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The Shirt of Nessan

Patricia Craig, 9 October 1986

The Free Frenchman 
by Piers PaulRead.
Secker, 570 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 436 40966 6
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Dizzy’s Woman 
by George MacBeth.
Cape, 171 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 224 02801 4
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On Foreign Ground 
by Eduardo Quiroga.
Deutsch, 92 pp., £7.95, April 1986, 0 233 97894 1
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A New Shirt 
by Desmond Hogan.
Hamish Hamilton, 215 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 241 11928 6
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... Piers PaulRead’s Free Frenchman is Bertrand de Roujay, whose most significant act is to repudiate Pétain and his expedient administration at Vichy, and take himself to London, clandestinely, where he throws in his lot with the more honourable and recalcitrant de Gaulle ...
Ablaze: The Story of Chernobyl 
by Piers PaulRead.
Secker, 478 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 436 40963 1
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... that the removal of faith in its nuclear programme played a major part in its eventual downfall. Piers PaulRead picks out, then weaves, these two themes with skill and sometimes – notably in his description of the explosion itself – with the vigour of a superior thriller writer. He seems to tire towards the ...

Doris Lessing’s Space Fiction

Robert Taubman, 20 December 1979

by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 365 pp., £5.95
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Fergus Lamont 
by Robin Jenkins.
Canongate, 293 pp., £7.95
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A Married Man 
by Piers PaulRead.
Alison Press/Secker, 264 pp., £5.25
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And Again? 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 267 pp., £5.95
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... and a well-fed and well-upholstered lack of confidence has been absorbed into their life-style. Piers PaulRead’s characters easily see through themselves. When Clare, the deceived wife now herself considering adultery, writes to a priest about her problem, the telling thing is not this revelation of residual ...

New Mortality

John Harvey, 5 November 1981

The Hotel New Hampshire 
by John Irving.
Cape, 401 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 224 01961 9
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The Villa Golitsyn 
by Piers PaulRead.
Secker, 193 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 40968 2
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Funeral Games 
by Mary Renault.
Murray, 257 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 7195 3883 1
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The Cupboard 
by Rose Tremain.
Macdonald, 251 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 03 540476 0
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... and through persistence in the face of recurring failure, Father emerges as a kind of idealist. In Paul Theroux’s recent novel The Mosquito Coast there was a marvellously vital but similarly quixotic Father, an inventor-businessman making ice in the jungle. It seems that fiction is at present engaged in a cautious rehabilitation of the entrepreneur: easily ...

What ho, Giotto!

Julian Symons, 7 February 1991

Stanley Spencer 
by Kenneth Pople.
Collins, 576 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 00 215320 3
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... High Street put up by his grandfather Julius. Pa was a music teacher, worshipper of Ruskin, read the Bible to the family. Ma took the children to the village Methodist chapel, something Stanley in the end found unsatisfying. ‘I have listened to a thousand sermons, and would like something to counterbalance this. I would like to ...

Brought to book

Gordon Williams, 7 May 1981

Ronnie Biggs: His Own Story 
by Michael Joseph.
Sphere, 238 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 9780718119720
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A Sense of Freedom 
by Jimmy Boyle.
Pan, 264 pp., £1.25, September 1977, 0 330 25303 4
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... Edwards and Jim Hussey come across socially as chaps to go into the jungle with, although novelist Piers PaulRead might demur: despite being warned by Biggs that he was being wound up, he more or less accepted the robbers’ concocted revelation that the robbery was financed by Otto Skorzeny the scar-faced Nazi ...


Hugo Young, 24 November 1994

The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe 
by Colm Tóibín.
Cape, 296 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 03767 6
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... best room in an overbooked hotel. In Poland for the papal visit in 1991, he’s so moved by John Paul II’s demeanour, conducting a six-hour open-air ceremony, that he seems to get close to re-conversion. ‘There was something about the singing, the colours and the beauty of the words which reminded me of strange, hard-won moments of pure contentment I had ...

Mirror Images

Jenny Diski: Piers Morgan, 31 March 2005

The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade 
by Piers Morgan.
Ebury, 484 pp., £17.99, March 2005, 0 09 190506 0
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... Life, Piers Morgan says about being sacked in 2004 as editor of the Mirror, is as serious as you want it to be. Lighten up, he repeatedly tells sad celebrities who complain about his front page exposés that result in their unemployment or divorce. Take it easy, he emails spin doctors and government ministers who fear for their majorities after he has trashed their policies or their love lives to two million readers of the Mirror ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... of this single identity appeared to have been provided by the copyright line, which simply read: Richard Pennington. It seems unthinkable that a sometime publisher and printer would have allowed such a line to appear had he wished to float a forgery – he would have used the more discreet tactics of Madame Solario or Letters of an Indian Judge to an ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005, 5 January 2006

... Charles Moore sinks to his knees straightaway and prays for a considerable period of time, and Piers PaulRead similarly. Some admiration for this, men who pray in public not uncourageous, though more often met with at Catholic rather than Anglican services. The service is conducted by Father Kit Cunningham who ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... and self-reflexive narration; they acknowledge that a text has an unconscious, and that it can be read against the grain of its author’s apparent intentions. They see that Eminem’s lyrics might be a ‘text’ in the way that Middlemarch is a text. They are often keener than many scholars to open up the canon. But they diverge from most academic ...


Jenny Turner: ‘T2 Trainspotting’, 16 February 2017

... parliament building. ‘Buying a Trainspotting postcode in 1996 was a solid investment,’ I read the other day in the Scotsman. Prices in Leith, apparently, have risen more than 200 per cent. How did they keep this going through the collapse of RBS and HBOS, not to mention the tanking oil price, on the slide even before the independence referendum in ...


Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... dead by a hit-man in Spain in 1990 – in a rather different aura, more Gauloise than Craven A. Piers PaulRead’s The Train Robbers (1978) was another one: ‘the evil ... which I had sought in the train robbers can be found in any one of us and has little to do with the law of the land. There was both a good thief ...

Deep down

Julian Symons, 28 June 1990

The Last World 
by Christoph Ransmayr, translated by John Woods.
Chatto, 202 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 7011 3502 6
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The End of Lieutenant Boruvka 
by Josef Skvorecky, translated by Paul Wilson.
Faber, 188 pp., £12.99, May 1990, 0 571 14973 1
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The Dwarves of Death 
by Jonathan Coe.
Fourth Estate, 198 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 1 872180 51 5
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Last Loves 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Grafton, 190 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 333 51783 0
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... like bits of coloured glass or buttons made magical as images in the episcope (for which read, more or less, magic lantern). The names are familiar from Ovid, the people are different. Dig down a further layer, and you find a comparison between the order and symmetry of Rome and the barbaric freedom and strangeness of Tomi. Many, we are told, have ...

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... She looked away and crumpled up the paper and put it on the fire. I was ten years old when John Paul II came to power. My granny instantly adored him, loving his feudal side without reservation and simply ignoring the freedom-upholding aspect. The only thing she was truly agnostic about was politics: she never mentioned that, and her only concern when it ...

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