Arming for conquest (Picture: John Bostock)

A creepy father, a lustful music teacher, four virgins — and one genuine love affair

1 February 2014
Sedition Katharine Grant

Virago, pp.289, £14.99, ISBN: 9781844089846

London, 1794. It’s a different world from that portrayed by the Mrs Radcliffes and Anons of the time: rich young women are not all naïve and swoony in Katharine Grant’s… Read more

Player Tries To Master The Newly Released Grand Theft Auto IV

How Grand Theft Auto prevents crime and violence

7 December 2013

It was about a week ago, at 8 p.m., when our blackout happened. In the 1980s people would have headed for the bedroom or out to loot the local off-licence.… Read more

8th July 1941: A group of children whose homes have been destroyed by World War II bombing raids enjoy a walk in the English countryside to which they have been evacuated. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A secret sperm donor service in post-first world war London

3 August 2013

These days there are sophisticated and scientific solutions to the dismal problem of unwanted childlessness — there are IVF, Viagra and well-established egg and sperm donor services. We think of… Read more

Mind your language: Who says there's a 'correct name' for the penis?

27 July 2013

In a very rum letter to the Daily Telegraph, the Mother’s Union of all people joined with some other bodies to demand that ‘primary schools should teach the correct names… Read more

Gin Lane

Less alcohol, fewer drugs: how the British seem to be shedding their harmful habits

25 May 2013

Gripped by his habitual despair, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote to a friend in 1872, ‘I am appalled at the state of society. I’m filled with the sadness that… Read more

The Spectator’s Notes

11 May 2013

On Tuesday night, at a Spectator readers’ evening, Andrew Neil interviewed me about my biography of Margaret Thatcher. He asked me if, after leaving office, Lady Thatcher had come to… Read more


The unfair sex - how feminism created a new class divide

27 April 2013

James is 15 years old, coming up to his GCSEs; and the researcher he is talking to is clueless about girls. Yes, he tells her, girls at his school, underage… Read more

"Rennard’s overtures might have been considered less obnoxious if he more closely resembled, say, Orlando Bloom or Joaquin Phoenix than Jabba The Hutt"

Lord Rennard doesn’t need an inquiry. He needs a swift kick to the shin

2 March 2013

I was seated at a rather stiff and formal BBC dinner a dozen or so years back, one of those ghastly occasions upon which the boss class attempt, painfully, to… Read more

Stop shouting at Hilary Mantel – there are real outrages to address

2 March 2013

It started the other week, when David Cameron was in India. Although it started like a bout of malaria starts, so I suppose the more precise term would be ‘recurred’.… Read more


Sorry, but Parliament is full of sex pests

2 March 2013

The news is dominated by tales of ‘sexual misconduct’ by men in positions of power, and nowhere is the smell of sleaze as strong as in Westminster. Our politicians work… Read more


Thinly veiled threats

2 March 2013
Sex and the Citadel Shereen El Feki

Chatto, pp.368, £16.99, ISBN: 09780307377395

No one could ever accuse Shereen El Feki of lacking in courage. To spend five years travelling around the Arab world in search of dildos, questioning women about foreplay and… Read more

Of vice and verse

2 March 2013
Losing It: A Novel in Verse Ranjit Bolt, illustrated by Roddy Maude-Roxby

Muswell Press, pp.154, £7.50, ISBN: 9780957213661

‘All human life is binary’, explains a Vestal Virgin to the time-travelling heroine of Ranjit Bolt’s verse novel, Losing It. Young and lovely, Lucy’s plan is to lose her virginity.… Read more

Long life

2 March 2013

Eight years ago I was in Rome for The Spectator to write a piece about the election of a new pope after the death of John-Paul II. Within two days,… Read more


Bookends: A life of gay abandon

17 March 2012

Sometimes, only the purest smut will do. Scotty Bowers’s memoir, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars (Grove Press, £16.99) is 24 carat,… Read more


More sinned against than sinning

25 February 2012
The Origins of Sex Faramerz Dabhoiwala

Allen Lane, pp.496, 25

When I saw the title of this book, then read that it only covered the period 1600-1800 I hoped this would be a riot of comedy, something along the lines… Read more


Acting strange

11 September 2010
The Water Theatre Lindsay Clarke

Alma Books, pp.435, 12.99

Reviewing Lindsay Clarke’s Whitbread-winning The Chymical Wedding a small matter of 20 years ago, and noting its free and easy cast and wistful nods in the direction of the Age… Read more


The French connection

7 August 2010
The House with Blue Shutters Lisa Hilton

Corvus, pp.419, 7.99

If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it’s this one. If ever there was a… Read more


Same old perversions

24 July 2010
Imperial Bedrooms Bret Easton Ellis

Picador, pp.256, 16.99

Memory Lane always looked so unthreatening to me. But this is Bret Easton Ellis, so a cast reunion for the characters he first wrote about in Less Than Zero 25… Read more

Physical and spiritual decay

7 July 2010
The Misogynist Piers Paul Read

Bloomsbury, pp.257, 16.99

The most striking thing about Piers Paul Read’s early novels was their characters’ susceptibility to physical decay. The most striking thing about Piers Paul Read’s early novels was their characters’… Read more


Schlock teaser

30 June 2010
Gypsy: The Art of the Tease Rachel Shteir

Yale, pp.240, 12.99

The somewhat straightlaced theatre-going audiences of 1880s America, eager for performances by European artistes like Jenny Lind and solid, home-grown, classical actors such as Otis Skinner, were hardly prepared for… Read more


A rather orthodox doxy

16 June 2010
Anne Boleyn G. W. Bernard

Yale, pp.237, 20

‘His cursed concubine.’ That was the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys’ judgment on Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. ‘His cursed concubine.’ That was the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys’ judgment on… Read more


Cherchez la femme

12 May 2010
The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess de Janzé Paul Spicer

Simon & Schuster, pp.308, 14.99

The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military Secretary in Kenya in the early part of the second world war, was described by two of his fellow peers of the realm as… Read more


The ultimate price

21 April 2010
The Courtesan and the Samurai Lesley Downer

Bantam, pp.338, 12.99

Lesley Downer is one of the most unusual authors writing in English. Years ago, determined to become an expert on the Japanese geisha, ultra-sophisticated entertainers and hostesses who are neither… Read more


Fine artist, but a dirty old man

31 March 2010
Linley Sambourne: Illustrator and Punch Cartoonist Leonee Ormond

Paul Holberton, pp.312, 30

I have always been sceptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this: Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended… Read more

A narrow escape

24 February 2010
The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs Starr Kenneth Gormley

Crown, pp.790, 35

For once, I felt sorry for Bill Clinton. It was January 1998, and the press reported that the President had had an intimate relationship with one Monica Lewinsky. In Independent… Read more