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Bookends: Murder in the dark

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 three book-lined rooms dedicated just to the cinema, including 50 books on Hitchcock and 30 on film noir.’ I Found it at the Movies (Carcanet,

The passionate friend

Sam Leith explores H. G. Wells’s addiction to free love, as revealed in David Lodge’s latest biographical novel In the history of seduction, there can have been few scenes quite like this one: ‘Am I dreaming?’, she said when she opened her eyes. ‘No,’ he said, and kissed her again. ‘But what about Jane?’ she

In the pink

In 1988 Katherine Swift took a lease on the Dower House at Morville Hall, a National Trust property in Shropshire, and created a one-and-a-half acre garden in what had been a field. In The Morville Hours (2008), she placed that garden in its landscape and wrote one of the finest books about the history, philosophy

The trail goes cold

For centuries, the history of the far North was a tapestry of controversies and mis- understandings, misspellings, dubious arrivals and equally dubious departures. Pytheas the Greek sailed north from Britain in the 4th century BC, found a place where the sea, land and sky seemed to merge, and was trounced by later scholars as a

The evil of banality

Aimez-vous Heidegger? According to his admirers, he was the most significant and influential philosopher of the 20th century. For Hannah Arendt, despite her claims eventually to have found the perfect husband in Heinrich Blucher, Heidegger was the love of her life. She was his precocious teenage pupil when he lectured on Plato’s Sophist at Marburg

Haitian horrors

Twenty years ago, in 1991, I was shown round the National Palace in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. A government official led me through long rococo halls crammed with oriental rugs, gilded boule clocks and vases of deep pink roses. Little had changed since Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier had fled Haiti in 1986. The Hall

A world of her own

This book, written by someone whose husband was for three years prime minister of Britain, is impossible to review. Yes, it is dull, but it is so triumphantly, so ineffably, dull it enters a breezy little monochrome world of its own. There is no characterisation, for no value judgments are passed, except those on Mrs