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Gangsters in Hats

Richard Mayne

17 May 1984
Essays on Detective Fiction 
edited by Bernard Benstock.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £20, February 1984, 0 333 32195 2
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Dashiell Hammett: A Life at the Edge 
by William​ Nolan.
Arthur Barker, 276 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 213 16886 3
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The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 344 pp., £12.95, January 1984, 9780701127664
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Hellman in Hollywood 
by Bernard Dick.
Associated University Presses, 183 pp., £14.95, September 1983, 0 8386 3140 1
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... Hellman, joshed and drank their way through a murder mystery, and in the process launched a thousand scripts: films, radio and TV series, distant derivatives such as Hart to Hart. Impersonated by WilliamPowell and Myrna Loy, the Charles pair embodied what Otis Ferguson called ‘the tanned leather of an equable married life rather than the friskier calf of boy-chases-girl’: but, like Bogart and ...

Say thank you

Clive James: Witty Words in Pretty Mouths

23 May 2002
Fast-Talking Dames 
by Maria DiBattista.
Yale, 365 pp., £19.95, June 2001, 0 300 08815 9
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... else, there are unrecognised talents whose worth she is able to weigh at a glance. With Marion Davies a glance is all you get. Nowadays her movies are hard to find, but DiBattista has seen enough of William Randolph Hearst’s mistress working at her other job to reach the proper conclusion: she had a disarming gift for delivering a line. Just the gift, in fact, that Marilyn Monroe didn’t have. All ...


Stephanie Burt: D.A. Powell’s poems

24 September 2009
Chronic: Poems 
by D.A. Powell.
Graywolf, 79 pp., $20, February 2009, 978 1 55597 516 6
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... The first collection published by D.A. Powell, Tea (1998), looked oddly like a smart restaurant menu: Wesleyan University Press manufactured a shiny, green and gilt hardback, six inches tall and nine inches wide, to accommodate Powell’s very ...

Burning Witches

Michael Rogin

4 September 1997
Raymond Chandler: A Biography 
by Tom Hiney.
Chatto, 310 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6310 0
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Raymond Chandler Speaking 
edited by Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker.
California, 288 pp., £10.95, May 1997, 0 520 20835 8
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... ones that made all three brows’. Chandler shattered cultural barriers with Philip Marlowe, private investigator, immortalised on the screen by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, mortalised by Dick Powell and Robert Montgomery during Chandler’s lifetime, and afterwards by Elliot Gould, Robert Mitchum and James Garner. He was the hero of the most listened to radio detective serial in history, and, by ...
6 July 1989
The Challenge of Europe: Can Britain win? 
by Michael Heseltine.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79608 9
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... is not significantly different from Mrs Thatcher’s reluctance to join the European Monetary System today. The determination to retain economic sovereignty – which united Michael Foot and Enoch Powell in opposition to Britain’s entry in the debate of October 1971 – is the most persistent of the themes that have run since the Schuman Plan. In an introductory gallop through a thousand years of ...

Chances are

Michael Wood

7 July 1983
O, How the wheel becomes it! 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 143 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 434 59925 5
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Brilliant Creatures 
by Clive James.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 224 02122 2
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by Gordon Williams.
Joseph, 233 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2259 3
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... us!’ The thought is echoed in the closing pages of Clive James’s Brilliant Creatures, whose author-hero is said to be a ‘chapter of accidents’, and in the title and precarious plot of Anthony Powell’s O, How the wheel becomes it! The wheel is Ophelia’s, and suggests the incessant circlings of fortune, but quickly, in Powell’s hands, comes to hint at roulette and the dodgy hazards of ...
19 May 2011
Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... by modern science develops leaks’. And that’s why we’ve got Johnny Depp prancing around wearing earrings. Mind you, even in the butch 1940s Mickey Rooney, Vincent Price, Clifton Webb and WilliamPowell played nearer to the other end of the man’s men spectrum, to appreciative audiences. To say nothing of pretty-boys Cary Grant and Leslie Howard. Kanfer doesn’t by any means dismiss the ...

