Lewis Jones rss

Gore Vidal at his italian residence in Ravello on the Amalfi coast (Photo: Getty)

Gore Vidal, wannabe aristocrat and proud degenerate

5 September 2015
Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal Jay Parini

Little, Brown, pp.464, £25, ISBN: 9781408704639

History for Gore Vidal was a vehicle to be ridden in triumph, perhaps as in an out-take from Ben-Hur, which he worked on during one of his stints as a… Read more

Ecclestone and Mosley at Brands Hatch in 1978 — a double-act worthy of Ealing Studios

The fast, furious life of Max Mosley

4 July 2015
Formula One and Beyond: The Autobiography Max Mosley

Simon & Schuster, pp.481, £25, ISBN: 9781471150197

Max Mosley’s autobiography has been much anticipated: by the motor racing world, by the writers and readers of tabloid newspapers, by social historians, and by lawyers, whom one imagines perusing… Read more


How to Skin a Lion is full of ingenious solutions to unusual problems — but give me Dear Mary any day

16 May 2015
How to Skin a Lion: A Treasury of Outmoded Advice Claire Cock-Starkey

British Library, pp.176, £10, ISBN: 9780712357821

As Dear Mary so wittily demonstrates, our need for advice is perennial. But fashions change. Mary would probably take issue with The Handbook of the Toilette (1839), which advises that… Read more

John Steinbeck at the time of writing Travels with Charley

Doing the Steinbeck trail: Geert Mak meets too many others who’ve had the same idea

3 January 2015
In America: Travels with John Steinbeck Geert Mak

Harvill Secker, pp.498, £25, ISBN: 9781846557026

In 1960 John Steinbeck set off with his poodle Charley to drive around the United States in a truck equipped with a bed, a desk, a stove and a fridge.… Read more

Têtes coupées by Théodore Géricault, 1818

From head-shrinking to skull-seeking: a history of the severed head

15 November 2014
Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found Frances Larson

Granta, pp.317, £20, ISBN: 9781783780556

A severed head, argues Frances Larson in her sprightly new book, is ‘simultaneously a person and a thing… an apparently impossible duality… an intense incongruity’. History is ‘littered’ with such… Read more

John Cleese Book Signing

Was John Cleese ever funny?

1 November 2014
So, Anyway... John Cleese

Random House, pp.424, £20, ISBN: 9781847946966

Like many of my generation I was enchanted by the surrealistic irreverence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, until I overheard other boys — it was never girls — excitedly murdering… Read more

‘Some find their death by swords and bullets; and some by fluids down the gullet’. Thomas Rowlandson’s illustration of ‘The English Dance of Death’ by William Combe, 1815 — a satire on the evils of drinking gin

Enjoy gin but don’t read books? Or read them only while drinking gin? This is the book for you

6 September 2014
Gin Glorious Gin Olivia Williams

Headline, pp.317, £14.99, ISBN: 9781472215338

Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London is a jaunty and diverting history of ‘a wonderful drink that embodies the best of London’, which is a… Read more

Ian Fleming on the beach near Goldeneye Photo: Getty

From Jamaica With Love: how the Caribbean made Bond

9 August 2014
Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born Matthew Parker

Hutchinson, pp.388, £20, ISBN: 9780091954109

Ian Fleming’s first visit to Jamaica was pure James Bond. In 1943, as assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, he flew from Miami to Kingston to attend an Anglo-American… Read more

Josefa Duran, the flamenco dancer known as ‘Pepita’

Wealth is no guarantee of happiness. Look at the Sackville-Wests

10 May 2014
The Disinherited: A Story of Love, Family and Betrayal Robert Sackville-West

Bloomsbury, pp.308, £20, ISBN: 9781408824825

When Robert Sackville-West was writing Inheritance (2010), his history of Knole and the Sackvilles, he was ‘struck’, as he recalls in his new book, by the way that Sackvilles have… Read more


Lost Kerouac that should have stayed lost

15 March 2014
The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella Jack Kerouac, edited by Todd Tietchen

Penguin, pp.192, £20, ISBN: 9780141394084

In 1944, when he was 22, Jack Kerouac lost a manuscript — in a taxi, as he thought, but probably in Allen Ginsberg’s room at Columbia University — and it… Read more

The 18-year-old Anjelica Huston, directed by her father, 
makes her screen début in A Walk with Love and Death as the 
14th-century French aristocrat Claudia, fleeing the savagery of the Jacquerie

Finally, a celebrity memoir worth reading

4 January 2014
A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York Anjelica Huston

Simon & Schuster, pp.254, £16.99, ISBN: 9780857207425

Unlike many celebrity memoirs, Anjelica Huston’s is worth reading. In her Prologue she writes that as a child she modeled herself on Morticia Addams, and where a lesser celebrity memoirist… Read more

