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The making of the modern metropolis

Why in 1737 did Dr Johnson choose to leave his home in Lichfield in the Midlands and travel to London to make a fresh start as a writer, asks Jerry White in his encyclopaedic portrait of the 18th-century capital. It’s a good question. London was dangerous, it was dirty, you could die of ague in

Ecoutez bien!

The French make it look easy: small babies sleep through the night, toddlers calmly eat four-course lunches, well-dressed mothers chat on the edge of the playground rather than running around after their children, and they hardly ever shout. Pamela Druckerman left New York for Paris and soon found herself with an English husband and several

Winter wonderland | 18 February 2012

Jack and Mabel move to Alaska to try to separate themselves from a tragedy — the loss of their only baby — that has frozen the core of their relationship. They intend to establish a homestead in the wilderness, but it is 1920 and they are middle-aged, friendless and from ‘back east’ — unprepared and

If only …

In the early summer of 1910, a naval officer, bound for the Antarctic, paid a visit to the office of Thomas Marlowe, the editor of the Daily Mail. He had come in search of some badly needed funds for his expedition, but just as he was leaving he paused to ask Marlowe when he thought

Robot on the loose

In December 2005, a passenger on an early-morning flight from Dallas to Las Vegas fell asleep. Woken by a steward when the plane touched down, the man wearily disembarked and took a connecting flight to San Francisco. It was only there that he realised he’d forgotten an item of hand luggage on the first flight.

Many parts of man

In some ways, you’ve got to hand it to Craig Raine. Two years ago, after a distinguished career as a poet and all-round man of letters, he published his first novel — and received a series of reviews that, as Woody Allen once put it, read like a Tibetan Book of the Dead. According to

Saviours of the sea

The last time we went out for lobster in Lyme Bay we found a dogfish in the creel.  A type of shark that roamed the seas before dinosaurs existed, a dogfish won’t slice your leg off the way a Great White might, but it is very scratchy to hold onto, thanks to its denticles, the

Bookends: A network of kidney-nappers

Raylan Givens, an ace detective in the Raymond Chandler mould, has encountered just about every shakedown artist and palooka in his native East Kentucky. His creator, Elmore Leonard, is a maestro of American noir; Raylan (Weidenfeld, £18.99), his latest thriller, presents a familiar impasto of choppy, street-savvy slang and hip-jive patter that verges on a