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Put it in your suitcase

Nicholas Penny: Sotheby’s

18 March 1999
Sotheby’s: Bidding for Class 
by Robert Lacey.
Little, Brown, 354 pp., £20, May 1998, 0 316 64447 1
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Sotheby’s: Inside Story 
by Peter Watson.
Bloomsbury, 325 pp., £7.99, May 1998, 0 7475 3808 5
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... much emphasis is placed on the novelty of selling the sherry glasses and cuff-links of celebrities – bits of the ‘brilliantly flawed lifetimes’, as he puts it, of the dreadful Duke and Duchess. PeterWatson’s Sotheby’s: Inside Story is also related to a television programme – one that appeared the year before, in 1997. Here the auction house was accused of conniving in the sale of illegally ...
2 March 1989
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter​ Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... Shanks – obviously the most significant and influential voices of the time. During or just after the last war it was Connolly and Koestler and Spender, William Plomer, Alun Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Peter Quennell. Some still have life or fame or both, some not: but then, not now, was their moment. Was Connolly himself any good as a writer? The question means little because the point of Connolly ...

Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’

9 December 2019
Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... Witherby when he started his affair with Lys (while still married to Jean and while Lys was still married to Ian)? Was Barbara Skelton having an affair with the Polish war artist Feliks Topolski when Peter Quennell came onto the scene, still married to his third wife, Glur, but making Topolski so jealous that the men resorted to fisticuffs over Barbara? What made Janetta, still married to Hugh Slater ...

Falling in love with Lucian

Colm Tóibín: Lucian Freud’s Outer Being

10 October 2019
The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth, 1922-68 
by William Feaver.
Bloomsbury, 680 pp., £35, September, 978 1 4088 5093 0
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... time in a cottage in Wales when Freud was 18 and produced a little book of drawings and poems together. (Years later, Freud cut the Spender poems out of the book, ‘deeming them superfluous’.) PeterWatson, who funded Horizon, also began to enjoy Freud’s company. ‘He helped me very much, looked at my pictures and bought things and gave me money and books,’ Freud said. ‘He had pictures ...

Heart-Stopping

Ian Hamilton

25 January 1996
Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost 
by David Bennie.
Mainstream, 221 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 85158 757 8
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Achieving the Goal 
by David Platt.
Richard Cohen, 244 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 86066 017 7
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Captain’s Log: The Gary McAllister Story 
by Gary McAllister and Graham Clark.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 9781851587902
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Blue Grit: The John Brown Story 
by John Brown and Derek Watson.
Mainstream, 176 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 1 85158 822 1
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Kicking and Screaming: An Oral History of Football in England 
by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward.
Robson, 370 pp., £16.95, October 1995, 0 86051 912 0
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A Passion for the Game: Real Lives in Football 
by Tom Watt.
Mainstream, 316 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 1 85158 714 4
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... Ghosted lives still have a market, though. This season has already brought us Gary McAllister’s Captain’s Log (‘with Graham Clark’) and Blue Grit by Glasgow Rangers’ John Brown (‘with PeterWatson’). Would Brown reveal some juicy Gazza tales or give us the dirt on Graeme Souness? Not a chance. Gascoigne is not mentioned (perhaps he arrived too late) and as for Souness: ‘I haven’t ...
20 October 1994
Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... and sexual derangement, gutter élitism, afternoon clubs at the interface of Soho and St James’s. Out to Lunch is himself the classic double agent, the turned man. He has a public persona as ‘Ben Watson’ (apologist for his nocturnal self, the crazed poet), columnist for the Wire, broadcaster, and author of the monumental and magnificent folly, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play ...

