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Books

He who must be obeyed: portrait of the Kaiser by Ferdinand Keller, 1893

Kaiser Wilhelm's guide to ruining a country

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The role of personality in politics is the theme of this awe-inspiring biography. This is the third volume, 1,562 pages long, of John Röhl’s life of the Kaiser. It has been brilliantly translated — the labyrinth of imperial Germany navigated… Read more

The William A Clark Mansion on Fifth Avenue and recluse, Huguette Clark Photo: Getty / PA Images

The robber baron who 'bought judges as other men buy food’

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A review of Empty Mansions, by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr, a materialistic, yet hypnotic bestseller about W.A. Clark, one of the most ruth­less accumulators of wealth in American history

Leading with the chin: Dusty Springfield in the mid 1960s

The mad, bad and sad life of Dusty Springfield

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A review of Dusty: An Intimate Portrait, by Karen Bartlett. The sexually repressed and mentally unstable singer’s rise to stardom was as meteoric as her fall

Telluride Hot Air Balloon Festival in Colorado

Like Birdsong – only cheerful

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A review of The Birdcage, by Clive Aslet. This Ripping Yarns version of British trench warfare makes for an entertaining – if not entirely serious - read

Russian communist party supporter carrie

The threat from Russia’s spies has only increased since the fall of Communism

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A review of Britannia and the Bear, by Victor Madeira. This survey of interwar Soviet spying offers many lessons on how we deal with Putin’s Russia

Portrait of John Piper by Peggy Angus

Potato prints, paintings and the Soviet Union: the real Miss Jean Brodie

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Peggy Angus: Designer, Teacher, Painter, by James Russell. Angus’s playful, naïve designs were rich and strange, as were her politics

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Creepy, dizzying and dark: a choice of recent crime fiction

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A review of four very readable new thrillers: Research by Philip Kerr, Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant, The Final Silence by Stuart Neville and Cobra by Deon Meyer.

Volvo China Open - Day Three

Banned – and booming: the strange world of Chinese golf

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A review of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, by Dan Washburn. A book about money, power and whim that tells you everything you need to know about modern China

Dexter
Novelist Haruki Murakami Photo: PA Images

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

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A review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel. It’s impressive that such a brilliant myth emerges from such unspectacular ingredients

Who’s in, who’s out: George Bernard O’Neill’s ‘Public Opinion’ depicts a private view of the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy

The age of the starving artist

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What remains of art is art, of course; and what chiefly interests us is the creative talents of a painter or a sculptor. What we forget is that the work of art wouldn’t be there without some kind of engagement… Read more

A boy named Marion: John Wayne pictured on the set of Stagecoach (1939)

I was John Wayne's driver

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A review of John Wayne: The Life and Legend, by Scott Eyman. It borders on hagiography but for Wayne fans that’s no flaw

A derelict building in Jaffna – part of the legacy of Sri Lanka's years of civil war. Photograph: Luis Ascui/Getty Images

Tip-toeing through Sri Lanka

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A review of Noontide Toll, by Romesh Gunesekera. One of the most delicate contemporary prose stylists tackles one of the most intractable conflicts

Title-Stories-Divine-Comedy-by-Dante-Aligheri
Dean Inge, one of the last Victorians. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Daring? No. Well written? Yes

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A review of The Last Victorians, by W. Sydney Robinson. Ignore the misleading blurb and revel in the research, writing and bizarre characters in this portrait of four 20th-century eccentrics

Left: ‘Blackbere’ from Helmingham Herbal and Bestiary, c. 1500. Right: Common Hoopoe, c. 1789, by William Lewis

The British countryside in prints and paper-cuts

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A review of Of Green Leaf, Bird and Flower, by Elizabeth R. Fairman. The images are mostly astounding but the essays are a mixed bag

The eyes of a killer? Vincent Poklewski Koziell relates, in his reminiscences, the story of a chimpanzee stabbing a butler during a dinner party. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Lenin, Hitler, Sloane Square – a Polish noble's 20th-century Odyssey

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A review of The Ape Has Stabbed Me: A Cocktail of Reminiscence, by Vincent Poklewski Koziell. A hilarious tale of hats, hous­es, drinks and direc­torships

A pea-souper in Covent Garden. Perfect for murder. Photograph: Lacey/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Main villain: the aftermath of war

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A review of The Reckoning, by Rennie Airth, a thriller that leaves your nerves unshredded but thoughts haunted

Nixon

Richard Nixon – comeback kid

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A review of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority, by Patrick J. Buchanan. Tricky Dicky’s time in the wilderness was key to his success

‘A Sounding Line’ (2006–7). Detail of de Waal’s 66 porcelain vessels in white and celadon glazes, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

How good an artist is Edmund de Waal?

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A review of Edmund de Waal, by A.S. Byatt, Colm Toibin, Peter Carey, Emma Crichton Miller and others. A book of discursive essays, short stories and photographs that explores the potter’s many paths and influences

‘There is nothin’ like a dame’ — nice songs, shame about the lighting: Mitzi Gaynor in ‘South Pacific’, 1958

Why movie musicals matter – to this author anyway

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Do movie musicals matter? Most readers, even those who love them, will embark on Richard Barrios’s short history of the genre with the thought: not much. They’ll very likely, I’m afraid, finish it holding much the same opinion. But not… Read more

British author and socialite Margot Asquith. Photograph: Sasha/Getty Images

This diary of a prime minister's wife offers a front-row seat to the Great War

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A review of Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary, 1914–1916: The View from Downing Street, edited by Michael and Eleanor Brock. As you’d expect, the cast of characters is worthy of a Shakespearian history play

PrestonWD

The author’s father didn’t want you to read this book. It’s hard to understand why

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A review of A Dog’s Life, by Michael Holroyd. This thinly veiled portrait of Holroyd's family is more an exercise in self-chastisement than vanity

DeasWD

In the empire stakes, the Anglo-Saxons were for long Spain’s inferiors

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A review of World Without End: The Global Empire of Philip II, by Hugh Thomas. This history of the Spanish Empire seems more interested in the conquerors than the conquered but still makes its argument well

St Enodoc Church overlooking St Enodoc golf course and the sea beyond, Rock, Cornwall. John Betjeman lies buried in the graveyard

The ultimate guide to Cornwall

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A review of Cornwall, by Peter Beacham and Nikolaus Pevsner. Uniting two classic guides by Pevsner and John Betjeman, Beacham has left no fernbanked lane or secret drive unexplored

JonesWD

From slaves' rectums to porn vids, there are few places people haven't tried to conceal secret messages

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A review of Prisoners, Lovers and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qa’eda, by Kristie Macrakis. The ancients hid their intel in hares' bellies; today, jihadis use porn

Joining the old rogue on his 80th birthday, from left to right, Bevis Hillier, Antonia Fraser, Hamilton, James Pope-Hennessy, James Reeve, and the Spectator’s current book editor, Mark Amory

The long and disgraceful life of Britain's pre-eminent bounder

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A review of The Man Who Was Norris: The life of Gerald Hamilton, by Tom Cullen. The great thing about this book is that Cullen rarely makes the mistake of taking Hamilton (once described as ‘the wickedest man in Europe’) at his own word

MooreWD

The Russian literary celebrity who begged Tolstoy to spare Prince Andrei

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A review of Subtly Worded, by Teffi. Her remarkable short stories, full of characters that teeter on the edge of an abyss, deserve to be better known