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All in pawn

Richard Altick, 19 June 1986

The Common Writer: Life in 19th-century Grub Street 
by Nigel Cross.
Cambridge, 265 pp., £25, September 1985, 0 521 24564 8
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... middle-class magazines and reviews lay the large underclass of book-writers who are the subject of Nigel Cross’s illuminating study. Hovering perilously between the lower slopes of Parnassus and the surrounding flat with its quicksands, they were the victims of the whimsical assumption, happily less common today, that anybody who can hold a pen can live ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands, 21 February 2002

Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... of Princess Elizabeth) who came to the islands in 1946 as guests of Nicolson’s father, Nigel (son of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West). They lasted a night. Wakened by noisy rats, they screamed. Nigel would have to row them back out to a fishing boat in the morning. But he had forgotten to tie up his ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 1 December 1983

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... ran equally high. There can’t be many people who were so much involved in bliss. Vita’s son, Nigel Nicolson, attempting to give some account of what went on between his mother and Violet Trefusis, speaks of the two women being ‘carried on the breezes towards the sun, exalted and ecstatic, breathing the thin air of the empyrean’. One might, more ...


E.S. Turner, 4 September 1986

Monty: The Field-Marshal 1944-1976 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 996 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 241 11838 7
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... and public places. You will not, for the present, enter the homes and houses of the Germans.’ Nigel Hamilton, in this robust last volume of his 2732-page trilogy, does not reproduce these orders, which surely have more than a touch of the touching about them. Here was a soldier who had commanded almost a million men in the field and taken the surrender of ...

Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail, 6 June 2002

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... a capital letter) into an object of religious veneration. His Grail is a relic of Christ, like the Cross and the nails or the veil of Veronica: relics of a kind in which interest had recently been rekindled by the occupation of the Holy Land by the Crusaders. Robert accordingly writes the prehistory of the Grail, from its origins to the time it arrived at the ...

Don’t talk to pigeons

Ben Jackson: MI5 in WW1, 22 January 2015

MI5 in the Great War 
edited by Nigel West.
Biteback, 434 pp., £25, July 2014, 978 1 84954 670 6
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... England and 50,000 stands of Mauser rifles stored in cellars within a few hundred yards of Charing Cross, he thanked Barlow for providing such an excellent example of the ludicrous stories currently in circulation. Haldane’s dismissive manner later lost him his job as lord chancellor – when war was declared he was denounced as a German sympathiser and ...

Maggie’s Hobby

Nicholas Hiley, 11 December 1997

New cloak, Old dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold 
by Michael Smith.
Gollancz, 338 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 575 06150 2
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Intelligence Power in Peace and War 
by Michael Herman.
Cambridge, 436 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 521 56231 7
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UK Eyes Alpha 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 320 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 571 17689 5
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... by the large number of SIS officers who retire at 55 to join merchant banks. In the words of ‘Nigel West’ (a.k.a. Rupert Allason, the former Tory MP), the postwar drift to the City ‘was ... sponsored by men such as George Young, the SIS Vice-Chief who joined Kleinwort Benson in 1961, and Frank Steele, a legendary figure from the Cold War who followed ...

Enemies of All Mankind

Stephen Sedley: Pirates, 24 June 2010

The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law 
by Nigel Rodley, with Matt Pollard.
Oxford, 697 pp., £85, August 2009, 978 0 19 921507 2
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The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 295 pp., £21.95, November 2009, 978 1 890951 94 8
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The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates 
by Peter Leeson.
Princeton, 271 pp., £16.95, May 2009, 978 0 691 13747 6
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... wage war like that any more. Indeed the big wars are rarely now between neighbours: one state will cross a continent or an ocean to attack or invade, or occasionally to defend, another. The choreographed exchange of diplomatic threats, the ultimatum, the formal declaration of a state of war, have been pretty much dispensed with. The last time the United ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Senna’, 14 July 2011

directed by Asif Kapadia.
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... when his admired opponent in the go-karts was the British driver Terry Fullerton. No mention of Nigel Mansell or Niki Lauda or Michael Schumacher. Still less of Alain Prost. All Senna ever wanted, in this perspective, was to drive cars fast. Politics and fame were for other people; or perhaps just a cross he had to ...

In Farageland

James Meek, 9 October 2014

... Thanet,​ where Nigel Farage will try to win a Westminster seat at the next election, lies nicely along the axis of his commute between his home in South London and his office at the European Parliament in Brussels. If Kent, cartographically speaking, is England’s right foot, the Isle of Thanet is its big toe, pointing east into the sea towards Belgium ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: How We Are, 5 July 2007

... the Sassoon family album. Colour brought photographs of champion roses (‘Birmingham Post’, a cross between ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and ‘Wendy Cussons’, from the National Rose Society’s Annual) and of rather dull canapés (from Good Housekeeping Colour Cookery of 1967). Nothing, it seemed, was so distant, hidden or commonplace that its appearance ...


Jenny Turner, 24 October 1991

Gaudi Afternoon 
by Barbara Wilson.
Virago, 172 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 264 1
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The players come again 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 229 pp., £12.99, August 1991, 1 85381 306 0
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Poetic Justice 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 176 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 025 8
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Birth Marks 
by Sarah Dunant.
Joseph, 230 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 7181 3511 3
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Burn Marks 
by Sara Paretsky.
Virago, 340 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 9781853812798
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Deep Sleep 
by Frances Fyfield.
Heinemann, 198 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 0 434 27426 7
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... Murder in the Collective (1985, and probably the novel that established the genre as a whole), Nigel Fountain’s Days like these (1985, from the now-defunct Pluto crime list) and Sara Schulman’s marvellous The Sophie Horowitz Story (published in 1984 by a small lesbian press in the US, and now published here by Sheba Feminist Publishing) still make ...

Find the birch sticks

R.W. Johnson: A spy’s diary, 1 September 2005

The Guy Liddell Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-42 
edited by Nigel West.
Frank Cass, 329 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 415 35213 4
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... or anything personal. Yet Liddell was a considerable man in every way. After winning the Military Cross in the First World War, as both his brothers did, he spent the entire period after 1919 in counter-intelligence. He and his eccentric wife, the Hon. Calypso Baring, formed the centre of a large dinner-party world in their Cheyne Walk house designed by ...


Julian Barnes: People Will Hate Us Again, 20 April 2017

... racism (isn’t it hard to hear English spoken on a train nowadays?). But of course Nigel can’t really be a racist, can he, because he’s got a German wife? (Except that she’s now chucked him out for the Usual Reasons.) Without Farage’s covert and overt endorsement, the smothered bonfire of xenophobia would not have burst into open flame ...

England prepares to leave the world

Neal Ascherson, 17 November 2016

... ear-splitting arias? But she never took the raft to the horizon, and never finally cast off the cross-Channel hawser mooring her to Europe. This revival is different. Theresa May says she’s bound for the ocean, and she means it. Or rather, she means it because she doesn’t mean it. Nothing in British history resembles this spectacle of men and women ...

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