Likeable People

John Sutherland

15 May 1980
Book Society 
by Graham Watson.
Deutsch, 164 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 233 97160 2
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The Publishers Association Annual Report 1979-80 
73 pp.Show More
Private Presses and Publishing in England since 1945 
by H.E. Bellamy.
Clive Bingley, 168 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 85157 297 9
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... James Hepburn opens his history of literary agency – The Author’s Empty Purse, published in l968 – with the same quotation that Graham Watson uses to conclude his reminiscences of a lifetime spent in the profession: This is the age of the middleman. He is generally a parasite. He always flourishes. I have been forced to give him some ...
20 October 1994
Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... the theatricals, ‘nothing much happened at Ashcombe,’ and when everyone had gone home there was no ordinary, daily life going on. Beaton languished for four years after the wealthy art patron PeterWatson, who was kind enough to him but emotionally committed to Beaton’s rival, Oliver Messel. For a while Stephen Tennant looked like a possibility, but no one fell in love with Beaton, though he ...

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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Photo-Finish 
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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... What is this but a Thirties detective story?’ asks the London policeman who finds himself in the thick of the latest Flaxborough murder. It’s a piece of miscalculated self-consciousness on Colin Watson’s part – almost the only miscalculation in the book. The Flaxborough Chronicles embody a great many of the virtues that make the golden-age detective story still one of the most widely read ...
1 September 1983
Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter​ Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... Sir Peter Medawar is the most distinguished biologist in Britain today. His work on immunology during the 1950s is the inspiration of all modern transplantation surgery, and was judged worthy of a Nobel Prize ...

Diary

Audrey Gillan: The drubbing of Mohammad Sarwar

22 January 1998
... now more famously associated with the clink of Rab C. Nesbitt’s empty wine bottles. Unfortunately he wasn’t the only one to have his eye on the seat which had been vacated by the sitting MP. Mike Watson, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, was about to have his seat taken away as a result of a boundary rejig: he pretty much saw Govan as his by right. The two men battled it out and soon there were ...

Occupation: Novelist

Christopher Beha: Peter​ Matthiessen

30 July 2014
In Paradise 
by Peter​ Matthiessen.
Oneworld, 246 pp., £12.99, April 2014, 978 1 78074 555 8
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... I was so angry​ ,’ Peter Matthiessen said late in his life of his early days as a writer. ‘I was constantly in a contest … with my father.’ He’d grown up rich in Connecticut and New York, attended Yale, but found ...

Honey and Water

Michael Irwin

7 August 1980
The Beekeepers 
by Peter​ Redgrove.
Routledge, 156 pp., £5.50, July 1980, 0 7100 0473 7
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F for Ferg 
by Ian Cochrane.
Gollancz, 117 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 575 02862 9
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Events Beyond the Heartlands 
by Robert Watson.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £6.50, July 1980, 0 434 84200 1
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... In the first chapter of Peter Redgrove’s novel we are introduced to a poet named Guy, who is about to read aloud some poems he has written about bees. He breaks off a meandering introduction to tell his audience: I can see you ...

Ideologues

Peter​ Pulzer

20 February 1986
The Redefinition of Conservatism: Politics and Doctrine 
by Charles Covell.
Macmillan, 267 pp., £27.50, January 1986, 0 333 38463 6
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Thinkers of the New Left 
by Roger Scruton.
Longman, 227 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 582 90273 8
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The Idea of Liberalism: Studies for a New Map of Politics 
by George Watson.
Macmillan, 172 pp., £22.50, November 1985, 0 333 38754 6
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Socialism and Freedom 
by Bryan Gould.
Macmillan, 109 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 333 40580 3
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... a minimum state is a recipe for tyranny, and Rawls, who is prepared to advocate a fair amount of redistributive intervention. But the flexibility of liberalism is also its strength. It is, as George Watson argues, a way of making choices, something that is not possible in either Marxist or Hegelian utopias. It prescribes a set of institutions, a framework for action to ensure what Rawls calls ...

Snug

John Bayley

9 September 1993
The Life of Ian Fleming 
by Donald McCormick.
Peter​ Owen, 231 pp., £18.50, July 1993, 0 7206 0888 0
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... compensatory success stories. Some aspect of a job which is totally non-fulfilling in reality can be worked up by the imagination in order to satisfy private dreams. Conan Doyle started to invent Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes while waiting dejectedly for custom in his own surgery. Not only do cases or patients turn up at the Baker Street sitting-room with dramatic regularity, but each presents its own ...

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