, bakeries and glass foundries. John Evelyn’s Fumifugium, or, the Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated (1661) dismissed the idea that domestic hearths had much to do with it – probably correctly at the time.Evelyn wrote about ‘Clowds of Smoak and Sulphur, so full of ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Climate Change, 5 April 2007

... change has made one of its periodic appearances in the headlines, with David Cameron and Gordon Brown each making announcements about what he will do when in office. This amounts to a green beauty contest, with the public in the position of the pen-sucking judges. Cameron first. The Tory leader has hitherto, for all practical purposes, said nothing about ...

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