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Aversion Theory

Lord Goodman, 20 May 1982

Clinging to the Wreckage 
by John Mortimer.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 297 78010 7
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... John Mortimer’s book has a thoroughly misleading title. It is designed to enlist a little pathetic sympathy for someone carried along like a piece of flotsam without the courage or determination to strike out for the shore. It would be difficult – judging from the book itself – to find anyone less shipwrecked than John Mortimer and less likely to pursue this policy if shipwrecked ...

Street Wise

Pat Rogers, 3 October 1985

by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 241 11664 3
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Paradise Postponed 
by John Mortimer.
Viking, 374 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 670 80094 5
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High Ground 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 156 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13681 8
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... which Dyer makes from London to Stonehenge. A sign of the times, by the way, that both Ackroyd and John Fowles, in his latest novel, should send their Georgian creations crawling about Stonehenge, which not long ago would have seemed one of the purest un-Augustan activities. Ackroyd has taken Hawksmoor’s known interest in pre-Gothic architectural theory and ...

Bananas Book

Eric Korn, 22 November 1979

Saturday Night Reader 
edited by Emma Tennant.
W.H. Allen, 246 pp., £5.95
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... by initiates is heightened by the slow-dawning certainty that the Marcus Gutteridge talked to by John Mortimer is a made-up person, a chimera of all those doddering reminiscers (‘Aldous was extremely short-sighted’) whom young literary journalists feel obliged to interview. Well, of course, now I see it, and now that I’m in the joke very funny it ...

Whitehall Farces

Patrick Parrinder, 8 October 1992

Now you know 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 9780670845545
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... and that Little Dorrit is a favourite in the Home Office.’ Lawyers these days doubtless read John Mortimer, and dons read the new university wits like David Lodge and Tom Sharpe. But in any wider competition for the post of English humorist-in-residence, Michael Frayn would surely be a prime contender. Now verging on sixty, his collected plays and ...

Pornography and Feminism

Bernard Williams, 17 March 1983

... John Sutherland has produced ‘a calendar following a series of events (mostly trials) from 1960 to the present day’, which deals briefly and brightly with obscenity cases from Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fanny Hill to The Romans in Britain.* The aim is to investigate changes in public attitudes to ‘offensive literature ...

The Pouncer

Julian Barnes, 3 March 1983

The Mystery of Georges Simenon 
by Fenton Bresler.
Heinemann, 259 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 434 98033 1
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... to have been the fleeting ten thousand. Nor did he fail them. Bubbling with pride, he once told John Mortimer in a Sunday Times interview about the prostitutes he had known: ‘I treated them with consideration and like a gentleman. I always let them have their pleasure first. And of course I was enough of a connoisseur to know if their pleasure was ...

Keep the baby safe

Stephen Sedley: Corrupt and Deprave, 10 March 2022

A Matter of Obscenity: The Politics of Censorship in Modern England 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Princeton, 320 pp., £28, September 2021, 978 0 691 19798 2
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... the 1970 ‘School Kids Issue’ of Oz. The classic defence tactic was used of having counsel – John Mortimer QC – representing two of the editors and arguing issues of law, while the other, Richard Neville, represented himself and said things that lawyers were not permitted to say (though Mortimer was at his ...
The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Bloomsbury, 163 pp., £12.99, January 1991, 0 7475 0759 7
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... it doesn’t write up, the journalist’s participation seems, to the reader, pathetically vain. (John Mortimer has occasionally brought off the celebrity duologue, but he is the exception.) But many journalists (including, I suspect, Ms Malcolm) are reluctant to endure the denial of ego that interviewing entails. ‘What about me? Don’t you want to ...

A Resonance for William Styron

Gabriele Annan, 7 November 1985

Savage Grace 
by Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson.
Gollancz, 473 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 575 03738 5
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... the entries in Who’s Who. There are some known names: Cecil Beaton, Jasper Johns, James Jones, John Mortimer, Patricia Neal, William Styron, Andy Warhol. Among the rest are antique dealers, decorators, magazine editors, a ‘freelance music co-ordinator for fashion shows’, a princess ‘internationally concerned with matters of spiritual ...

