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Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Jon Venables, 25 March 2010

... and over that day and long night I came to see my unease was to do with familiarity. Venables and Thompson were not only like the boys I knew, but like the boy I had been, and their crime was an extreme version, different in degree but not in essence, from things we had done on the housing estate outside Glasgow where I grew up. The amoral meandering of the ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... on political/religious/ethnic backgrounds to the many campaigns it covers, it is edited by Sir Robert Thompson and is a first-class military hand book, with brilliant maps and a wealth of illuminating photographs, and of facts and figures. From Korea to Afghanistan, from Indo-China to the latest Gulf War, its brief analytical essays give the gory but ...

Taking Flight

Thomas Jones: Blake Morrison, 7 September 2000

The Justification of Johann Gutenberg 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 259 pp., £14.99, August 2000, 0 7011 6965 6
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... the extent to which Child’s Play 3 provided in the figure of Chucky a fictional precedent for Robert Thompson and Jon Venables: not an inspiration to the children, but an explanation of what they had done. Child’s Play 3 wasn’t the only story offered to provide a context for the killing: Andrew O’Hagan’s Diary in the LRB (11 March ...

Boxes of Tissues

Hilary Mantel, 6 March 1997

As If 
by Blake Morrison.
Granta, 245 pp., £14.99, February 1997, 1 86207 003 2
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... trying to steal apples; standing rapt before a fruit stall, gazing at ripe pears. Today it’s Robert and Jon who are on a spree: they steal a yoghurt, a milkshake, two cartons of Ambrosia rice. Finally they steal a child, blond-haired, not quite three. One of them takes him by the hand. They lead him into the city. They walk some busy roads, they are seen ...

Pulp

Scott Bradfield, 14 December 1995

Jim Thompson Omnibus: The Getaway, The Killer inside Me, The Grifters, Pop. 1280 
Picador, 570 pp., £7.99, November 1995, 3 303 34288 1Show More
Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson 
by Robert Polito.
Knopf, 543 pp., $30, October 1995, 0 394 58407 4
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... Jim Thompson never actually claimed to write capital-L Literature, but today, nearly twenty years after his death, many of his admirers are making the claim for him. Born in a sheriff’s apartment over the Caddo County Jail in Oklahoma in 1906, Thompson, like many good American boys, grew up to be a lot like his father ...

Bad Books

Susannah Clapp, 4 August 1988

Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson 
by René Weis.
Hamish Hamilton, 327 pp., £14.95, July 1988, 0 241 12263 5
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... On 3 October 1922 Percy Thompson, a shipping clerk and old member of the Stepney Elocution Class, was stabbed to death in the street near his home in Ilford. His wife, Edith, was with him; her lover and former lodger, Frederick Bywaters, was the attacker. These circumstances were not disputed when the couple were charged with Thompson’s murder ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... of the land – the ‘landscape’ – must overlap with more workmanlike uses of it. Ian Thompson’s history of the Lake District is grounded almost exclusively in the aesthetic. ‘Since the Lake District is an imaginative construction,’ he argues, ‘it has no real boundaries, physical or historical.’ So he is thinking of it as a region ...

Watching Me Watching Them Watching You

Andrew O’Hagan: Surveillance, 9 October 2003

... there, but lives too, the life of a community and the failings of a welfare state. Venables and Thompson re-enacted something that day: they played out a fantasy of watching and being watched. Much of what they did – ‘let’s steal a kid,’ Thompson said – was based on a fantasy drawn from a home video they’d ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin, 4 April 2019

The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March 2019, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... and harder to do without. (When I googled A Very British Coup, the first result was an article by Robert Peston describing the recent attempt by Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn and Oliver Letwin to seize parliamentary control of the Brexit process. The headline read: ‘A very British coup against the PM’.) The second thing is Jeremy Corbyn. The book is now ...
... John Deodoran, Magus of the Scrolls, Lord Justice Clam and Lord Justice Null. Law Reporter: E.P. Thompson The Court of Appeal enforced circumlocutory injunctions restraining the Fourth Estate from publishing whatever any judge had injuncted, whether it had already been universally published or no. The greater part of the submissions were heard in camera and ...

Missionary Work

Christopher Turner: Henry Wellcome, 13 May 2010

An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World 
by Frances Larson.
Oxford, 343 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 19 955446 1
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... years), that Wellcome felt free to start collecting on a grander scale. In his 1994 biography, Robert Rhodes James dismissed Wellcome as a ‘magpie collector’ who tried to rationalise the contents of his hoard after the fact, and concentrated instead on his subject’s social and business interests and his patronage of scientific research. Frances ...

Do what you wish, du Maurier

E.S. Turner, 31 March 1988

Maxwell 
by Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 525 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 356 17172 8
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Maxwell: The Outsider 
by Tom Bower.
Aurum, 374 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 948149 88 4
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Maxwell: A Portrait of Power 
by Peter Thompson and Anthony Delano.
Bantam, 256 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 593 01499 5
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Goodbye Fleet Street 
by Robert Edwards.
Cape, 260 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 224 02457 4
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... A reviewer faced with 1,155 pages about RobertMaxwell is entitled to look at the pictures first. Joe Haines’s biography contains over eighty photographs of his hero, many in colour. Mostly they show him hobnobbing with crowned heads, presidents or prime ministers, with a pop star or a footballer thrown in ...

Dark and Deep

Helen Vendler, 4 July 1996

Robert Frost: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Constable, 424 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 09 476130 2
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Collected Poems, Prose and Plays 
by Robert Frost, edited by Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.
Library of America, 1036 pp., $35, October 1995, 9781883011062
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... It would be hard,’ Robert Frost wrote, ‘to gather biography from poems of mine except as they were all written by the same person, out of the same general region north of Boston, and out of the same books.’ Frost’s biographers, who began their collective labours well before he died, were not to be put off by such a statement, and the early collections of memoirs and reminiscences culminated in Lawrance Thompson’s three-volume biography published between 1966 and 1976 ...

Diary

Perry Anderson: On E.P. Thompson, 21 October 1993

... last weeks of 1962, I found a bottle of wine in the vacated room, with a note underneath. Edward Thompson had been completing The Making of the English Working-Class. He lived in Halifax, and needed a final couple of weeks in the British Museum. In those days I lived in Talbot Road, newly wed to Juliet Mitchell. She was teaching in Leeds, while I was working ...

A Kind of Greek

Jeremy Harding: Frank Thompson, 7 March 2013

A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson 
by Peter Conradi.
Bloomsbury, 419 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 0243 4
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... canvas of the Cold War were already under way in the Balkans in the summer of 1944 when Frank Thompson was executed. Bulgaria was a member of the Axis and Frank, older brother of the historian E.P. Thompson, was on a mission in the country for Special Operations Executive: the idea was that anti-Nazi partisans should be ...

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