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Round Things

T.J. Binyon, 24 October 1991

Maurice Baring: A Citizen of Europe 
by Emma Letley.
Constable, 269 pp., £18.95, September 1991, 0 09 469870 8
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... Trenchard took over command of the RFC. Saying he wanted a ‘second memory’, not a ‘court jester’, he was at first unwilling to keep Baring on, but a month’s trial period proved the latter’s worth, not only as an irreplaceable French interpreter, but also as an efficient staff officer. He remained with Trenchard until the end of the ...

Buchan’s Pathological Vitality

T.J. Binyon, 18 December 1980

The Best Short Stories of John Buchan 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 224 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7181 1906 1
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... the hunchback was a hunchback – though endowed withal by Nature with singular strength – it jarred on Drummond to fight him as if he had been a normal man. So he flogged him with a rhinoceros-hide whip till his arm ached, and then he flung him into a chair, gasping, cursing, and scarcely human. And Richard Chandos v. Boler, the Boche villain of ...

Did he really?

T.J. Binyon, 3 December 1992

The man who wasn’t Maigret: A Portrait of Georges Simenon 
by Patrick Marnham.
Bloomsbury, 346 pp., £17.99, April 1992, 0 7475 0884 4
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... Simenon was not a man to do things by halves. He moved house 33 times, wrote 193 novels under his own name and more than two hundred under 18 pseudonyms, produced 27 volumes of autobiography and at 74 claimed to have slept with ten thousand women, eight thousand of whom were prostitutes (his second wife later smallmindedly reduced the total to 1200 ...

Sasha, Stalin and the Gorbachovshchina

T.J. Binyon, 15 September 1988

Children of the Arbat 
by Anatoli Rybakov, translated by Harold Shukman.
Hutchinson, 688 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 09 173742 7
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Pushkin House 
by Andrei Bitov, translated by Susan Brownsberger.
Weidenfeld, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 297 79316 0
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The Queue 
by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Sally Laird.
Readers International, 198 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 9780930523442
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Moscow 2042 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 424 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 224 02532 5
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The Mushroom-Picker 
by Zinovy Zinik, translated by Michael Glenny.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £11.95, January 1988, 0 434 89735 3
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Chekago 
by Natalya Lowndes.
Hodder, 384 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 340 41060 4
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... On returning from Munich to St Petersburg in the spring of 1837, the poet Tyutchev, as well known for his wit as for his verse, told a friend that he was suffering not so much from Heimweh as Herausweh; and, a little later, hearing that D’Anthès, Pushkin’s opponent in the fatal duel earlier that year, had been sentenced for his part in the affair to perpetual banishment from Russia, seized the opportunity for a mot by announcing that he would immediately go off and kill Zhukovsky – then, after Pushkin, the most famous poet in Russia ...

A Very Athletic Person

T.J. Binyon, 26 May 1994

Strolls with Pushkin 
by Abram Tertz, translated by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy and Slava Yastremski.
Yale, 175 pp., £17.95, February 1994, 0 300 05279 0
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... About half-way through Nabokov’s novel Pnin, the eponymous hero, Professor Timofey Pnin, who teaches Russian literature at Waindell College in New England, enters a sports shop and asks for a football (a present for his son). He is offered one:   ‘No, no,’ said Pnin, ‘I do not wish for an egg, or, for example, a torpedo. I want a simple football ball ...
Ngaio Marsh: A Life 
by Margaret Lewis.
Chatto, 276 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 7011 3389 9
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... Of the four Queens of Crime who dominated the 1930s – Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers – Ngaio Marsh reigns supreme for excellence of style and characterisation,’ writes Margaret Lewis in her introduction. The proposition could be contested; it could be maintained that Christie is more ingenious, Allingham more lively and Sayers has more intellectual weight ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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Killshot 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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Trust 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... is a Californian child psychologist who meets violence and misdemeanour all over the place, and not just with children. The new novel involves several nasty deaths, a heartless tycoon, big business, journalism, pornographic movies, triplets, apparent schizophrenia, flashbacks over forty years, strange doings between psychiatrists and patients. It is as if ...

Alexander Blok’s Beautiful Lady

T.J. Binyon, 7 August 1980

The Life of Aleksandr Blok: Vol. 1: ‘The Distant Thunder 1880-1908’ 
by Avril Pyman.
Oxford, 359 pp., £12.50, January 1979, 0 19 211714 9
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... The appearance of the second volume of Avril Pyman’s life of Aleksandr Blok to join the first, published last year, brings her enterprise, the fruit of some twenty years’ work on the poet, to a triumphant conclusion. Blok’s life is well-documented, and the period is almost too rich in contemporary memoirs. Dr Pyman demonstrates a complete mastery of the sources, both printed and in manuscript, using the original diaries, notebooks and letters in Russian archives to supplement the expurgated Soviet editions ...

At the Hydropathic

T.J. Binyon, 6 December 1984

Agatha Christie 
by Janet Morgan.
Collins, 393 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 00 216330 6
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... At first sight Janet Morgan does not seem the obvious person to choose as the official biographer of Agatha Christie. She describes herself on the jacket of the book as a ‘writer and consultant’, who now ‘advises governments, companies and other organisations on long-range strategic planning, new technology and different approaches to whatever they find themselves doing ...

The Redeemed Vicarage

John Lennard, 12 May 1994

Pictures of Perfection 
by Reginald Hill.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 232392 3
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... years after Julian Symons had first pronounced the ‘detective story’ dead; as late as 1989 T.J. Binyon, in Murder Will Out, though finding them ‘an impressive, interesting team’, gave them only two sentences under the heading ‘Provincial Policemen’. One might as well say that Laurel and Hardy were provincial comics. The growth of Andy ...

Bobbery

James Wood: Pushkin’s Leave-Taking, 20 February 2003

Pushkin: A Biography 
by T.J. Binyon.
HarperCollins, 731 pp., £30, September 2002, 0 00 215084 0
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... set Eugene Onegin to music, not Rossini, the composer of deep shallows. Pushkin, according to T.J. Binyon’s remarkable biography, became ‘addicted’ to Rossini while living in Odessa, where an Italian opera company was visiting, and though Binyon makes nothing of it, it rather blares at us, as ...

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