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Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones

19 July 1984
Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... Curiously enough, such a ‘swallow’ appears in both the other novels under review. Perhaps all three got the idea from the newspapers. In Morning Star (named after Lucifer, not the newspaper), SimonRaven tells of a Conservative MP whose ‘swallow’ is described as ‘a half-caste tart in India’. In First Among Equals, Jeffrey Archer introduces a Labour MP who is likewise endangered by a ...

Unfair to gays

Simon Raven

19 June 1980
The Homosexual as Hero in Contemporary Fiction 
by Stephen Adams.
Vision, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1980, 0 85478 204 4
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... an imaginary Forest of Arden peopled, not with etiolated time-wasters like Jaques or Rosalind, but with butch and randy gamekeepers who are thirsting to whip Young Master’s knickers down; or that SimonRaven’s heroes (to compare small things with great) hanker after both conventional success and the goodies of Gay Cockayne, which of course is very greedy of them and quite rightly leads to their ...

Caruthers & Co

Simon Raven

19 July 1984
... Loder, the Fifth Form Cad, is being blackmailed by Hogg, the new School Butler: unless Loder gives Hogg £10, Hogg will go to the Head and report Loder for smoking and drinking in the Saloon Bar of the Black Ape; whereupon Loder will be sacked. ‘I don’t care so much for myself,’ sobs Loder to Tom Merry, the Hero of the Shell: ‘It’s my parents; the disgrace will kill them.’ ‘Can you see ...

Grotty Cecil

Simon Raven

1 July 1982
Dornford Yates: A Tragedy 
by A.J. Smithers.
Hodder, 240 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 0 340 27547 2
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... The minute Dornford Yates was dead in 1960, the mating calls of envy and resentment were heard hissing over the bier. The smelly little judgments which they spawned are now grown great and paramount. Dornford Yates, the orthodox legend runs in 1982, made a fortune out of writing best-sellers which appeal to the worst in all of us. They were and are sadistic in tone and action, feudal and fascist in ...

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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... survived fifty-odd years of life in Britain. Our day-school years in the Thirties were much influenced by the public school system, expressed in schoolmasters’ aspirations and schoolboys’ comics. SimonRaven’s notorious devotion to that system began when he was only a seven-year-old comic reader, as he admits in The Old School, a loving but mordant survey of the dormitory schools: he went on ...

Maids

Philip Horne

1 April 1983
The Slow Train to Milan 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 254 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 224 02077 3
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Holy Pictures 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 201 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 241 10926 4
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Pilgermann 
by Russell Hoban.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 224 02072 2
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September Castle: A Tale of Love 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 261 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 85634 123 1
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The Watcher 
by Charles Maclean.
Allen Lane, 343 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 7139 1559 5
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The Little Drummer Girl 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 433 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 340 32847 9
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... in it the presence of the Unseen?’ Such an invitation to abdicate judgment and plunge into the worldlessness of ‘all’-inclusive superstition needs to be declined. Ptolomaeos Tunne, hero of SimonRaven’s September Castle, remarks somewhere that ‘I like seeing patterns in things.’ This ‘Tale of Love’ involves, like Pilgermann, a modern relation to a journey and death in the Middle ...

Gertrude

Graham Hough

18 September 1980
Nuns and Soldiers 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 505 pp., £6.50, September 1980, 0 7011 2519 5
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Collin 
by Stefan Heym.
Hodder, 315 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 340 25721 0
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An Inch of Fortune 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 176 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 85634 108 8
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Virgin Kisses 
by Gloria Nagy.
Penguin, 221 pp., £1.25, July 1980, 0 14 005506 1
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... side of the wall. Beastly as it all is, one cannot help reflecting that it is an undeniable advantage to the novelist to have something to write about. Bating the question of what value the rest of SimonRaven’s fictions may have, it can safely be said that An Inch of Fortune has less than the least of them, which puts it down pretty low. It was his first novel, written in 1950 with a different ...
24 August 1995
John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... gnawing sense of the worthlessness of worldly success is the starting-point for the adventures. To the Sixties, all this was incomprehensible. John Buchan was either ‘a very odd fish indeed’, as SimonRaven thought, or at least preposterous (John Gross). The difficulty arises not just in the slack and foolish passages in the books, but where their Victorian foundations have fallen in. By that, I ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell

