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Murder in Mayfair

Peter Pomerantsev, 31 March 2016

A Very Expensive Poison: The Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko and Russia’s War with the West 
by Luke Harding.
Faber, 424 pp., £12.99, March 2016, 978 1 78335 093 3
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... was trying to bury the case, Marina Litvinenko pushed for an inquest into her husband’s murder. Robert Owen, a High Court judge, promised an ‘open and fearless’ investigation. In 2013 the foreign secretary, William Hague, made an application for ‘public interest immunity’ – which meant that the government’s classified files on Litvinenko ...

Bad Shepherd

Robert Crawford: James Hogg, 5 April 2001

The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. VIII: The ‘Spy’ 
edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 641 pp., £60, March 2000, 9780748613656
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... George Buchanan’s over-the-top ‘Elegy for Jean Calvin’. The volume remains high in some of Robert Fergusson’s sophistic-performative street-talk, Burns’s on-off, rip-roaring ‘Tam o’Shanter’, MacDiarmid’s last trump blawing ‘tootle-ootle-oo’, Edwin Morgan’s Loch Ness Monstering ‘Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok ...

The Other Half

Robert Melville, 4 July 1985

Kenneth Clark: A Biography 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 9780297783985
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... Suddenly I thought: ‘My God, he’s going to speak to me!’ ‘Am I right in thinking you’re Robert Melville?’ he said. ‘My name is Clark.’ ‘Indisputably, Sir Kenneth,’ I answered. I remember the word I used, because as soon as I said it I realised that it was ludicrously inappropriate. And I went on quickly: ‘It’s a fine Pasmore, isn’t ...

Hitler’s Belgian Partner

Robert Paxton, 27 January 1994

Collaboration in Belgium: Léon Degrelle and the Rexist Movement 
by Martin Conway.
Yale, 364 pp., £30, October 1993, 0 300 05500 5
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... various organisations enlisted about 12,000 people (2500 of them for frontline military service in the Légion Wallonie and about as many for paramilitary service at home). Surrounded by a modest penumbra of sympathisers, the activists barely exceeded 1 per cent of the Belgian population. Conway makes clear ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... he ventured into the remote Danakil region. In the late 1930s he was in the Sudan Political Service and thereafter fought in Syria and the Western Desert. After the war, he returned briefly to Abyssinia before making a first crossing of the Empty Quarter in the service of a locust control project. Subsequently, in ...

Father and Son

Tony Gould, 23 June 1988

When the fighting is over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain and its Aftermath 
by John Lawrence and Robert Lawrence.
Bloomsbury, 196 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 7475 0174 2
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Tumbledown 
by Charles Wood.
Penguin, 80 pp., £3.95, April 1988, 0 14 011198 0
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... that Tumbledown was the name of one of the few serious battles in the Falklands campaign and that Robert Lawrence was the platoon commander in the 2nd Battalion, the Scots Guards, who had 40 per cent of his brain removed by a sniper’s bullet after he had earned himself a Military Cross by his bravery. Even before the film was shown on BBC television on 31 ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury, 31 October 2002

... Marlowe filled the air at this time. Hints had appeared in print, in the loquacious pamphlets of Robert Greene and Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe, but more damagingly precise were the reports of Government informers – a flourishing trade in the police-state atmosphere of late Elizabethan London. There are two key documents, generally referred to as the ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... All That, as one literary man’s war memoirs with another’s, I’m struck by the contrast with Robert Graves’s modernity. It doesn’t seem to matter that his was an earlier war, or a different kind of war – Mr Powell’s being much more the contemporary kind we know about – but Graves was modern in that his personal involvement is so much more vivid ...

Great Warrior

Robert Wohl, 21 January 1982

Memoirs of War 1914-15 
by Marc Bloch, translated by Carole Fink.
Cornell, 177 pp., £9, July 1980, 9780801412202
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... but it was not until 1969 that the Annales issued as a special cahier Bloch’s memoirs of his service with the infantry during the first few months of the Great War. This fragment – for that is all it can be said to be – was based on a journal Bloch kept in 1914 and reworked in 1915 while recovering from an attack of typhoid fever. It has now been ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... Then, in our teens or twenties, we entered the mob, post-war conscripts in the years of National Service: here the public schoolboys came into their own, hogging the Queen’s Commission and acquiring conscript valets. Trevor Royle, a serious young Scot, describes ‘the National Service Experience, 1945-63’ in his ...

Secret Services

Robert Cecil, 4 April 1985

The Soviet Union and Terrorism 
by Roberta Goren.
Allen and Unwin, 232 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 04 327073 5
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The Great Purges 
by Isaac Deutscher and David King.
Blackwell, 176 pp., £12.50, November 1984, 0 631 13923 0
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SOE: The Special Operations Executive 1940-46 
by M.R.D. Foot.
BBC, 280 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 563 20193 2
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A History of the SAS Regiment 
by John Strawson.
Secker, 292 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 436 49992 4
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... in their hands from the start of the final solution’. It is not the business of a secret service to disseminate intelligence to any persons other than those who can make good use of it. The wider the circulation, the greater the risk to the source. The only thing that would stop Hitler from exterminating Jews was to defeat him: until and unless this ...

Keeping mum

Stephen Sedley, 2 March 1989

The Spycatcher Trial 
by Malcolm Turnbull.
Heinemann, 228 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 434 79156 3
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Reform of the Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: Government White Paper 
HMSO, 16 pp., £2.60, June 1988, 0 10 104082 2Show More
Official Secrets Bill 
HMSO, 14 pp., £3, December 1988, 0 10 300989 2Show More
Security Service Bill 
HMSO, 8 pp., £2.60, November 1988, 9780103007892Show More
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... England as he imagined it would be in 1953, accurately linked the mandarin élitism of the Civil Service with its determination to control the supply of public information. What is new in the present decade is the assumption of power by a government which shares this determination but which also has definite and disturbing ends in view. Nevertheless the ...

Capitalism’s Capital

Jackson Lears: The Man Who Built New York, 17 March 2016

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 1246 pp., £35, July 2015, 978 1 84792 364 6
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... Robert Moses​ was a modernist pharaoh. Over the forty years from the early 1930s to the late 1960s, he became a virtual dictator of public works in all five boroughs of New York and much of its suburban surroundings. Almost singlehandedly, through chicanery, fraud and bullying, he created the modern infrastructure of the New York City area: expressways, tunnels and bridges, but also parks, beaches, swimming pools and high-rise housing projects ...

Diary

Robert Fothergill: Among the Leavisites, 12 September 2019

... himself. What did we look like, the incoming cohort of 1958, the first mostly not to have National Service? We were mainly middle class – Downing wasn’t a posh college – with many from Northern England, especially from Manchester Grammar School. The college, though quite lovely in its neoclassical way, lacked the grandeur of the older foundations, and ...

Advised by experts

David Worswick, 21 December 1989

The Economic Section, 1939-1961: A Study in Economic Advising 
by Alec Cairncross and Nita Watts.
Routledge, 372 pp., £40, May 1989, 0 415 03173 7
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The Robert Hall Diaries. Vol. I: 1947-1953 
edited by Alec Cairncross.
Unwin Hyman, 400 pp., £40, May 1989, 9780044452737
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... Nowadays there are nearly four hundred members of the Government Economic Service, distributed through the various ministries and departments, with a sizable concentration in the Treasury. It will come as a surprise to most people that at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was no professional economist with major responsibility employed in any of the central departments of government ...

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