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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 literary forms ...

Us and Them

Robert Taubman, 4 September 1980

The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... gives a full account of Agatha Christie’s work, making even plot-summaries a joy to read. If Robert Barnard sometimes seems more astute than his subject, he’s delightfully appreciative of her strategies, of the right and proper use of character stereotypes, and of Mayhem Parva, her own special English village fantasy with its definitions of the ...

Clues

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 May 1983

A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... incident occurs. Here we are close to the art of the stage conjurer: a point well made by Robert Barnard in his concise and extremely acute book. Again, over this long period of time the clue tends steadily to refine and even attenuate itself in consonance with the enhanced acuity of readers. It is no longer at all likely to be the imprint of a ...

Sexist

John Bayley, 10 December 1987

John Keats 
by John Barnard.
Cambridge, 172 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 521 26691 2
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Keats as a Reader of Shakespeare 
by R.S. White.
Athlone, 250 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 485 11298 1
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... and come up with a host of fresh examples and insights. His book makes a good complement to John Barnard’s more general but also innovative study in the new Cambridge introductions to ‘British and Irish Authors’, a high-quality series which includes Patrick Parrinder on James Joyce and John Batchelor on H.G. Wells. ...

Wobble in My Mind

Colm Tóibín: Lizzie, Cal and Caroline, 7 May 2020

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-79: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 560 pp., £35, January, 978 0 571 35741 3
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The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-73 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., £11.99, December 2019, 978 0 374 53827 9
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... In April​ 1970, Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick – both aged 53, married for 21 years – had just been on holiday together in Italy with their 13-year-old daughter, Harriet. Hardwick and Harriet had come home to New York, where Hardwick taught at Barnard College; Lowell had gone to Oxford to take up a fellowship at All Souls ...

And That Rug!

Michael Dobson: Images of Shakespeare, 6 November 2003

Shakespeare’s Face: The Story behind the Newly Discovered Portrait 
by Stephanie Nolen.
Piatkus, 365 pp., £18.99, March 2003, 0 7499 2391 1
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Imagining Shakespeare: A History of Texts and Visions 
by Stephen Orgel.
Palgrave, 172 pp., £25, August 2003, 1 4039 1177 0
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Shakespeare in Art 
by Jane Martineau et al.
Merrell, 256 pp., £29.95, September 2003, 1 85894 229 2
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In Search of Shakespeare 
by Michael Wood.
BBC, 352 pp., £20, May 2003, 9780563534778
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... name, and the playwright’s direct line died out in 1670 with his granddaughter Lady Elizabeth Barnard). The picture came into the family soon after the First World War, kindly provided by someone who couldn’t bear the idea that a modern-day William Shakespeare – whom she met, moreover, in her adopted home county of Warwickshire – shouldn’t own a ...

If Only Analogues...

Ange Mlinko: Ginsberg Goes to India, 20 November 2008

A Blue Hand: The Beats in India 
by Deborah Baker.
Penguin US, 256 pp., £25.95, April 2008, 978 1 59420 158 5
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... Robert Oppenheimer knew Sanskrit. Quotations from the Bhagavad Gita flashed through his mind when he witnessed the first atomic explosion in New Mexico in 1945: ‘Suppose a thousand suns should rise together into the sky: such is the glory of the Shape of the Infinite God.’ Reading that same chapter of the Bhagavad Gita in Darjeeling in 1962, Allen Ginsberg thought of something else: the coloured wheels of psilocybin-induced visions ...

Dancing and Flirting

Mark Ford: Apollinaire, 24 May 2018

Zone: Selected Poems 
by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Ron Padgett.
NYRB, 251 pp., £9.99, January 2016, 978 1 59017 924 6
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Selected Poems 
by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Martin Sorrell.
Oxford, 281 pp., £9.99, November 2015, 978 0 19 968759 6
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... influenza. If he struck many of those who met him, from Alfred Jarry to Max Jacob to Picasso to Robert Delaunay, as larger than life, as the avant-garde spirit incarnate, and if his long poems, like those of Whitman and O’Hara, seem to expand and prolong themselves as effortlessly as amoebas in a petri dish, then beneath the shifting decors and personae a ...

Just like Mother

Theo Tait: Richard Yates, 6 February 2003

Collected Stories 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 474 pp., £17.99, January 2002, 0 413 77125 3
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Revolutionary Road 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 346 pp., £6.99, February 2001, 0 413 75710 2
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The Easter Parade 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 226 pp., £10, January 2003, 0 413 77202 0
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... in Hollywood, but none of his scripts was ever produced. He worked as a speech-writer for Robert Kennedy, a career cut short by JFK’s assassination. Recently, there has been a considerable resurgence of interest in his writing, previously limited to a small but dedicated following among writers such as Richard Ford, Stewart O’Nan and Michael ...

Father! Father! Burning Bright

Alan Bennett, 9 December 1999

... always been a right keen smoker has Frank. Now he’s paying the price.’ Midgley fell asleep. ‘Robert Donat had bronchitis,’ said Aunty Kitty. ‘Mr Midgley.’ The doctor shook his shoulder. ‘Denis,’ said Aunt Kitty. ‘It’s doctor.’ He was a pale young Pakistani, and for a moment Midgley thought he had fallen asleep in class and was being woken ...

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