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Prodigals

John Sutherland

19 August 1982
A Prodigal Child 
by David Storey.
Cape, 319 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02027 7
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The Prodigal Daughter 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 447 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 340 27687 8
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Ralph 
by John Stonehouse.
Cape, 318 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 224 02019 6
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The Man from St Petersburg 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 241 10783 0
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The Patriot Game 
by George Higgins.
Secker, 237 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 19589 5
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... which it represents is quite remarkable. If Jeffrey Archer embodies rebounding success, John Stonehouse’s book breathes failure. Stripped down, Ralph is the story of a successful politician who grows restless with his good life, gets into a terrible pickle, assumes a false identity, escapes and comes to a disastrous end. It’s not, one might ...
28 September 1989
... poet who had some capital. But the firm only took off with the acquisition a few years later of John Hotten’s, Henry Bohn’s and John Maxwell’s publishing properties. Macmillan absorbed the house of Bentley in 1898; Murray absorbed Smith, Elder in 1917; between the wars, according to Ian Norrie, Hutchinson ...

Desmondism

John Sutherland

23 March 1995
Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 474 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7181 3641 1
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... is never left unadorned by epithet: ‘the sour-stomached Thomas Carlyle’, ‘the flamboyant John Elliotson’, ‘the one-eyed, gold-waistcoated, civic-skewering Robert Knox’, ‘the humane mad-doctor John Conolly’, ‘the bombastic Ernst Haeckel’. If Desmond gave us time to think about it, one might wonder ...

Be Rapture Ready! The end times are nigh!

John Sutherland: Armageddon - out of here

5 June 2003
Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages 
by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Tyndale House, 398 pp., £15.99, April 2003, 0 8423 3234 0
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... history into several ages in which different tasks were required of man, after the teaching of John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century Plymouth Brethren minister) had been of no more importance, theologically, than Tennessee snake-handling. Lindsey broadened dispensationalism’s doctrinal base and gave end-times religion mass appeal. In his sceptical ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland

5 November 1992
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... this time in a more objectively historical context. Hamilton offers 22 case studies, from John Donne – the first properly biographed English author – to Philip Larkin of last month’s Observer fame. Hamilton could not, if he tried, write an unreadable book. Keepers of the Flame is that rarest of modern things, lit crit with laughs. Hamilton has ...

Think again, wimp

John Sutherland: Virgin Porn

16 April 1998
Sugar and Spice: A Black Lace Short Story Collection 
edited by Kerri Sharp.
Black Lace, 292 pp., £7.99, October 1997, 0 352 33227 1
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Ménage 
by Emma Holly.
Black Lace, 261 pp., £5.99, January 1998, 9780352332318
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... will be called on to honour the entrepreneur who gave us (to his own considerable enrichment) Johnny Rotten’s ‘God Save the Queen’ (‘She ain’t no human being’). Branson’s sanitising touch has been used to more worthy effect on occasion. His decision to purchase London’s leading gay club, Heaven, for half a million pounds in 1981, was taken ...

Long live the codex

John Sutherland: The future of books

5 July 2001
Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future 
by Jason Epstein.
Norton, 188 pp., £16.95, March 2001, 0 393 04984 1
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... publisher) in 1958. Now a top editor, he cultivated the house’s top authors. Auden, Dr Seuss and John O’Hara are recalled here in vivid anecdotes. A bunch of his authors line up to offer puffs for Book Business: ‘brilliant, moving and profoundly insightful’ (Toni Morrison); ‘a putative classic … fine and impeccable style’ (Norman Mailer); ‘an ...

Generations

John Sutherland

4 March 1982
The Survivors 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 316 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 09 145850 1
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Helliconia Spring 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 361 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 224 01843 4
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The Great Fire of London 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 169 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 241 10704 0
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A Loss of Heart 
by Robert McCrum.
Hamish Hamilton, 282 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10705 9
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... informing symbol or emblem of Little Dorrit is the prison.’ The novelist is known to be of John Carey’s persuasion on the subject of the Dickens industry’s symbol-hunting. He makes his point with a heavily satirised gay Canadian Cambridge don who researches ‘his’ author, surrounded by congenial works like Dickens: The Baroque Lamp and Dickens ...

