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No Gentleman

Jonathan Parry

23 June 1994
Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics 
by Peter Marsh.
Yale, 725 pp., £30, May 1994, 0 300 05801 2
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... But is business like politics? What can the businessman contribute, and what are his disadvantages? Joseph Chamberlain’s extraordinary career is one good source of answers to those questions. PeterMarsh’s biography is the fifth substantial one in thirty years, but justifies itself on the grounds that it is the first to cover Chamberlain’s whole career in a single volume and to give ...
27 June 1991
Ngaio MarshA Life 
by Margaret Lewis.
Chatto, 276 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 7011 3389 9
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... Of the four Queens of Crime who dominated the 1930s – Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers – Ngaio Marsh reigns supreme for excellence of style and characterisation,’ writes Margaret Lewis in her introduction. The proposition could be contested; it could be maintained that Christie is more ingenious ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter​ Carey’s ‘Theft’

8 June 2006
Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter​ Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... drawing to the authenticity of the authenticator, why shouldn’t the final verdict lie with the buyer, who in a Stanley Fishy way has simply asserted his right to authenticate? Floreat emptor. Or as Peter Carey ends his new novel, ‘How do you know how much to pay if you don’t know what it’s worth?’ Theft: A Love Story, is about just such issues of authenticity and fraudulence in the ...

Great Tradition

Robert Barnard

18 December 1980
Plaster Sinners 
by Colin Watson.
Eyre Methuen, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 39040 3
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by Ngaio Marsh.
Collins, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 00 231857 1
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The Predator 
by Russell Braddon.
Joseph, 192 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1958 4
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... The Flaxborough Chronicles (or ‘novels’, as they now seem to be called, which is surely unwise) sit comfortably, invitingly on our shelves, demanding periodic rereading. The list of Ngaio Marsh’s works at the beginning of Photo-Finish omits several books published in the mid-Thirties, which are still in print and are far from shame-making. Miss Marsh must by now have written something ...

The Rupert Trunk

Christopher Tayler: Alan Hollinghurst

28 July 2011
The Stranger’s Child 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 565 pp., £20, June 2011, 978 0 330 48324 7
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... old and ill, queasily supportive of the war effort and moved by his memory of the young man on the river ‘with his felicities all most promptly divinable’. Under the circumstances, he told Edward Marsh, the poet’s literary executor, he had read Brooke’s war sonnets ‘with an emotion that somehow precludes the critical measure’. Eddie Marsh, too, was greatly struck by Rupert’s ‘radiant ...
4 June 1987
The Life of My Choice 
by Wilfred Thesiger.
Collins, 459 pp., £15, May 1987, 9780002161947
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Worlds Apart: Travels in War and Peace 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 09 168220 7
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... few tales may well remain untold, but the heavy gold (with a certain amount of ballast) is here in The Life of My Choice, a treasure galleon built to the same specifications as Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs. It is the record of a man magnificently and unabashedly out of step with his times; an adventurer imbued, in the words of a superior officer in the Sudan, with ‘an excess of certain ancient ...
7 March 1985
The Killing Doll 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson/Arrow, 237 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 155480 2
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The Tree of Hands 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 269 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 09 158680 1
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... We still have a Queen of Crime. For nearly twenty years Ruth Rendell has been hailed as the successor to Sayers, Christie, Marsh and Allingham, perpetuating the old question of why it is that there should be a particularly feminine talent for detective fiction. Her Chief Inspector, Wexford by name, has joined the ranks of ...

At the Wellcome

Peter​ Campbell: ‘Dirt’

2 June 2011
... into oceanic rafts of floating plastic rubbish and toxic mounds of discarded electronics. The final space deals with the history of Fresh Kills, a landfill site covering what was an area of salt marsh on the west shore of Staten Island. It began to be filled with New York garbage in 1948. When legislation was passed in 1995 announcing that it would be closed in 2001, it spanned nearly 2200 acres ...


Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands

14 July 2011
... Last Easter, my family and I took a holiday house in the West Highlands. The windows of the cottage looked onto a salt marsh, and beyond that, to the fast-moving waters of the Kyles of Lochalsh. Across the waters rose the hills of southern Skye, still dusted with snow. Nearby stood the unloved stone ruin of a barracks ...

Post-Bourgeois Man

Peter​ Jenkins

1 October 1981
Arguments for Democracy 
by Tony Benn, edited by Chris Mullin.
Cape, 257 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 224 01878 7
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by Francis Cripps, John Griffith, Frances Morrell, Jimmy Reid and Peter​ Townsend.
Pan, 224 pp., £1.95, September 1981, 0 330 26402 8
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... performance. Surveys have suggested that in Britain the ‘post-bourgeois’ generation does remain more dissatisfied with its material status than its Continental counterparts appear to be. Alan Marsh of Michigan University has argued plausibly that the co-existence of material with newer non-material concerns is to be explained by the ambition of the new élite to supplant the old. ‘By ...

Bristling with Diligence

James Wood: A.S. Byatt

8 October 2009
The Children’s Book 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 617 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 7011 8389 9
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... conscious realism’). This may involve not only telling characters what they don’t know, but how they don’t think. A little later in The Children’s Book, Philip Warren is walking on Romney Marsh, towards his favourite church, St Thomas Becket. He ‘knew little about Thomas Becket’, Byatt writes, ‘and did not know that the church was built on Becket lands’. Philip made his way from ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Basil Davidson

5 August 2010
... 13th (mostly Bosnian) division of the SS. When Davidson and his comrades reached the village of Rača, there were 280 dead. The aftermath into which he’d stumbled, after ‘30 miles of plough and marsh and farm track’, is described with scrupulous anger, and leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling that it might have happened far more recently. And because it’s Davidson telling the story, you ...

Feral Hippies

Theo Tait: Peter​ Carey goes astray

6 March 2008
His Illegal Self 
by Peter​ Carey.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 0 571 23151 5
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... Queensland in the early 1970s was, according to the narrator of Peter Carey’s new novel, ‘a police state run by men who never finished high school’. This intriguing throwaway remark turns out to be not much of an exaggeration. For twenty years from 1968 ...

Wharton the Wise

D.A.N. Jones

4 April 1985
The Missing Will 
by Michael Wharton.
Hogarth, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2666 3
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... For 27 years Michael Wharton has written the ‘Peter Simple’ column in the Daily Telegraph. He was only 43 when he secured this good, steady job and now he has published an autobiographical account of his 43 apprentice years – dissident, drifting ...
17 November 1983
The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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by William Peter​ Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... there is the gross and overblown novel which strains its every sinew to the state of commercial apotheosis which is awaiting it upon the cinema screen. Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and William Peter Blatty’s Legion (‘The sequel to The Exorcist’) very neatly illustrate this parting of the ways. If Susan Hill’s ‘ghost story’ is not a pastiche, it is undoubtedly an essay in recreating ...

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