21 October 2004
Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... he married Lady Violet Pakenham. Alas, as with Maud, you don’t get much of a sense of Lady Violet from Barber, who fancies himself as rather droll (he is the author also of a witty biography of SimonRaven), and his endearing, if sometimes rather vague sense of humour ambushes almost every insight. ‘Although a regular churchgoer,’ he writes, ‘Violet took a liberal attitude towards sex, the ...

Diary

Karl Miller: Conflict of Two Egos

3 June 1982
... Things may look different now, or they may not. A country which cannot halt the murder rate in Northern Ireland has been overtaken by a surge of zeal, with warmongers confident of a hearing. SimonRaven’s army was not like the army that has been freighted to an Armageddon in the South Atlantic. In his memoir Shadows on the Grass,* embellished by a fine cover from Lawrence Toynbee which does ...

Must they twinkle?

John Sutherland

1 August 1985
British Literary Magazines. Vol. III: The Victorian and Edwardian Age 1837-1913 
edited by Alvin Sullivan.
Greenwood, 560 pp., £88.50, December 1984, 0 313 24335 2
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The Book Book 
by Anthony Blond.
Cape, 226 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 224 02074 9
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... columns of ten years ago. (Both of which have sometimes been credited to Blond.) Blond does his best with the now well-known stories (how I bowdlerised The Carpetbaggers in a weekend; how I paid SimonRaven fifteen quid a week to stay out of London and write, etc). And he has been permitted to shy a stone or two at some of his enemies (notably André Deutsch, who – apparently – has had the ...

Getting on

Humphrey Carpenter

18 July 1985
In the Dark 
by R.M. Lamming.
Cape, 230 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780224022927
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A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory 
by Isabel Colegate.
Hamish Hamilton, 153 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 241 11532 9
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Midnight Mass 
by Peter Bowles.
Peter Owen, 190 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 7206 0647 0
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The Silver Age 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 186 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 224 02316 0
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The House of Kanze 
by Nobuko Albery.
Century, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 7126 0850 8
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... absurd. But though his purpose is mostly This Is What We Mustn’t Do, he isn’t a satirist, and seems to be aiming at the kind of lid-off-society’s-nastiness that used to be the property of SimonRaven. That, however, only defines itself as his territory as the book progresses. The best of the earlier stories, ‘The Bugle’, has an adult narrator returning to his elderly parents’ house ...

Sun and Strawberries

Mary Beard: Gwen Raverat

19 September 2002
Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections 
by Frances Spalding.
Harvill, 438 pp., £30, June 2001, 1 86046 746 6
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... The ghosts we deserve’ was the Listener’s headline for SimonRaven’s review of Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece in December 1952. Most reviewers had gushed with sentimental enthusiasm for these memoirs of a late Victorian academic childhood in Cambridge, so helping ...

At the Serpentine

Paul Myerscough: Cy Twombly

20 May 2004
... You have to trust yourself in front of a Twombly. The critics won’t help. They’re worried about naivety – Twombly’s, or possibly their own – and tend to overcompensate for it. Here’s Simon Schama in his introduction to the catalogue for Cy Twombly: Fifty Years of Works on Paper: ‘Twombly’s Apollo is not the fine-limbed hunk of the Belvedere, but the pitiless flayer of Marsyas … ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne

4 November 1993
... In SimonRaven’s Alms for Oblivion novel sequence, we are introduced to the hopeless young charmer Fielding Gray. His father is remote and sourly reactionary; his mother develops ominous signs of chippiness and ...

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