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Diary

Jane Campbell: The Rarest Bird in the World

5 July 2018
... breeding pairs. David has been making this trip for close on fifty years and for forty of them Nonsuch Island was his home. As a schoolboy of 16 in 1951 he was there with a visiting ornithologist, RobertMurphy, and Louis Mowbray, the director of the aquarium, when the extraordinary discovery was made of a surviving cahow on a tiny outcrop not far from Nonsuch Island, three centuries after it was ...

Melancholy Actions

Charles Glass: Scuttling the French Fleet

17 December 2009
England’s Last War against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42 
by Colin Smith.
Weidenfeld, 490 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 85218 6
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... Bévéziers recalled a French naval victory over the English off Beachy Head in 1690; and no name resounded with more anti-English ardour than Surcouf, a submarine launched in 1929 and named after Robert Surcouf, le roi des corsairs, who in his long career seized more than 40 English ships. In 1940, the first shots in what Colin Smith calls ‘England’s last war against France’ were exchanged ...
25 February 1993
Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... the ring. Ghetto fiction, under-the-counter page-turners, authors whose names are whispered among the cognoscenti like a confederation of secret masters: Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Mark Benney, Robert Westerby, Alexander Baron, John Lodwick, Jack Trevor Story. They have been struck from the canon, these technicians, these life-enhanced witnesses. They are noticed only by slumming journalists (who ...

Bad Timing

R.W. Johnson: All about Eden

22 May 2003
Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon 1897-1977 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Chatto, 758 pp., £25, March 2003, 0 7011 6744 0
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The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 676 pp., £25, April 2003, 9780333711675
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... many people view with anxiety the attempt to introduce “Party Democracy” in such places as Nigeria and the Gold Coast. Cyprus is a running sore . . .’ This was the real difference with Eden. RobertMurphy, the US Deputy Secretary of State, visited Eden just a fortnight after Macmillan wrote those words. He noted with wonder that Eden ‘was labouring under the impression that a common identity ...
18 July 1996
The Fourth Estate 
by Jeffrey Archer.
HarperCollins, 550 pp., £16.99, May 1996, 0 00 225318 6
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Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press 
by Matthew Engel.
Gollancz, 352 pp., £20, April 1996, 9780575061439
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Newspaper Power: The New National Press in Britain 
by Jeremy Tunstall.
Oxford, 441 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 19 871133 6
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... Star, who published libellous stories about your contacts with a prostitute. You must, from all of that experience, have learned something that you could bring to bear on a book about Rupert Murdoch, Robert Maxwell and the media in the contemporary world. From your unique insight into tabloid sex scandals, you must, for instance, have noticed among last year’s crop at least two that stood out for ...

Cough up

Thomas Keymer: Henry Fielding

20 November 2008
Plays: Vol. II, 1731-34 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Thomas Lockwood.
Oxford, 865 pp., £150, October 2007, 978 0 19 925790 4
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‘The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon’, ‘Shamela’ and ‘Occasional Writings’ 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Martin Battestin, with Sheridan Baker and Hugh Amory.
Oxford, 804 pp., £150
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... highest to the lowest, from that of Prime Ministring to this of Authoring,’ Fielding announces with mock pomposity in Joseph Andrews. In a work published just days after the fall from office of Sir Robert Walpole – ‘prime minister’ in a sense that had no constitutional legitimacy at the time, and implied an alarming concentration of power – there was nothing innocent about the joke. Walpole ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ulysses v. O.J. Simpson

27 July 2016
... Simpson case, is a shy person in life, studious, you might say. She did, it’s true, make some mistakes in presenting the case. But the main issue seems to be her hair. (The series producer, Ryan Murphy, is the magician who brought us the hard-hitting high-school documentary series, Glee.) The onscreen Clark comes to be fully known in episode five, when, regardless of what actually happened to her ...
7 February 1980
The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... irresponsibility and evasiveness finally led him to change his attitude and to work hard for an abdication. It is noteworthy that Monica Baldwin nowhere figures in this book. What does figure is Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart’s diary, 1915-1938, which is used as a major authority. Bruce Lockhart was a delightful man and, in certain fields, an interesting writer. As a social historian he is nowhere. He was ...

