More from Books

Serving Christ and colonialism

Fergus Fleming is the author of three volumes of narrative history, the best of which, Barrow’s Boys, gives a rollicking account of 19th-century Arctic exploration. Now he has lighted on the ‘conquest’ of the Sahara, and it is a gripping saga, little known beyond the popular image of a kepi-wearing French officer riding into the

Still on his feet in the twelfth round

Norman Mailer was 80 years old on 31 January 2003, so let us salute the last of all the knights. He was very famous very quickly, with The Naked and the Dead, and for nearly six decades he has poured forth rich and provocative novels, biographies, non-fiction bouts of reportage – it’s hard to know

What voice can do

There was recently, in the serious and excellent Saturday Guardian review, a short piece on Oor Wullie, a small boy whose cartoon adventures divert the readers of the Sunday Post in Scotland. It was written by Ian Jack, distinguished editor of Granta, the influential literary magazine. The article mentioned a number of things that touched

Old Wasp with a weak sting

The pleasure boat captains who ply the coast of the Gulf of Salerno beneath Gore Vidal’s Ravello flat are inconsolable at the thought that the grand old man of American letters is returning to his homeland. The round trip that departs from Capri, and chugs past Positano and Amalfi, finishes with a flourish, as the

The young, red-haired man in the cupboard

If this had a third act it would make a superb film, for the cast list is virtually a re-run of Front Page, with Richard Addis, formerly of the Daily Express, now, magically, of the Canadian Globe and Mail, as the hard-bitten editor Walter Burns, and Stephanie Nolen, a young and eager reporter on the

Tales of the unexpected

How’s this for a good opening? ‘I took out a gun and painted the bullets gold.’ If that were a novel the author would win prizes; but he isn’t a novelist, he’s a nutcase. Let’s call him ‘J’. J was convinced that his wheelchair-bound grandmother was a vampire. He visited her one morning, did her

The fatal Dogberry tendency

In June 1959, A. L. Rowse was sitting on a train in the United States, writing up his journal. He was in the middle of describing an enjoyable encounter with Elizabeth Bowen in New York. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by a young woman asking if the seat beside him was vacant. Rowse indicated with his