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The American way of justice

Conrad Black sympathises with the NatWest Three — victims of British cowardice and a corrupt US legal system It was the misfortune of David Bermingham and his co-defendants to be very peripherally connected to the Enron debacle. Enron was the ultimate hot financial client for a merchant banker and designer of sophisticated financial vehicles, the

A law unto itself

One could meet any day in Society Harold Acton, Tom Driberg or Rowse: May there always, to add their variety, Be some rather Odd Fish at The House. Thus W. H. Auden (something of an odd fish himself) reminiscing at a Christ Church gaudy half a century ago. There have certainly been quite a lot

Ultimate issues

In his preface to this anthology of brief memoirs, Robert Silvers suggests that its ‘invisible, tragic core’ is to be found in an account by Isaiah Berlin of one of his several meetings with Boris Pasternak. Pasternak told Berlin how Stalin had once telephoned him to ask him two questions: had Pasternak been present when

Cry freedom

Scenes From Early Life is a rather dull title for a deeply interesting book. It is a novel; this is stated on the jacket, as if anticipating the possibility that readers may question that definition. Set in Dacca (now Dhaka), it is about the emergence of Bangladesh as a state independent of Pakistan after the

In Blair’s shadow

An ebook arrives! The future of publishing on my hard-drive. All the big profits are in cyber-publishing these days, as I discovered last month when I downloaded an ebook for three quid and found it contained just 85 pages. This one, by Alwyn W. Turner, has only 72 pages, but it’s a penny cheaper at

One that got away | 21 April 2012

There are six drawings in the back of this book. They’re not very good drawings. In fact they look as if they come from an unusually hamfisted comic strip. However, it’s their crudity that makes them so powerful. One shows a young boy being suspended over a coal fire, a rope round his wrists, a

The calls of the wild

This is a weird and wonderful book. Bernie Krause, who started out as a popular musician and then in the mid-Sixties began to experiment with synthesisers and electronic mixing, has spent the past 40 years recording natural noises — individual species, but more importantly, perhaps, whole habitats and therefore the relationship of the different sounds

Road to ruins

This is a delightful book, nostalgic, slyly witty, perceptive and at times flirting — deliberately — with old fogeyism. Tom Fort, a BBC radio journalist, starts from the assumption that ‘many of us have a road that reaches back into our past’. For him, this is the 92 miles of the A303 — as he

Nowhere to go but down

I am just old enough to remember the terrific fuss that was made about the first Scots literary renaissance when it kicked into gear in the early 1980s. Inaugurated by Alasdair Gray’s Lanark (1981), whipped up into a movement by Gray, Agnes Owens and James Kelman’s Lean Tales (1985), and sent on a downward spiral

Bookends: Tilling tales

Several years ago, I listed as my literary heroes Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations and E. F. Benson’s Lucia. The latter was the more damaging admission. Lucia is an egotist of monstrous proportions, ruthlessly selfish and staggering in her snobbery. But she is also a life force and, in her flawed but thrusting glory, profoundly