Made in Algiers

Jeremy Harding: De Gaulle

4 November 2010
Le mythe gaullien 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Gallimard, 280 pp., €21, May 2010, 978 2 07 012851 8
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The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Simon and Schuster, 707 pp., £30, June 2010, 978 1 84737 392 2
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... In the interval Warner heard that Roosevelt had had a change of heart. French expatriates in Washington, notably the poet Saint-John Perse, talked down De Gaulle; Washington’s envoy to Vichy, RobertMurphy, briefed hard against him; but perhaps the president drew his own conclusions from the disastrous Anglo-French assault on Dakar in the autumn of 1940, undertaken at De Gaulle’s urging ...

And They Prayed

Chauncey Loomis

27 November 1997
The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Man Against Nature 
by Sebastian Junger.
Fourth Estate, 227 pp., £14.99, August 1997, 1 85702 720 5
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... resorts to increasingly desperate measures to keep their vessel afloat. Eventually the last wire has shorted out, the last bit of decking has settled under the water. Tyne, Pierre, Sullivan, Moran, Murphy and Shatford are dead. The Perfect Storm is reminiscent of Stephen Crane’s ‘The Open Boat’. Crane’s masterful short story, based on his own experience, describes the ordeal of four men in an ...

Via ‘Bret’ via Bret

J. Robert​ Lennon: Bret Easton Ellis

24 June 2010
Imperial Bedrooms 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 178 pp., £16.99, July 2010, 978 0 330 44976 2
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... to experiment with the narrative unreliability and psychological sharpness that would mark his most accomplished work. And then, in 1991, there was American Psycho. I’m having drinks with Charles Murphy at Rusty’s to fortify myself before making an appearance at Evelyn’s Christmas party. I’m wearing a four-button double-breasted wool and silk suit, a cotton shirt with button-down collar by ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett

5 April 2007
... a second that Samuel Beckett once asked his friend Con Leventhal to betake himself ‘to the Dublin Post Office and measure the height of the ground to Cúchulainn’s arse’, as Neary in his novel Murphy wished to engage with the arse of the statue of Cúchulainn, the ancient Irish hero, patron saint of pure ignorance and crass violence, by banging his head against it. The need to buy a stamp or a TV ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies

26 January 2012
An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... agents everywhere. Hoberman often writes history by compiling lists, but the lists themselves are interesting. For example: Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, James Wong Howe, Dudley Nichols, Clifford Odets, Robert Rossen, John Garfield, Charlie Chaplin and Leo McCarey all attended a reception in July 1943 for the Soviet director and administrator Mikhail Kalatozov. At that time Russian and American propaganda ...
8 January 1987
Laurence Sterne: The Later Years 
by Arthur Cash.
Methuen, 390 pp., £38, September 1986, 0 416 32930 6
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Johnson’s Dictionary and the Language of Learning 
by Robert​ DeMaria.
Oxford, 303 pp., £20, October 1986, 9780198128861
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... account. Lady Warkworth’s husband is said to have been ‘created Count Percy’: in fact the Earldom (sic) was conferred on this man’s father, though he used it as a courtesy title. Arthur Murphy is transmogrified into ‘Arthur Murray’, whilst Ms Lesley Lewis becomes Mr Leslie Lewis. Theodore Besterman is converted to ‘Rasherman’, a mistranscription one would find implausible if ...

Really Very Exhilarating

R.W. Johnson: Macmillan and the Guardsmen

7 October 2004
The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made 
by Simon Ball.
HarperCollins, 456 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 00 257110 2
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... by the Foreign Office in 1919 while Cranborne failed the exam. It hardly mattered: within three weeks he had taken the plummiest diplomatic posting conceivable, becoming an assistant to his uncle, Robert Cecil, at the Paris Peace Conference. Thereafter Cranborne pursued a career in the City. He was quite hopeless but, of course, became the director of a bank. Lyttelton, on the other hand, showed ...

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