Norman Mailer and Patricia Kennedy Lawford Photo: WireImage

'A little bit of rape is good for a man's soul': the outrageous life of Norman Mailer

23 November 2013
Norman Mailer: A Double Life J. Michael Lennon

Simon & Schuster, pp.947, £30, ISBN: 9781847376725

Heroically brave and mad, prodigious in his industry and appetites, Norman Mailer was an altogether excessive figure. Since his death in 2007 there have been several biographies, but this is… Read more

After their daring feat in Washington, the Royal Navy bombarded Fort McHenry
 at Baltimore in November 1812, but failed to take it

When Britain Burned the White House, by Peter Snow - review

28 September 2013
When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington Peter Snow

John Murray, pp.320, £25, ISBN: 9781848546110

Peter Snow explains that he decided to look into this extraordinary story when he realised how few people knew about it, and was inspired to write a book by the… Read more

The Unwinding, by George Packer - review

13 July 2013
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America George Packer

Faber, pp.434, £20,, ISBN: 9780571251285

The Unwinding is a rather classy addition to the thriving genre of American apocalypse porn. The basic thesis can be found online in Jim Kunstler’s The Clusterfuck Nation Manifesto, which… Read more

The Frontman, by Harry Browne - review

8 June 2013
The Frontman Harry Browne

Verso, pp.179, £9.99, ISBN: 9781781680827

According to a story which Harry Browne accepts is surely apocryphal, but which he includes in his book anyway, at a U2 gig in Glasgow the band’s singer silenced the… Read more

The armoured cars of Leclerc’s division arrive at the Rue Guynemer on 25 August

Eleven Days in August, by Matthew Cobb - review

4 May 2013
Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944 Matthew Cobb

Simon and Schuster, pp.525, £25, ISBN: 9780857203175

It is fair to assume that Professor Matthew Cobb has often been asked if he is related to Professor Richard Cobb since he begins the acknowledgements of his new book… Read more

The boys’ brigade

23 February 2013
Gardens of Stone: My Boyhood in the French Resistance Stephen Grady

Hodder & Stoughton, pp.431, £20, ISBN: 9781444760590

British schoolboys doubtless have quite different fantasies nowadays, but for much of the last century most of them liked to imagine themselves leading their friends in guerrilla warfare against the… Read more

Thrust into the limelight by the rivalry of the press barons. From left to right: Ivanov, Rice-Davis, Keeler and Profumo

Dirty tricks campaigns

5 January 2013
An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo Richard Davenport-Hines

HarperPress, pp.400, £20, ISBN: 9780007435485

There are already two excellent books about the Profumo Affair — An Affair of State (1987) by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy, and Bringing the House Down (2007) by David… Read more


The Wiggins streak

29 December 2012

As the first British winner of the Tour de France and a gold medalist at London 2012, Bradley Wiggins is a national hero, and though he insists he is an… Read more

‘The Terrors of St Anthony’ by Michelangelo.

Agonies and ecstasies

8 December 2012
Hallucinations Oliver Sacks

Picador, pp.336, £18.99, ISBN: 9781447208259

William James considered an hallucination to be ‘as good and true a sensation as if there were a real object there’, except that the ‘object happens to be not there,… Read more

Living on the brink

17 November 2012
A Free Man Aman Sethi

Cape, pp.226, £14.99, ISBN: 9780224096904

To write this book Aman Sethi, a journalist for the Hindu, spent five years hanging out with the casual labourers of Bara Tooti Chowk in Delhi’s Sadar Bazaar, who live… Read more

Off the beaten tracks

20 October 2012
Desert Island Discs Sean Magee

Bantam Press, pp.526, £25, ISBN: 9780593070062

In 1941 Roy Plomley was 27, and living in Bushey, Herts. After stints as an estate agent, film extra and mail-order astrologer’s assistant, he had found a better billet on… Read more

Edmond Dantès, incarcerated in the Chäteau d’If. Dumas drew on his father’s account of his captivity in Taranto for some of the scenes of human suffering in The Count of Monte Cristo

A dark family past

6 October 2012
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo Tom Reiss

Harvill Secker,, pp.412, £20, ISBN: 9781846556616

Like the Dombeys, Pitts, Amises et al, les Dumas are famously père et fils, but there was of course also a grand-père, Thomas-Alexandre, or ‘Alex’ the first, who was a… Read more

American enterprise

4 August 2012
The Golden Door: Letters to America A.A. Gill

Weidenfeld, pp.254, 20, ISBN: 9780297868521

The title of A.A. Gill’s latest book comes from Emma Lazarus’s poem ‘The New Colossus’ (1883), which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your… Read more

Wine Tasting Session

Bookends: One for the road

23 June 2012

Jay McInerney is best known for his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City (1984), which winningly combined sophistication and naivety. In The Juice (Bloomsbury, £14.99), his third collection of wine… Read more