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Sean French: Fortress Wapping, 6 March 1986

... Shortly after the Sunday Times’s enforced move into the London Docklands, David Blundy and Jon Swain were strolling towards the new production plant’s heavily-guarded entrance. These two foreign correspondents are used to witnessing military activity (you may remember Swain as a character in Roland Joffe’s movie, The Killing Fields), but they were astonished to see an armoured car with a full complement of Royal Marines apparently patrolling inside the heavily-fortified perimeter fence ...

First-Class Fellow Traveller

Terry Eagleton, 2 December 1993

Patrick Hamilton: A Life 
by Sean French.
Faber, 327 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 571 14353 9
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... for his money. By the mid-Forties he was chalking up three bottles of whisky a day, which as Sean French points out would be the financial equivalent of a modern-day cocaine habit. The roaring success of Gaslight helped to fund his addiction, so that the play made him and marred him at a stroke. A postcard to his brother from Ireland meticulously ...

Some of them can read

Sean Wilsey: Rats!, 17 March 2005

Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan.
Granta, 242 pp., £12.99, January 2005, 1 86207 761 4
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... Rats From Casablanca’) was the city’s close brush with bubonic plague, when ‘an old French tramp, the Wyoming, in from Casablanca, where the black death has been intermittent for centuries’, falsely claimed to have carried out rat fumigation and was allowed to dock, first in Brooklyn, then in Lower Manhattan, then in Staten Island. Eventually ...

You, You, You, You, You, You, and Mom

Curtis Sittenfeld: Sean Wilsey’s memoir, 1 December 2005

Oh the Glory of It All 
by Sean Wilsey.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.99, September 2005, 0 670 91601 3
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... Sean Wilsey’s father, Al, was orphaned as a teenager, dropped out of college, and made a fortune in dairy, real estate and other business ventures. Over fifty when Sean was born, Al flew a helicopter, charmed women and inspired in his son an apparently unquenchable desire for approval ...

The Intrusive Apostrophe

Fintan O’Toole, 23 June 1994

Sean O’Faolain: A Life 
by Maurice Harmon.
Constable, 326 pp., £16.95, May 1994, 0 09 470140 7
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Vive Moi! An Autobiography 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 377 pp., £20, November 1993, 1 85619 376 4
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... When, in 1941, Sean O’Faolain wrote to the Irish Times to protest about the ‘miserable fees’ paid by Irish radio for talks by Irish writers, he inadvertently set in train the most nightmarishly savage satire in that paper’s history. O’Faolain’s letter, and the response to it from the impoverished rump that constituted the Irish intelligentsia, led to the foundation by him of WAAMA, the Writers Artists Actors Musicians Association, a short-lived trade union for workers whose services were not exactly regarded as essential ...

Passing-Out Time

Christopher Tayler: Patrick Hamilton’s drinking, 29 January 2009

The Slaves of Solitude 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Constable, 327 pp., £7.99, September 2008, 978 1 84529 415 1
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The Gorse Trilogy 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Black Spring, 603 pp., £9.95, June 2007, 978 0 948238 34 5
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... a big house in Hove while Bernard slept off hangovers in his London chambers, spent time with his French mistress and did a spot of writing. His first novel, The Light? (1898), ‘had to do with ancient Egypt, reincarnation and contemporary life’; Coronation (1902) ‘was distinguished by the most alliterative opening sentences I have ever ...

Veni, Vidi, Video

Sean Maguire, 21 February 1991

... out in time. Still there in Baghdad seems to be a peripatetic hand of stills photographers, mainly French, all slightly unhinged, veterans of Kabul and Romania and Northern Ireland, who revel in war zones. One of them came down to breakfast on the morning of 17 January and was bemused by the ashen sleepless faces around him. He had worn earplugs and slept ...

Living and Dying in Ireland

Sean O’Faolain, 6 August 1981

... suggests in his The Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe, quoting the learned 19th-century French scholar Alfred Maury, author of such abstruse books as Fées dans le Moyen Age and Histoire de la Magie. There is, however, one serious caveat attaching to every archaism. However slight such perdurables may be, however sweetened by the passage of time, it ...

