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Play hard

Dave Haslam, 20 October 1994

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... Nick Kent is described on the cover of The Dark Stuff as ‘the living legend of rock journalism’. His status as legend is less to do with the quality of his writing than with his wilful mirroring of the self-destructive, drug-centred lives led by the rock stars he writes about. Kent made his name in the mid and late Seventies as a strung-out stringer, the suburban boy getting high with Keith Richards, hanging out at backstage drug binges, and – on one memorable occasion – being beaten about the body by Sid Vicious wielding a rusty bicycle chain ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... the hipper glossies. On the back of more heavily puffed recyclings by other NME veterans such as Nick Kent and Julie Burchill, that brief pre-Thatcher Waterloo sunset in the IPC tower has taken on a rosy apocalyptic glow. These are not the uncorseted, feelgood ramblings of Sixties survivors (Howard Marks, Richard Neville et al), but the ...

Serious Mayhem

Simon Reynolds: The McLaren Strand, 10 March 2022

The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren: The Biography 
by Paul Gorman.
Constable, 855 pp., £14.99, November 2021, 978 1 4721 2111 0
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... blinded a girl in one eye. At another gig, he used a bicycle chain to batter the NME rock writer Nick Kent, once McLaren’s friend and briefly the guitarist in an early incarnation of the Pistols. When Vicious replaced Matlock, McLaren wrote in a telegram to the NME that Sid’s ‘best credential was he gave ...

Keeping the peace

E.S. Turner, 2 April 1987

March to the South Atlantic: 42 Commando Royal Marines in the Falklands War 
by Nick Vaux and Max Hastings.
Buchan and Enright, 261 pp., £11.50, November 1986, 0 907675 56 5
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Further Particulars: Consequences of an Edwardian Boyhood 
by C.H. Rolph.
Oxford, 231 pp., £12.50, January 1987, 0 19 211790 4
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... writing his memoirs on retirement. Today serving officers appear to suffer no untoward restraints. Nick Vaux, who led 42 Commando Royal Marines in the Falklands, waited only for his brigadier, Julian Thompson, to write No Picnic before weighing in with March to the South Atlantic. Vaux is now a general. He writes lucidly, robustly, as befits a soldier, but is ...

Who Are They?

Jenny Turner: The Institute of Ideas, 8 July 2010

... organised than this allows; apart from anything else, such a belief generates more exciting copy. Nick Cohen, the Observer columnist and author of What’s Left: How the Left Lost Its Way (2007), has called them ‘a vicious movement’ and ‘the smallest and nastiest of the Trotskyist sects’ (the latter in a piece from 2002 that prophetically notes how ...


Iain Sinclair: Eccentric Pilgrims, 30 June 2016

... alpha male with a deep trench of damage in his right leg after a motorcycle collision on the Old Kent Road. He is dressed in a sack of a suit covered with marker-pen Enochian symbols. On his head is a reindeer herdsman’s pointed felt cap with earflaps, like a Norman battle helmet reconfigured by Joseph Beuys. It is warm. Kötting’s thick white gypsum ...

Prince and Pimp

Paul Foot, 1 January 1998

The Liar: The Fall of Jonathan Aitken 
by Luke Harding and David Leigh.
Penguin, 205 pp., £6.99, December 1997, 0 14 027290 9
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... a wonderful house within easy walking distance of the House of Commons, a mansion in his Kent constituency, a Jaguar. In return, Aitken put himself entirely at the Prince’s disposal. He would do anything, his secretary reported, to ‘keep the Arabs happy’. He would even help to provide them with what they were denied at home by their wives and ...

Medieval Fictions

Stuart Airlie, 21 February 1985

by Maurice Keen.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 300 03150 5
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The Rise of Romance 
by Eugène Vinaver.
Boydell, 158 pp., £12, February 1984, 0 85991 158 6
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War in the Middle Ages 
by Philippe Contamine, translated by Michael Jones.
Blackwell, 387 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 631 13142 6
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War and Government in the Middle Ages 
edited by John Gillingham and J.C. Holt.
Boydell, 198 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 85115 404 2
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Prussian Society and the German Order 
by Michael Burleigh.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £22.50, May 1984, 9780521261043
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... chivalry’s rituals: Dr Keen has a nice story of the ‘vamping’ of the Black Prince by Joan of Kent and he emphasises that Lancelot was instructed in the mysteries of knighthood by the Lady of the Lake: ‘a great lady of regal family and endowed with magical powers, but not a priest’. The mysteries of knighthood and woman fused in the thus doubly ...

Iwo Jima v. Abu Ghraib

David Simpson: The iconic image, 29 November 2007

No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture and Liberal Democracy 
by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites.
Chicago, 419 pp., £19, June 2007, 978 0 226 31606 2
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... to have governed the afterlife of other images. Two compelling photos from the Vietnam War era – Nick Ut’s 1972 photo of the naked girl running from a napalm attack, and John Filo’s shot of a girl screaming over a dead body at the 1970 Kent State shooting – generated narratives that would ultimately dampen any sense ...

Animal Experiences

Colin Tudge: At the zoo, 21 June 2001

A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future 
by David Hancocks.
California, 280 pp., £19.95, May 2001, 0 520 21879 5
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... the role of small creatures, like beetles and mice, at the expense of big ones – derisorily nick-named ‘charismatic megavertebrates’ or ‘cuddlies’. He and I agree that many ‘landscapes’ in modern zoos are a sham: bad for the animals, useless for conservation. Gorillas, for example, may be shown these days among vague miscellanies of ...

What’s the point of HS2?

Christian Wolmar, 17 April 2014

... Channel Tunnel in 1994 by observing that at least visitors to the UK would have time to admire the Kent countryside that plans for what is now HS1 were pursued in earnest. Along with Eurostar, the 67-mile line now carries domestic trains to various locations in Kent as well as a couple of freight trains at night. The ...

Newspaperising the World

Sadakat Kadri: The Leveson Inquiry, 5 July 2012

Dial M for Murdoch 
by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman.
Allen Lane, 360 pp., £20, April 2012, 978 1 84614 603 9
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... stonewall tenacious efforts by Watson, his fellow Labour MP Chris Bryant and the Guardian reporter Nick Davies to show that Mulcaire and Goodman were fall-guys. The Press Complaints Commission meanwhile proved it was dysfunctional by devoting an entire report in November 2009 to a sardonic dismissal of Davies’s painstaking investigation. In desperation, the ...

Fetch the Chopping Knife

Charles Nicholl: Murder on Bankside, 4 November 2021

... When​ Crimewatch first aired on the BBC in the mid 1980s, its presenter Nick Ross promised: ‘This is about real-life crime, not the stuff of fiction.’ Nowadays the distinction is rather less clear, and our screens are filled with true crime dramas that seem to offer both. They are essentially factual – ‘based on real events’ – but they have the feel of fiction ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... with ‘Hello, you old cunt’ I suppose once the equivalent but these days not permitted. 20 May. Nick Hytner is in the second week of rehearsals of Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending at the Donmar. We chat in Maggie Smith’s dressing-room in the interval of The Lady in the Van, Maggie saying that Tennessee Williams had a distinctive laugh and when ...


Alan Bennett: Madness: The Movie, 9 February 1995

... always, I find I’m pretty surplus to requirements, my only contribution a muttered suggestion to Nick Hytner that Rupert Graves’s ad lib ‘I’m fine, I’m fine’ would be more in period if he said: ‘It is no matter, no matter.’ I watch Nigel H. rehearse the pisspot scene, then walk round the garden with Mark Thompson before buying some plants on ...

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