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How worried should we be?

Steven Shapin: How Not to Handle Nukes, 23 January 2014

Command and Control 
by Eric Schlosser.
Penguin, 632 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84614 148 5
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... on one of its touchdowns, it veered off the runway and smashed into a shed containing a cache of Mark 6 atomic bombs. The crew was killed, but the outcome was nevertheless a great piece of luck: the weapons destroyed by the subsequent fire did not contain their fissile pits, which were stored in a nearby ‘igloo’. If the bomber had crashed into that ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... are whispered among the cognoscenti like a confederation of secret masters: Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Mark Benney, Robert Westerby, Alexander Baron, John Lodwick, Jack Trevor Story. They have been struck from the canon, these technicians, these life-enhanced witnesses. They are noticed only by slumming journalists (who ...

Going Flat Out, National Front and All

Ian Hamilton: Watch your mouth!, 14 December 2000

Diaries: Into Politics 
by Alan Clark.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2000, 0 297 64402 5
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The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists 
edited by Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor.
Canongate, 684 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 86241 920 4
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The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt. Vol. III: From Major to Blair 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 823 pp., £25, November 2000, 9780333774069
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... in 1996, they can get a fix on how much nicer they are now. And this in turn keeps them up to the mark: they do things that won’t seem too terrible in four years’ time. Or forty. Even the most rudimentary diary can have this usefulness. ‘Did I really have lunch so often with him/her? Assuredly, I’ve travelled far since then. And, even allowing for ...

Oh God, can we face it?

Daniel Finn: ‘The BBC’s Irish Troubles’, 19 May 2016

The BBC’s ‘Irish Troubles’: Television, Conflict and Northern Ireland 
by Robert Savage.
Manchester, 298 pp., £70, May 2015, 978 0 7190 8733 2
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... But the facts presented in his account, and in those of pioneering media critics such as Liz Curtis and David Miller, suggest that a more critical verdict would not be out of place.* The early years of broadcasting in Northern Ireland had been safe and somnolent, as Savage describes. After BBC Northern Ireland was established between the wars, its ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... already. In his book The Kennedy Imprisonment, Garry Wills showed elegantly that the Cuba crisis Mark II – the missile confrontation in October 1962 – was intimately connected to the Cuba crisis Mark I – the Bay of Pigs and the incessant American-sponsored covert aggressions. Kennedy knew, in other words, that the ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW, 11 October 2012

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... John McCain for Rolling Stone in 2000, he was basically a liberal Democrat.) His roommate Mark Costello became a lifelong confidant and sometime collaborator. (Costello is now a novelist in New York and teaches law at Fordham University.) Wallace’s depression was recognised by William Kennick, the philosophy professor who had been his father’s ...

The Groom Stripped Bare by His Suitor

Jeremy Harding: John Lennon, 4 January 2001

Lennon Remembers 
by Jann Wenner.
Verso, 151 pp., £20, October 2000, 1 85984 600 9
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... high walls in the spring of 1946,’ Sayle writes, ‘they saw a city all but returned, as General Curtis LeMay had promised, to the Stone Age. Whole districts were sterile wastelands of twisted iron and blackened stones. People lived in holes clawed in the ground, roofed with stray sheets of metal . . . To sharpen the misery, American soldiers tootled ...

The smallest details speak the loudest

John Upton: The Stephen Lawrence inquiry, 1 July 1999

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 
by Sir William Macpherson.
Stationery Office, 335 pp., £26, February 1999, 0 10 142622 4
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The Case of Stephen Lawrence 
by Brian Cathcart.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, May 1999, 0 670 88604 1
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... for trial. The trial began at the Central Criminal Court on 17 April 1996, in front of Mr Justice Curtis, and ended eight days later due to the unreliability of Brooks’s evidence. The reasons why the case against the three men progressed no further than an initial legal argument held without a jury being present are worth looking into. We know that on 13 ...

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