Special Place

Sean Wilentz, 19 April 1990

America’s Rome. Vol I: Classical Rome 
by William Vance.
Yale, 454 pp., £19.95, September 1989, 0 300 03670 1
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America’s Rome. Vol II: Catholic and Contemporary Rome 
by William Vance.
Yale, 498 pp., £19.95, September 1989, 0 300 04453 4
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... to project his own preoccupations with France, and with the democratic forces unleashed by the French Revolution. Vance explains how Americans in turn projected their own clashing outlooks on Europe. He makes the strongest possible case that of all European cities, Rome ought to be studied as a touchstone of American civilisation. Although practically ...


Charles Townshend, 19 April 1984

Theobald Wolfe Tone: Colonial Outsider 
by Tom Dunne.
Tower Books, 77 pp., $1.90, December 1982, 0 902568 07 8
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Partners in Revolution: The United Irishmen and France 
by Marianne Elliott.
Yale, 411 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 03 000270 2
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De Valera and the Ulster Question 1917-1973 
by John Bowman.
Oxford, 369 pp., £17.50, November 1982, 0 19 822681 0
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Sean Lemass and the Making of Modern Ireland 
by Paul Bew and Henry Patterson.
Gill, 224 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7171 1260 8
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... incongruously, by enlightened secularism when Tone achieved a second identity as a soldier of the French Republic. None of this, obviously, had much to do with Irish social realities. In fact the élitist refinement of the United Irish Society insulated it from such realities. Marianne Elliott does not mince words in saying that it had ‘an instinctive fear ...

His Little Game

Andrew Boyle, 27 July 1989

The Blake Escape: How we freed George Blake – and why 
by Michael Randle and Pat Pottle.
Harrap, 298 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 245 54781 9
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... called Catherine Beijdedvellen. Behar Senior then became a British citizen, having served in the French Foreign Legion and the British Army. On his death in 1936 – a bad period not only in England but throughout Europe – he left a widow and the young George in somewhat reduced circumstances. The change of name from Behar to Blake was understandable ...


Louise Foxcroft: W.B. Yeats and her great-uncle, 7 September 2000

... more disturbing, he had read in the press that the body waiting to go to Ireland was said by a French doctor to have been encased in a steel and leather surgical corset. The arrangements for Yeats’s reburial continued. On 20 August the Times reported that in two days’ time the corvette Macha would leave Cork for Dublin, and that ...


Richard Lloyd Parry: Alex Garland, 15 October 1998

The Beach 
by Alex Garland.
Penguin, 439 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 14 025841 8
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The Tesseract 
by Alex Garland.
Viking, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 670 87016 1
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... for something to pass the hours over a long flight to Jakarta. ‘Eric Lustbader?’ suggested Sean, and I shook my head. I’d seen Michael Herr sending dispatches. The hours flew by. The Beach is studded with non-cinematic references to popular culture of the same Eighties vintage: Atari and Nintendo video games, Airfix models, Tintin and Asterix, David ...

What he meant by happiness

Patricia Beer, 11 June 1992

The Wreck of the Deutschland 
by Sean Street.
Souvenir, 208 pp., £15.99, March 1992, 0 285 63051 2
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Hopkins: A Literary Biography 
by Norman White.
Oxford, 531 pp., £35, March 1992, 0 19 812099 0
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... of the Deutschland’ was almost certainly not uttered by Sister Henrica Fassbaender. But in fact Sean Street’s book The Wreck of the Deutschland, which makes much of this incident, is engrossing from start to finish. It has the further appeal of sounding sympathetic. The author’s motivation throughout the fifteen years he devoted to assembling and ...

Westward Ho

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1985

The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. III: October 1916 - June 1921 
edited by James Boulton and Andrew Robertson.
Cambridge, 762 pp., £25, November 1984, 0 521 23112 4
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Brett: From Bloomsbury to New Mexico 
by Sean Hignett.
Hodder, 299 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 9780340229736
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... it out.’ Meantime, however, ‘one groans with torture and horror.’ Not for nothing did the French troops say they’d make it, ‘pourvu que les civils tiennent’. At the time of these letters, Lawrence was best-known as the author of Sons and Lovers (an aspirant who, according to Henry James, might be seen ‘lagging in the dusty rear’ of Hugh ...

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