Byron Rogers rss

Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon survive the Blitz in Mrs Miniver (1942).Churchill reckoned it was ‘worth six war divisions’ and Goebbels considered it an ‘exemplary propaganda film’, but to Lillian Hellman it was‘a piece of junk’

When Mussolini came knocking on Hollywood’s door

29 March 2014
Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War Mark Harris

Canongate, pp.511, £30, ISBN: 9781847678553

John Ford was the first of the five famous Hollywood film directors to go to war. He went expecting to get given a sword, which he could then brandish. After… Read more


The man who shared a bed with D.H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas (though not together)

9 November 2013
Rhys Davies: A Writer’s Life Meic Stephens

Parthian Books, pp.364, £20, ISBN: 9781908946713

Rhys Davies was a Welsh writer in English who lived most of his life in London, that Tir na nÓg in the east, the place of eternal youth and beauty… Read more

Guy Burgess (Picture: Getty)

What happens when journalists take sides

19 October 2013
When Reporters Cross the Line Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert

Biteback, pp.400, £20, ISBN: 9781849545839

This is a curious book. Its title and the name of its publisher suggest that it is going to be an indictment by two journalists of their old profession. These… Read more

Portrait of Bolívar by Pedro José de Figueroa. ‘It was a time of heroes, 
when generals wore perfect uniforms and whole countries were named after them.’

Boliver, by Marie Arana - review

29 June 2013
Bolívar Marie Arana

Weidenfeld, pp.603, £25, ISBN: 9780297870265

So here we go again into a heart of darkness:  the humbug and horror which is the history of Spanish South America ever since Columbus landed on the island of… Read more


Michael Wharton: A Peter Simple life

20 April 2013

He was fascinated by the Welsh, whom he listed, along with walking and gardening, as one of his three recreations in Who’s Who, something that alarmed those few Welshmen he… Read more

Henry Fonda as Bob Larkin in Firecreek (1968)

Part of the pantheon

19 January 2013
The Man Who Saw a Ghost:The Life and Work of Henry Fonda Devin McKinney

St Martin’s Press, pp.428, £21.99, ISBN: 9781250008411

Henry Fonda once said that he had never had any ambition to be a film star. But then how could a man want to become someone who came out of… Read more

Now we know what happened

27 October 2012
A History of the World Andrew Marr

Macmillan, pp.614, £25, ISBN: 9780230755956

First there was Sir Walter Raleigh, who after ‘getting one of the Mayds of Honour up against a tree in a Wood’ went on to write The Historie of the… Read more

The brutal executions of the regicides were eventually changed to terms of life imprisonment, as the dignity with which the victims met their deaths excited too much public sympathy

More vindictive than merry

15 September 2012
The King's Revenge Don Jordan & Michael Walsh

pp.383, £20, ISBN: 9781408713274

At first I thought this was going to be a terrible book. It starts like a Hollywood B-movie Western on which Ingmar Bergman has done a quick rewrite. This, for… Read more


Out of sight, out of mind

28 April 2012
Running for Their Lives Mark Whitaker

Yellow Jersey Press, pp.358, 17.99

Arthur Newton and Peter Gavuzzi, long-distance interwar runners, are two of the most extraordinary British athletes. They are also the most forgotten. This is because the distances they favoured were… Read more


More sinned against than sinning

25 February 2012
The Origins of Sex Faramerz Dabhoiwala

Allen Lane, pp.496, 25

When I saw the title of this book, then read that it only covered the period 1600-1800 I hoped this would be a riot of comedy, something along the lines… Read more

Nobody turns up

17 September 2011
How to Disappear Duncan Fallowell

Ditto Press, pp.242, 14.99

This is not a book likely to figure in the lists of the reading circles of Home Counties England. There is for a start the little problem of a title,… Read more


