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James Walton rss

Michael Palin stars in (the last four minutes of) BBC drama Remember Me

BBC1’s Remember Me: the curious case of the killer Yorkshire taps

6 December 2014

BBC1’s authentically spooky three-part ghost story Remember Me hasn’t yet revealed what’s really going on in that gloomy Yorkshire town. Nonetheless, the second episode did clear up one mystery. We… Read more

Rush hour hell Photo: Getty

The darkest secret about commuting: some of us enjoy it

29 November 2014
Rush Hour: How 500 Million Commuters Survive the Daily Journey to Work Iain Gately

Head of Zeus, pp.378, £16.99, ISBN: 9781781854068

In the early days of Victorian railways, train journeys were (rightly) considered so dangerous that ticket offices sold life insurance as well as tickets. There were no onboard toilets until… Read more

Confessions of a Copper: Stephen Hayes

Jaw-dropping confessions of a very un-PC Plod

22 November 2014

There can’t have been many people who watched Confessions of a Copper (Channel 4, Wednesday) with a growing sense of pride. Among those who did, though, will presumably have been… Read more

Country music legend Dolly Parton

James Walton uncovers the sound of Nashville - money

8 November 2014

Twenty minutes into BBC4’s The Heart of Country (Friday), there was a clip of Chet Atkins, country music’s star producer of the 1960s, being asked to define ‘the Nashville sound’.… Read more

Carrie's back: Clare Danes in Homeland

Hooray for Homeland - Carrie’s back blasting America’s enemies to pieces with drones

25 October 2014

One of the more welcome and surprising things about television at the moment is that Homeland (Channel 4, Sunday) is good again. As I’m not the only person to have… Read more

Chilean miner Jorge Galleguillos is brought to the surface following a 10 week ordeal in the collapsed San Jose mine Photo: Getty

From working-class heroes to Disney World mascots: the sad fate of the Chilean miners

18 October 2014
Deep Down Dark Héctor Tobar

Sphere, pp.309, £20, ISBN: 9781444755398

On 5 August 2010, 33 men entered the remote San José mine in Chile’s Atacama desert to begin their 12-hour shift. They came out again 69 days later, to be… Read more

Brian Cox's Human Universe

We're great and baboons are losers: this week's lesson from Brian Cox

11 October 2014

Anybody feeling a bit depressed about the shortcomings of humanity could do worse than watch Brian Cox’s new series Human Universe (BBC2, Tuesday) — which, judging from the first episode,… Read more

Author Colm Toibin Photo: Getty

Colm Toibin’s restraint – like his characters' – is quietly overwhelming

4 October 2014
Nora Webster Colm Tóibín

Viking, pp.311, £18.99, ISBN: 9780670918140

In Colm Tóibín’s much-loved 2009 novel Brooklyn, Eilis Lacy, somewhat to her own surprise, leaves 1950s Enniscorthy (Tóibín’s own home town in County Wexford where several of his books are… Read more

TV

Marriage and foreplay Sharia-style

27 September 2014

Needless to say, it’s not uncommon to hear single British women in their thirties and forties saying that all the good men are married. But in The Men with Many… Read more

British Jewish author and journalist Howard Jacobson Photo: Hindustan Times via Getty

Howard Jacobson’s J convinced me that I’d just read a masterpiece

13 September 2014
J Howard Jacobson

Jonathan Cape, pp.327, £18.99, ISBN: 9780224101974

At first sight, J — which has beenshortlisted for the Man Booker Prize — represents a significant departure for Howard Jacobson. It’s set in a future Britain where some sort… Read more

Asking the questions: Victoria Coren Mitchell

Now for the really tricky question: can Only Connect survive BBC2?

13 September 2014

For some of us, the biggest TV question of recent weeks hasn’t been how Newsnight is doing without Jeremy Paxman, British drama’s fightback against American competition or even the treatment… Read more

Second coming: Kate Bush is now regarded with almost universal awe

Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo review: Still crazy after all these years

30 August 2014
Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo

It says something about Kate Bush’s standing in the music world that, perhaps uniquely in the history of long-awaited live comebacks, nobody has suggested — or possibly even thought —… Read more

Showing up to your prom in a tank is a bit 2013

BBC2’s Hotel India: slums? What slums?