Gosh oh gee

Alan Allport: ‘Being Boys’

21 November 2013
Being Boys: Youth, Leisure and Identity in the Interwar Years 
by Melanie Tebbutt.
Manchester, 352 pp., £75, February 2012, 978 0 7190 6613 9
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... gee’, and ‘Hi ya babe’; even American walking patterns and posture stealthily colonised British pavements and parlours. Big screen icons – at first Rudolf Valentino and Ramon Navarro, later WilliamPowell and Franchot Tone – increasingly defined what it meant to be a man. The education in performative masculinity acquired within the dark recesses of the local Hippodrome or Coliseum needed a ...


Ruth Scurr: A.S. Byatt

10 August 2000
The Biographer's Tale 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 224 pp., £14.99, June 2000, 0 7011 6945 1
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... and scholarly blindness. The thing is, that the thing was also there. A real, very dirty window, shutting out the sun. A thing.’ An earlier Byatt novel, Still Life, invoked the well-worn line from William Carlos Williams’s Paterson: ‘Say it, no ideas but in things.’ Still Life is the second in a trilogy of predominantly realist novels about the extended Potter family. It details the cerebral and ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Colourisation

22 March 2018
... of War’ (1864) by Timothy O’Sullivan, colourised by Marina Amaral Last year the BBC filmed high street shoppers being shown another of Amaral’s colourised photographs, this time of Lewis Powell, one of the men who conspired with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Lincoln, and who on the same night made a savage attempt on the life of his secretary of state, William H. Seward. The shoppers ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell​ v. Proust

19 July 2018
Anthony PowellDancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... two thousand pages. Kafka, who barely reached the age of forty, yielded only five hundred fewer from Reiner Stach. Proust, expiring at 51, got just under a thousand apiece from Jean-Yves Tadié and William Carter; Joyce, at 59, eight hundred from Richard Ellmann. Moving down the scale to medium or lightweights, there is little reduction in size. If we confine ourselves to Britain, Martin Stannard ...
14 June 1990
by Gay Clifford.
188 pp., £14.99, May 1990, 0 241 12976 1
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Selected Poems 1940 – 1989 
by Allen Curnow.
Viking, 209 pp., £15.99, May 1990, 0 670 83007 0
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Collected Poems and Selected Translations 
by Norman Cameron, edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker.
Anvil, 160 pp., £14.95, May 1990, 0 85646 202 0
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Collected Poems 
by Enoch Powell.
Bellew, 198 pp., £9.95, April 1990, 0 947792 36 8
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... Although he is an Auckland academic who has won the New Zealand Book Award for poetry six times and is regarded as ‘a leading influence’ on his country’s writing, his world, like that of William Carlos Williams, seems uninterested in academe but absorbed by family, business and event. There is the poem on the skeleton of the Great Moa – an avian prodigy, long extinct – in the Canterbury ...
2 March 1989
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William​ Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... Once it was Sir John Squire and Edward Shanks – obviously the most significant and influential voices of the time. During or just after the last war it was Connolly and Koestler and Spender, William Plomer, Alun Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Peter Quennell. Some still have life or fame or both, some not: but then, not now, was their moment. Was Connolly himself any good as a writer? The question means ...

Mr Toad

John Bayley

20 October 1994
Evelyn Waugh 
by Selina Hastings.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 600 pp., £20, October 1994, 1 85619 223 7
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... interest in the individuals who actually have to make up such a society, even at the highest level. It is here that his achievement as a novelist is so different from that of his contemporary Anthony Powell. Both were influenced by cinema, but while the early Waugh film is run at manic speed the Powell is reduced to slow motion. Powell’s narrator spends a lot of time ‘reflecting’ on the people he ...
8 June 2006
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq 
by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.
Atlantic, 603 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 84354 352 4
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... became in essence a rolling coup. Nominally, the object of the exercise was to empower the commander-in-chief to wage his global war on terror. Yet with George W. Bush a president in the mould of William McKinley or Warren Harding – an affable man of modest talent whose rise in national politics could be attributed primarily to his perceived electability – Cheney and his collaborators were ...

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