Bookends: Corpses in the coal hole

30 July 2011

Ruth Rendell has probably pulled more surprises on her readers than any other crime writer. But the one she produces with her latest novel is a little unusual even by… Read more

Bookends: A friend of mine

23 July 2011

A friend of mine was throttled by Pete Postlethwaite once. It was outside a TV studio, people were smoking and Postlethwaite was only demonstrating some bit of business he had… Read more



16 July 2011

I like books with weather and there’s plenty in this one, all bad, which is even better. Set in London during a cold winter, Blue Monday (Penguin, £12.99) is the… Read more


Bookends: Scourge of New Labour

9 July 2011

Like all politicians, Bob Marshall-Andrews is fond of quoting himself, and Off Message (Profile Books, £16.99) includes a generous selection of his speeches and articles on such topics as Tony… Read more

Bookends: Not just for Christmas

2 July 2011

Sticky at Christmas, packed in serried rows around a plastic twig in an oval-ended paper-wrapped box with a picture of a camel train; dates in childhood were exotic. The mystery… Read more


Bookends: Venice improper

25 June 2011

Books about Venice are almost as numerous as gondolas on the Grand Canal, but Robin Saikia is the first to write one about the Lido. The subject might be thought… Read more


Bookends: When will there be good news?

18 June 2011

I am in love with Jackson Brodie. Does this mean that, in a literary homoerotic twist, I am actually in love with Kate Atkinson, his creator? I think it must.… Read more


Bookends: Lowe and behold

11 June 2011

It is 1979. You are a 15-year-old boy starring in a hit US television show. You’ve seen the crowds of screaming girls outside the gates as you arrive for work,… Read more


Bookends: Bloodbath

4 June 2011

It may have been first published in 1973, but reading it again in Persephone Books’ elegant re-print, Adam Fergusson’s The Sack of Bath (£12) remains a real shocker. The fury… Read more



28 May 2011

In the summer of 2003, in a bar in Malta, George Best was approached by a man holding a paper napkin and a pen. ‘It’s been my childhood dream,’ said… Read more

Bookends: The voice of the lobster

21 May 2011

In existence for over 250 millions years, lobsters come in two distinct varieties, ‘clawed and clawless’. Human predators tend to the flawed and clueless as they overfish and — since… Read more


Bookends: Unbalanced chorus

14 May 2011

Imagine a 77-year-old woman hanging around, say, Leicester bus station, telling people about her life. She confides her belief that she is under surveillance by the military. She maintains that… Read more

Bookends: To a tee

7 May 2011

Sporting literature is a strange old business, often underrated by those who don’t like sport and overrated by those who do. In particular, a warm glow hovers over the reputation… Read more

Religious doubt

23 April 2011

No description of Eric Gill is ever without the words ‘devout Catholic’, and Eric Gill: Lust for Letter & Line (British Museum Press, £9.99), while short, provides evidence to both… Read more


Bookends: The last laugh

9 April 2011

In July, the world’s most famous restaurant, elBulli, closes, to reopen in 2014 as a ‘creative centre’. Rough luck on the million-odd people who try for one of 8,000 reservations… Read more


Bookends: Murder in the dark

2 April 2011

When the Observer critic Philip French started writing on the cinema in the early 1960s, he once explained in an interview, books about film were a rarity. ‘Now I have… Read more

Bookends: Capital rewards

26 March 2011

London has been the subject of more anthologies than Samuel Pepys had hot chambermaids. This is fitting, as an anthology’s appeal — unexpected juxtaposition — matches that of the capital… Read more

A chorus of disapproval

19 March 2011

At more than 700 pages including appendices, Guardian writer Dorian Lynskey’s 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs (Faber & Faber, £17.99) certainly can’t be accused of skimping… Read more


12 March 2011

About 80 per cent of books sold in this country are said to be bought by women, none more eagerly than Joanna Trollope’s anatomies of English middle-class family life. Her… Read more


Bookends: Wit and wisdom

19 February 2011

Nora Ephron has a clever solution to a particular social quandary. Whenever she pinches her husband’s arm at a party, it’s their agreed signal for ‘I’ve forgotten the name of… Read more

Bipolar exploration

12 February 2011

‘I’m not writing songs anymore; they’re writing me.’ Plagued by music in her head that arrived unbidden, drowning out conversation, Kristin Hersh was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just as psychologists… Read more


Bookends: Musical bumps

13 January 2011

In the Christmas issue of The Spectator there was a review of Showtime: A History of Broadway Musicals, a book which ran to 785 pages. Ruth Leon, in The Sound… Read more


Bookends: Self-help guide

18 December 2010

P. J. O’Rourke is what happens when America does Grumpy Old Men. P. J. O’Rourke is what happens when America does Grumpy Old Men. Instead of sour-faced curmudgeons bleating that… Read more


BOOKENDS: In the bleak midwinter

11 December 2010

Salley Vickers name-checks (surely unwisely) the granddaddy of all short stories, James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, in the foreword to her first collection, Aphrodite’s Hat (Fourth Estate, £16.99). Salley Vickers name-checks… Read more


BOOKENDS: Gothic tales

27 November 2010

Much of Stephen King’s recent work has been relatively lighthearted, but in Full Dark, No Stars (Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99) he returns with gusto to his dark side and explores… Read more