Lead book review


I saw a biopic about Morecambe and Wise recently. The actors impersonating the comedians were not a patch on the originals — how could they be? You need a genius to play a genius. I often wonder if my own HBO Peter Sellers movie would have been improved if someone fiery, of the calibre of

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An insight into the medieval Muslim mind

  At a press conference in October 1981, Ronald Reagan quoted Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) in support of what is known as supply-side economics. Although the 14th- century politician and thinker wrote extensively about economics and was almost unique among medieval Arab writers in so doing, it is quite ‘marvellous’ writes Robert Irwin, the author of

Team spirit and terrorism

Alastair Campbell is a man of many parts.   Journalist, spin doctor extraordinaire, diarist and now novelist. For this, his third novel, he has teamed up with the former professional footballer Paul Fletcher to produce a very readable thriller. The division of labour seems to be that Campbell has done most of the writing while Fletcher

Should he stay or should he go?

This remorselessly slow-moving, hazily allegorical drama about ageing and xenophobia is Jim Crace’s 12th book, and the first to appear since he announced his retirement from writing in 2013. Like much of his other work, it lays its scene in a topographical and temporal bubble of the author’s own devising, where recognisable aspects of society

A drizzle of nature writers

A parliament of owls. A gaggle of geese. A convocation of eagles. But what is the generic term for the army that has recently advanced over the literary landscape? Perhaps a drizzle of nature writers? Here they come, heads down in the rain, turning out their pockets for the samples of fungi and moss they

Carry on spying

That there’s a direct correlation between sex and spying is probably Ian Fleming’s fault. Hard to think of Bond without thinking about his women. For Charlotte Bingham, though, the connection occurred at a deeper level. When her father, John — legendary spook, long believed to be the model for George Smiley — called her into

Cutting up rough

Powerful memoirs by such eloquent doctors as Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, Henry Marsh, Gabriel Weston and Paul Kalanithi have whipped the bed curtains open on a previously secretive profession. Steeped as medicine is in uncomfortable facts about debilitating illness, pain and the stress of treating intractable conditions, it was a subject ripe for exposure. Under