30 August 2014

Viewers who like their TV journalism hard-hitting should probably avoid Hotel India, a new BBC2 series about the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. The tone of Wednesday’s episode was set… Read more

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The case of the amnesiac autobiographer

16 August 2014
The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Tale of Amnesia David Stuart MacLean

Short Books, pp.256, £10.99, ISBN: 9781907595165

In October 2002, 28-year-old David Stuart MacLean woke up at Hyderabad railway station. He was standing at the time, and had no idea where or who he was. A kindly… Read more

Novelist Haruki Murakami Photo: PA Images

Murakami drops magic for realism in this tale of a lonely Tokyo engineer

2 August 2014
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Haruki Murakami (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Harvill Secker, pp.298, £20, ISBN: 9781846558337

When Haruki Murakami — Japan’s most successful novelist at home and abroad — was interviewed by the Paris Review in 2004, the questions weren’t always characterised by their pithiness. Many… Read more

The Terracotta Army Museum: the warriors were built to protect Quin Shi Huuang, China’s first emperor

Barbie dolls? This girl aims for the head

2 August 2014

Channel 4’s Kids and Guns (Thursday) began with an American TV advert in which a young boy’s eyes shone with gratitude when his parents gave him a large gun, proudly… Read more

A series of indisputable masterpieces: Nile Rodgers of Chic

The quest for the perfect guitar riff is a noble one – if not quite the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe

19 July 2014

A few weeks ago, my eight-year-old son, who’s taken up the guitar, announced that he’d learned something new. He then played a sequence of chords — approximately, Duh-duh-duuh, Duh-duh-da-duuh —… Read more

Portrait Of Elvis Presley

A tribute to the King – or a compendium of journalistic bad habits?

12 July 2014
Elvis has Left the Building: The Day the King Died Dylan Jones

Duckworth Overlook, pp.320, £16.99, ISBN: 9780715648568

With Elvis has Left the Building, the longstanding editor of GQ has inexplicably written a book that could serve as a handy, if perhaps overly comprehensive, compendium of bad journalistic… Read more

A woman of substance: Maggie Gyllenhaal as the saintly Nessa

The Honourable Woman could have done with some help from an overpaid executive in a suit

5 July 2014

BBC2’s The Honourable Woman (Thursday) began with a rather portentous voice-over bringing us the unsurprising news that ‘We all have secrets. We all tell lies just to keep them from… Read more

The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, BBC Photo: John Lily Estate

The girl who had sex with dolphins

21 June 2014

BBC4’s The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins (Tuesday) began with the overstated-sounding claim that it would be tackling ‘perhaps the most remarkable period in the history of animal science’. In… Read more

Linda Grant

Those weren't the days

21 June 2014
Upstairs at the Party Linda Grant

Virago, pp.306, £14.99, ISBN: 9781844087495

If you wanted a brief epigraph for Linda Grant’s recent fiction, then five words from Dorothy Parker might well do the trick: ‘Time doth flit/ Oh shit.’ Certainly, there aren’t… Read more

Gabriel Byrne as Quirke and Geraldine Somerville as Sarah, BBC

Is BBC1’s Quirke bravely unhurried – or too slow?

7 June 2014

The work of John Banville — Booker-winning novelist and impeccably high-minded literary critic — might seem an unlikely source for a primetime crime series. But since 2006, under the telling… Read more

Tom Hollander as Dylan Thomas Photo: BBC

So Dylan Thomas was a drunk: does this TV drama have anything else to say?

24 May 2014

According to its executive producer Griff Rhys Jones, A Poet in New York (BBC2, Sunday) sought to rescue Dylan Thomas from the ‘forces of sanctity and hagiography that now hover… Read more

Jack's back!

Jack Bauer hits, er, West Ealing

10 May 2014

Whatever worries Kiefer Sutherland may have had about reprising the role of Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day (Sky1, Wednesday), learning his lines for episode one won’t have been… Read more

9781780338583

John Crace digested – twice

3 May 2014
The 21st Century Digested John Crace

Constable, pp.329, £12.99, ISBN: 9781480338583

Fiction ‘So how come we’re in the same book?’ Paul from The Stranger’s Child asked Florence from On Chesil Beach. ‘Apparently,’ replied Florence looking up from the introduction to The… Read more