Sisters

John Sutherland

4 June 1981
Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... and Sid is strongly suggested by various tricks in the novel. The author makes a personal, rather John Fowles-like, intervention in Chapter Seven, as the best man at Mr Lonely’s wedding. Reproduced photographs (from Morecambe’s ‘private collection’) show him in the wedding group (‘Eric and me, a lovely couple!’). For the rest, Mr Lonely has, as ...

Edgar and Emma

John Sutherland

20 February 1986
World’s Fair 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Joseph, 275 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 7181 2685 8
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The Adventures of Robina 
edited by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 165 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 571 13796 2
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... Edgar is vouchsafed a vision of the ‘World of Tomorrow’. Like an infant and apolitical John Reed, he emerges dazzled, holding a button declaring: ‘I have seen the future.’ In other ways, the World’s Fair crowns Edgar’s childhood. He wins an honourable mention in the essay contest on the theme of ‘The American Boy’. His entry is naively ...

Cromwell’s Coven

John Sutherland

4 June 1987
Witchcraft 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 390 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14823 9
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Without Falling 
by Leslie Dick.
Serpent’s Tail, 153 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 1 85242 005 7
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Outlaws 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 360 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 233 98110 1
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... in the Eighties, culminating with a slaughter of innocent citizens. A police detective, John Richards, and an Attorney-General, Terry Gleason, collaborate to bring the gang to book. The criminals prove to be, not the usual run of bank robbers, but Sixties student radicals, now regrouped as ‘the Bolivian Contingent’. Their leader is a nasty ...

Martin Chuzzlewig

John Sutherland

15 October 1987
Dickens’s Working Notes for his Novels 
edited by Harry Stone.
Chicago, 393 pp., £47.95, July 1987, 0 226 14590 5
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... notes as a royal road to Dickensian interpretation. This was followed by Kathleen Tillotson and John Butt’s Dickens at Work (1957), and by the same authors’ ‘Clarendon’ Dickens project, which enshrined a full transcription of the working notes as essential editorial apparatus. If archaeology into the substrata of Dickensian composition is how we ...

Convenience Killing

John Sutherland

7 April 1994
What’s Wrong with America 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 330 32249 4
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The History of Luminous Motion 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 33412 3
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Greetings from Earth 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 296 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 32252 4
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... Emma, what’s wrong with America is (hilariously): ‘Not enough gun control.’ For Marvin – a John Bircher and addict of Rush Limbaugh slob conservatism – what’s wrong with America is ‘coloureds and hispanics’ (the Jews he can live with, since ‘they only sell drugs and prostitutes in the coloured districts’). Marvin built the best fall-out ...

When in Rom

John Sutherland

9 June 1994
The English Poetry Full-Text Database 
editorial board: John Barnard, Derek Brewer, Lou Burnand, Howard Erskine-Hill and Danny Karlin et al.
Chadwyck-Healey, £30,000, June 1994
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... Ask what has been the single greatest influence on literary research since the Sixties and the answer might be the Xerox machine, the jumbo jet or Jacques Derrida. Ask what will transform literary research in the next ten years and a likely answer is The English Poetry Full-Text Database. This project, whose three serial instalments will be complete this summer, has reportedly clocked up almost a hundred sales ...

Diary

John Sutherland: My Grandmother the Thief

21 August 2003
... tripe she borrowed. My copies of Hemingway’s Fiesta, Warwick Deeping’s Sorrell and Son and John Braine’s Room at the Top (a first edition) have the faint purple imprint of Fincham’s rubber stamp on their flyleaf. These did not go into the Essex ditches. I also toyed with keeping Forever Amber (recalling it as being ‘hot’), but let it go. I kept ...

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