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Bookends: The showbiz Boris Johnson

Amiability can take you a long way in British public life. James Corden is no fool: he co-wrote and co-starred in three series of Gavin and Stacey, and wowed the National Theatre this summer with a barnstorming performance in One Man, Two Guvnors. But there’s no doubt that his Fat Lad Made Good persona, and

Who Killed Hammarskjöld? by Susan Williams

When I was a Reuters trainee, long hours were spent in Fleet Street pubs absorbing the folklore of journalism from seasoned veterans. One popular story concerned the hapless correspondent sent to verify that Dag Hammarskjöld, head of the United Nations, had safely landed at Ndola airport in Northern Rhodesia on his way to talks with

The Golden Hour by William Nicholson

He’s got a winning formula, this writer, and he’s sticking to it. Set the action over seven days, in and around the Sussex town of Lewes, with occasional day trips to London; write about what you know (Sussex, script-writing, being 54, long marriages, worrying about your post-university children as well as your aged parents with

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester

Those of us who have spent an embarrassing number of hours immersed in the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer have learned to live dangerously. We have been overturned in high perch phaetons, held up innumerable times by highwaymen, been kidnapped and spirited across the Channel, lost several fortunes at Faro or Bassett and have even

Pakistan: A Personal History by Imran Khan

Imran Khan’s Pakistan: A Personal History describes his journey from playboy cricketer through believer and charity worker to politician. His story is interwoven with highlights from Pakistan’s history. At times he seems to conflate his own destiny with that of Pakistan, and at others to be writing a beguilingly honest personal account. Khan describes how

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

Oh what a tangled web she weaves! Victoria Hislop’s third novel, the appropriately titled The Thread, is pleasingly complex. The story traces several generations of a fictional Greek family called Komninos against the historical backdrop of the rise and fall of Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki, in the 20th century. To make things even knottier, most

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford

Like his contemporary and fellow Yorkshireman, Alan Bennett, whom he slightly resembles physically, David Hockney has been loved and admired throughout his lifetime. He painted one of his greatest works, ‘A Grand Procession of Dignitaries in the Semi-Egyptian Style’ in 1961 while still at the Royal College of Art. He has dazzled, surprised and often

The Price of Civilization by Jeffrey Sachs

Half a century ago J.K. Galbraith’s The Affluent Society changed the political consciousness of a generation in the English- speaking world and beyond. It vividly re-established in the minds of civilised men and women the paradox of private affluence in a sea of public neediness — for which, as Matthew Arnold reminds us, Cato reported

An intemperate zone

Two years before the outbreak of the first world war, a Royal Navy officer, addressing an Admiralty enquiry into the disturbing question of lower-deck commissions, ventured the cautionary opinion that it took three generations to make a gentleman. It is hard to know exactly what he meant by that endlessly morphing concept, but if it