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Challenging perceptions

Mrs Noyce kept on being prosecuted, appearing immaculately clad on her many court appearances. But she carried on, keeping her thoughts to herself. She probably echoed the complaint of another madam, Margaret Sempill, in the 19th Century: when she was accused by the Kirk of keeping prostitutes — in particular the very pretty Katherine Lenton,

Mischief and mayhem

Henry Fairlie was the journalistic idol of my youth. I met him, I think, first in 1955 when he had just started writing his Political Commentary in The Spectator — and it was on the mischievous appeal of those early columns that we had invited him to come and address the Oxford University Labour Club.

Horror in the Arctic

Around the middle of the 19th century a new image of horror appeared in Victorian art. In 1864 Edwin Landseer exhibited something the like of which he had never painted before and never would again. In ‘Man Proposes, God Disposes’, the man who had painted ‘Dignity and Impudence’ shows two polar bears, one howling above

An unlikely hero

This sparkling biography of a small-part actor who did two missions into Nazi-occupied France as a radio operator for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) begins with a rather iffy 60 pages on his identity and pre-war stage career; much of what the agent said about himself was contradictory, much was exaggerated, and little of it

A choice of first novels | 22 July 2009

This year’s summer flurry of debut novels appears to tick all the booksellers’ boxes. This year’s summer flurry of debut novels appears to tick all the booksellers’ boxes. There’s the headline grabber, the European bestseller, the wartime melodrama and the quirky romancer. Publishers recognise a good thing when they see it. 60 Years Later is