Scenes from the Mad Hatter’s tea party

2 July 2011
And God Created Burton Tom Rubython

The Myrtle Press, pp.812, 20

I only ever heard my mother admit twice to fancying other men. One, remarkably, was Saddam Hussein, the other was Richard Burton, and of each she said, ‘He’s a good-looking… Read more

A world of her own

2 April 2011
Behind the Black Door Sarah Brown

Ebury, pp.452, 18.99

This book, written by someone whose husband was for three years prime minister of Britain, is impossible to review. Yes, it is dull, but it is so triumphantly, so ineffably,… Read more


Nowhere becomes somewhere

5 February 2011
Bright Particular Stars David McKie

Atlantic, pp.368, 25

There have been quite a few anthologies of British eccentricity. Usually they are roll-calls of the lunatic: a sought-after heiress so snobbish she finally gave her hand in marriage to… Read more


Laughter from the Gallery

30 October 2010
A Long Lunch: My Stories and I'm Sticking to Them Simon Hoggart

John Murray, pp.320, 20

This is an amiable book. The parliamentary sketchwriter Simon Hoggart, also the wine correspondent of this magazine, for which he drinks as selflessly as Zorba the Greek, has set out… Read more


Mountain sheep aren’t sweeter

2 June 2010
The Garden in the Clouds Antony Woodward

Harper Press, pp.295, 16.99

Anyone who can speak Welsh is going to get a lot of fun from this book. Antony Woodward buys a six-acre smallholding 1200 feet up a mountain near Crickhowell in… Read more


Holy smoke

19 May 2010
The Cigarette Book Fletcher Watkins and Chris Harrald

Quartet, pp.198, 17.50,

I have seen the last of the things that are gone, brooded the poet Padraic Colum. But then so have we all. We have seen them clustered outside the plate-glass… Read more


The stuff of legend

10 March 2010
Did You Really Shoot the Television? Max Hastings

HarperPress, pp.278, 20

This book could have been a classic. It starts as an account of the author’s family, no better, no worse than many such; but then, amongst the grandparents and the… Read more


Method in his madness

24 February 2010
Fordlandia Greg Grandin

Icon Books, pp.416, 14.99

The car manufacturer Henry Ford dominates this remarkable book, managing, like Falstaff, to be its tragic hero, villain, and comic relief all at the same time. A gaunt, pacing figure,… Read more

Racists, pigs and hysterics

30 December 2009
The Romantics in Wales Glyn Tegal Hughes (editor)

Gwasg Gregynog, pp.122, 795

I cannot remember getting so much pleasure from a book. It is not just its beauty, the handmade paper, the quarter leather, the engraving of the Rhaeadr Falls cut in… Read more

The myth survived

25 November 2009
The Celtic Revolution Simon Young

Gibson Square, pp.320, 14.99

You may find this book irritating. A complex exposition of 2,000 years of history, it is intended for the general reader, whoever he is (a general reader would surely not… Read more

But then the snow turned to rain

14 October 2009
Seasonal Suicide Notes Roger Lewis

Short Books, pp.199, 12.99

My daughter when small came home from school one night singing these extraordinary lines: ‘Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown on me/ And will thy favours never lighter be?’… Read more

Horror in the Arctic

22 July 2009
Franklin Andrew Lambert

Faber and Faber, pp.428, 20

Around the middle of the 19th century a new image of horror appeared in Victorian art. In 1864 Edwin Landseer exhibited something the like of which he had never painted… Read more

Instead of the poem

13 May 2009
The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer, retold by Peter Ackroyd

Penguin Classics, pp.437, 25

On this book’s title page its publishers enlarge on Peter Ackroyd’s ‘retelling’: his book, they declare, is at once a translation and — wait for it — an ‘adaptation’ of… Read more


The romance of the jungle

25 March 2009
The Lost City of Z David Grann

Simon & Schuster, pp.339, 16.99

It is so sad to read about the Mato Grosso now, at least it is for anyone who, like me, was a boy in the 1950s. When the vast rain… Read more