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A British Summer

Stephen Knight

2 April 1998
... My boredom chock-a-block with furniture – the desk in bits, the sofa’s cushions cluttering the bed, drawers shoved beneath the dresser – I stare at Wimbledon while listening to the man restretch then clean the carpets in two rooms; suds rumbling in their drum, the smell of pine detergent creeping up to me. Two hours of plucky Brits, mauve clouds, the covers on, or grim-faced teenagers washed up before their spots have cleared, then I descend like Norma Desmond, out of touch, magnanimous; and all the little dents where chairs and tables stood have disappeared, as though the years of being here had never happened ...

The Golden State

Stephen Knight

4 January 2001
... For Colleen If not the giant redwoods taking centuries to reach the light, nor the lights- camera-action typhoons regular as clockwork in the murky Tonga Bar, nor, perched above LA, the penitential Getty – its prospect of the coastline smudged by airborne crap, nor even the Chronicle’s news that the universe is flat, and expanding faster and faster for ever – ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’ to quote one scientist – then how about the way you drove your car wrists out, double-jointed, or, sealed in silver paper, those skinny joints I could never light, or the line in a Visitors’ Book in the Valley of the Moon left a decade earlier (This is a beautiful setting to put the ghosts to rest) or else that ‘bohemian’ legacy of Venice Beach, a henna tendril fading from your ankle slowly, over days ...

The Call-Box

Stephen Knight

8 May 2003
... A queue has formed outside the box. The air’s quite warm so someone takes a blazer off and pink magnolia trees open their arms to a broken breeze dismantling the lacquered hair and the one comb-over à la Bobby Charlton. Eyes down, all ages fidget and shift their weight, rehearsing beneath a wispy sky. Prepared to tolerate the smell of piss and a crackly line so they can say the few last words they might have said last week – if only they had known – they wait for hours, rehearsing messages printed on envelopes and kept till now in handbags, wallets and inside-pockets ...

Laughing Gas

Stephen Knight

3 May 1984
...         I am timing the Fire Doors for something to do;     They swing alarmingly! Since the Management reduced Our use of electricity I walk the corridors         Trailing my fingertips the length of the wall.         I think of adjectives to sum this building up:     Warrenous, respectable, and windowless. When you Talk to me I watch the movement of your lungs, the ripple         Of the fibres of your mohair pullover ...

The Gift

Stephen Knight

19 July 1984
... My parcel was delivered to the college Thoroughly packaged, like an only child ... I tear my father’s beautifully-written note (Please acknowledge receipt, Love Mum & Dad) Then fold the wrapping for possible re-use. A breeze laps the posters crusting the wall; Like lily pads, they compete to face the light. I bump into Philip inside the Lodge. He asks to see the gift – another four-sleeved Pullover! Raising it shoulder-high, he Teases me about the additional arms Till I make my excuses and leave him At the pigeonholes to scurry to my room ...

Two Poems

Stephen Knight

5 May 2005
... My Future – waiting for me somewhere out of sight past the betting shop and the Nationwide where buses stop to shiver in the middle of the night – doesn’t for a moment doubt we’ll recognise each other when he looks me in the eye, but wonders if the buttonhole was wise or lifts a wristwatch to his ear then sighs before a table laid with shiny cutlery and a cloth so white it seems to generate its own light ...

So Early in the Year

Stephen Knight

1 April 1999
... Presumably the whole point is that there should be no continuum: of anything. That failures of memory are but a proof of a living organism’s subordination to the laws of nature. No life is meant to be preserved. Joseph Brodsky, In a Room and a Half ‘I really ought to stop climbing trees,’ you said, nipping the filter off another low-tar cigarette then settling your arm lightly on my shoulder, giving me a squeeze as if you didn’t know that you were dead ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood

22 July 2004
Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... people capture Robin Hood. He is the only figure in the DNB who is said never to have existed. Stephen Knight grants that ‘it seems highly improbable, or at least unprovable, that a Mr R. Hood ever existed,’ though, for some people, Robin Hood, King Arthur ‘and even God himself all existed because of their manifold presence in human life and ...

Just Good Friends

Caroline Moorehead

2 February 1984
The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons 
by Stephen Knight.
Granada, 325 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 246 12164 5
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The Calvi Affair: Death of a Banker 
by Larry Gurwin.
Macmillan, 249 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 333 35321 8
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... classes have provided the society’s main support ever since the period of consolidation. Stephen Knight’s The Brotherhood is a natural successor to an earlier work on Jack the Ripper, in which Knight set out to show how the five prostitutes murdered in the East End of London in 1888 were the victims of an ...

How to Be a Knight

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Marshal

20 May 2015
The Greatest KnightThe Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power behind Five English Thrones 
by Thomas Asbridge.
Simon and Schuster, 444 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7432 6862 2
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... each other in churches, we tend to forget how startling and novel this figure of a recumbent knight would have seemed when it was erected to commemorate William’s magnificent funeral in 1219, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, just as if the deceased had been a reigning monarch. Marshal had indeed helped to shape ...

The smallest details speak the loudest

John Upton: The Stephen Lawrence inquiry

1 July 1999
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 
by Sir William Macpherson.
Stationery Office, 335 pp., £26, February 1999, 0 10 142622 4
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The Case of Stephen Lawrence 
by Brian Cathcart.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, May 1999, 0 670 88604 1
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... There are now two Stephen Lawrences. The first, the murdered 18-year-old victim of racism. The second, a cultural balloon with Stephen Lawrence’s image on it: a balloon so large there is barely any space left in which to think objectively about Lawrence, his murder and the subsequent investigations and Inquiry ...

Gaslight and Fog

John Pemble: Sherlock Holmes

26 January 2012
The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England 
by Haia Shpayer-Makov.
Oxford, 429 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 19 957740 8
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... usurped the leadership of the police in the fight against delinquency and disorder. The prolific Stephen Knight has calculated that Sherlock Holmes had at least 13 predecessors, some of them women. Most were quickly forgotten, and there was every reason to suppose that Holmes would soon disappear too. He’s a derivative of the detective heroes of Edgar ...

In Pyjamas

R.W. Johnson: Bill Deedes’s Decency

17 November 2005
Dear Bill: A Memoir 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 451 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 9781405052665
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... an executive level where they only boss around those who write – and particularly about Andrew Knight, the former Economist editor brought in as chief executive of the Telegraph by Conrad Black. Part of the deal was that Hastings should replace Deedes as editor, a changing of the guard that led Thatcher to throw a party for him at Number Ten. ...

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