From culture to couture

Penelope Gilliatt, 21 February 1985

The ‘Vogue’ Bedside Book 
edited by Josephine Ross.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 09 158520 1
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The Art of Zandra Rhodes 
by Anne Knight and Zandra Rhodes.
Cape, 240 pp., £18, November 1984, 0 395 37940 7
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... thought the West finished if he had seen it. So one goes back to British Vogue. A witty piece by John Mortimer: a QC of his calibre is a born interviewer, of course, though it took editors years to cotton on to the idea. Among the short stories, I struck old memories of Brendan Behan. Before he was discovered by Joan Littlewood, he used to wander into ...

A Very Good Job for a Swede

E.S. Turner, 4 September 1997

The Fu Manchu Omnibus: Vol. II 
by Sax Rohmer.
Allison and Busby, 630 pp., £9.99, June 1997, 0 7490 0222 0
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... Fu Manchu continued to come out all through the war, though they were rather eclipsed in 1916 by John Buchan’s Greenmantle, in which Richard Hannay bluffed his way to Constantinople to prevent a wild Islamic prophet, backed by Germany, from setting the East in flames. In the real world the Germans were backing a more potent troublemaker by smuggling Lenin ...

Dear Mohamed

Paul Foot, 20 February 1997

Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament 
by David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy.
Fourth Estate, 263 pp., £9.99, January 1997, 1 85702 694 2
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... boasted about their powerful contacts in the Tory Party and the Government. Greer even mentioned John Major as ‘a close friend’. The programme-makers arranged further such meetings, one in a Spanish castle, to which Greer was asked to invite his contacts. Greer’s network of helpful politicians was about to be exposed when Central Television and its new ...


Graham Coster, 10 January 1991

Stone Alone 
by Bill Wyman and Ray Coleman.
Viking, 594 pp., £15.99, October 1990, 0 670 82894 7
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Blown away: The Rolling Stones and the Death of the Sixties 
by A.E. Hotchner.
Simon and Schuster, 377 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 671 69316 6
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Are you experienced? The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience 
by Noel Redding and Carol Appleby.
Fourth Estate, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 1 872180 36 1
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I was a teenage Sex Pistol 
by Glen Matlock and Pete Silverton.
Omnibus, 192 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 7119 2491 0
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by George Michael and Tony Parsons.
Joseph, 242 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3435 4
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... Of guitar pioneer Les Paul we learn that Bill ‘found him charming’. He and blues singer John Hammond ‘chatted for a while’. He ‘met’ Bob Dylan. Above all, what you miss from Wyman’s account – that word again – is any pride in, or even positive recognition of, the danger of the Stones at their peak. This is the band that played ‘Stray ...

Blood on the Block

Maurice Keen: Henry IV, 5 June 2008

The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King 
by Ian Mortimer.
Vintage, 480 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 1 84413 529 5
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... coming from the good lord King Henry the Third’. On 13 October he was crowned king. The son of John of Gaunt, Edward III’s third son, Henry was certainly Richard’s nearest male heir in 1399; but the seven-year-old Edmund, Earl of March, grandson of Philippa, the daughter of Edward III’s second son, Lionel, had through the female line a senior claim ...

What happened to Edward II?

David Carpenter: Impostors, 7 June 2007

The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the British Nation 
by Ian Mortimer.
Pimlico, 536 pp., £8.99, April 2007, 978 1 84413 530 1
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... Churchill, Edward’s reputation survived a long period of dotage. In the 19th century, as Ian Mortimer shows in the introduction to his new biography, Victorian rectitude and a preoccupation with constitutional history caused feelings about Edward to change. Bishop Stubbs, ‘peering down on the Middle Ages from the twin heights of an episcopal throne and ...

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