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Marcus Berkmann

Roger Mortimer writes again

19 April 2014
Dearest Jane... Jane Torday and Roger Mortimer

Constable, pp.417, £14.99, ISBN: 9781472105912

After Dear Lupin and Dear Lumpy, here’s a slightly more prosaically titled collection of letters from Roger Mortimer, longtime racing correspondent of the Sunday Times and frequent purchaser of stamps.… Read more

DJ Frankie Knuckles (Photo: Claire Greenway/Getty)

Pop has become a conservative art form and an old man’s game

12 April 2014

It is coming to something when relatively young pop stars die not of drugs or misadventure but, essentially, of old age and decay. Frankie Knuckles, the house DJ and producer,… Read more


When posters told us our place

29 March 2014
Keep Britain Tidy and Other Posters From the Nanny State Hester Vaizey (ed)

Thames and Hudson, pp.94, £14.95, ISBN: 9780500291405

As a sign of the way things have changed, nothing could better this. Hester Vaizey, Cambridge history don and ‘publishing co-ordinator’ at the National Archives, has collated this splendid collection… Read more

Pharrell Williams performs 'Happy' at the Oscars Photo: Getty

Addicted to Vole

8 March 2014

Earworm: what a wonderful word. It describes, as nothing else quite can, the effect a really invasive melody can have on your consciousness. Hear the song once and you will… Read more

Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout Photo: Redferns

Prefab Sprout's comeback gives hope to the over-50s

8 February 2014

Every musical career has its own narrative, and most of them include at least one comeback. To come back, you first have to go away; then you have to stay… Read more

Mariah Carey (Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty)

All I want next Christmas is new Christmas songs 

11 January 2014

Three months until spring. Four months until the start of the cricket season. And only nine months until the radio starts playing ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ again. Or have you heard… Read more

'Christy Moore's (above)  Motherland is a full three-course meal of melody, folk-rock with a soulful edge' Photo: Redferns via Getty

Albums of the year? Some years we can answer it, some years we can't 

14 December 2013

Albums of the year? What a good question. Some years we can answer it, some years we can’t. The essence of pop music is its newness, its absolute determination to… Read more

Movie moment: in the classic American noir Laura (1944), Dana Andrews, as Detective Lieutenant Mark McPherson, gazes at the portrait of Laura Hunt, played by Gene Tierney

'Here's looking at you, kid' —  the best lines from the movies

7 December 2013
All the Best Lines George Tiffin

Head of Zeus, pp.416, £20, ISBN: 9781781852019

Moments that Made the Movies David Thomson

Thames & Hudson, pp.304, £24.95, ISBN: 9780500516416

Many of us, I get the feeling, don’t go and see as many films as we used to, or want to. Instead we spend all our time complaining that we… Read more

Left to right: Eleanor Roosevelt, King George VI, Sara Roosevelt (the President’s mother), Queen Elizabeth and FDR at Hyde Park on Hudson

A book that's inspired by a movie (for a change)

30 November 2013
Hot Dogs and Cocktails: When FDR Met George VI at Hyde Park on Hudson Peter Conradi

Alma, pp.300, £20, ISBN: 9781846882944

Books become films every day of the week; more rarely does someone feel inspired to write a book after seeing a film. Peter Conradi’s Hot Dogs And Cocktails tells the… Read more

From Private Eye: A Cartoon History edited by Nick Newman

The best funny books for Christmas

9 November 2013

Books do furnish a room, and quirky books for Christmas do furnish an enormous warehouse somewhere within easy reach of the M25. There are more of them than ever this… Read more

(Picture: Karl Walter/Getty)

Morrissey can't even moan properly — here's a frontman who can

9 November 2013

There is much to be said for Schadenfreude. (If it was edible, it would be a meal in a very expensive restaurant, for which someone else was paying.) So it’s… Read more


#Onyourmarks! What is the formal name for the hashtag? 

26 October 2013

One day there simply won’t be any strange byways of the English language left to write quirky little books about. Happily that day hasn’t arrived yet. Keith Houston’s Shady Characters… Read more

An Endangered Species, by David Gower - review

Gower vs Boycott

19 October 2013

Ask any England cricket fan in his fifties to name his favourite batsman and chances are he will say David Gower. (Unless he says Geoffrey Boycott: the cavaliers and roundheads… Read more

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 08.20.45

Talk Talk bears repetition

12 October 2013

First impressions always count, and they are almost always wrong. This is particularly pertinent if you review albums for a living, as I used to years ago. You would listen… Read more

Licensed to feel: The new James Bond fusses over furnishings and sprinkles talc

5 October 2013
Solo Wiliam Boyd

Cape, pp.336, £18.99, ISBN: 9780224097475

First, an appalling admission: I have never read any of Ian Fleming’s Bond books. Nor have I read any of anybody else’s, the number of which seems to grow with… Read more


My 50 weddings

21 September 2013

A couple of weekends ago, I went to my 50th wedding. Everyone I have mentioned this to has pulled a rather strange face, as though to say, ‘You count the… Read more

Left to right: Unity, Diana and Nancy

The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life, by Lyndsy Spence - review

14 September 2013

For some reason you don’t expect people to be fans of the Mitford sisters, as others are fans of Doctor Who or Justin Bieber. But just in case this subset… Read more

Love and Money Photo: Redferns

Pop: You'd love Love and Money, too - if only you'd heard of them

14 September 2013

How and when do you become ‘a fan’, exactly? You can usually spot pop stars who are losing touch with reality when they start talking about ‘the fans’ as some… Read more

J.J. Cale, 1977 Photo: Redferns

Hell is other people’s taste in music

10 August 2013

‘I don’t really like most of the music you play,’ said the tall blonde woman with whom I share my life. ‘There are no tunes. Where are the tunes? A… Read more


Across the Pond, by Terry Eagleton - a review

20 July 2013

The esteemed literary critic, serial academic and one-time Marxist firebrand Terry Eagleton is, at 70, still producing books at an admirable rate. Across the Pond (Norton, £9.99) is subtitled ‘An… Read more

Skinny pop Photo: Getty

The last taboo in pop: fat old men

13 July 2013

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on about Glastonbury. I wasn’t there, I never have been and, unless forced at gunpoint, I never will be. It has been a… Read more

The Decembrists - one of the last decent bands to come crawling out of this musically barren millennium

Has music died? If not, where are the new decent pop tunes?

8 June 2013

I am suffering, as we all do from time to time, from a shortage of decent new tunes. Of course, ‘suffering’ may be a slight exaggeration here. Very little physical… Read more

A Memorial Is Held On The 20th Anniversary Of The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson, edited by Harry Mount - review

1 June 2013
The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson Harry Mount

Bloomsbury, pp.224, £9.99, ISBN: 97814098183526

It’s just a guess, but I suspect that the mere sight of this book would make David Cameron gnash his tiny, perfect dolphin teeth until his gums began to bleed.… Read more

The Beatles

All Together Now, by David Rowley - review

25 May 2013

Too many Beatles books? In my house there’s always room for one more, and this week’s addition is All Together Now (Matador, £9.99), an ABC of Beatles’ songs by registered… Read more

World Premiere Of Walt Disney's "TRON: Legacy" - Arrivals

Chic’s Nile Rodgers on Daft Punk’s new single

11 May 2013

Every new product, whatever it is, needs a bit of ‘buzz’, and indeed vast numbers of people around the world make a decent living trying to generate that ‘buzz’, while… Read more