Book review – biography

Maud West disguised as a Salvation Army worker, c. 1920

The rollicking adventures of a real-life female sleuth

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Susannah Stapleton’s erudite but hugely entertaining debut is a true-life detective story about the quest for a true-life detective. A…

Vasily Grossman: eye-witness to the 20th century’s worst atrocities

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate (completed in 1960) has been hailed as a 20th-century War and Peace. It has…

Was there no end to John Buchan’s talents?

20 April 2019 9:00 am

John Buchan was a novelist, historian, poet, biographer and journalist (assistant editor of The Spectator indeed); a barrister and publisher;…

Portrait of Ruskin dated 1870

John Ruskin: the making of a modern prophet

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Will John Ruskin’s concerns about the environment and his belief in a holistic approach to living make him fashionable again, wonders Sam Leith

The inventor of gonzo journalism: Hunter S. Thompson, in his heyday in the 1960s

How fear and loathing of Nixon sent Hunter S. Thompson crazy

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Hunter Stockton Thompson blazed across the republic of American arts and letters for too short a time. When in February…

James Clerk Maxwell: funny, flippant and charming, with an extraordinarily fertile mechanical imagination

The powerful magnetism of James Clerk Maxwell

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Chances are, you are reading these words in some room or other. Build a wall down the middle of it,…

Marie Colvin, a year before her death. [Rex Features]

For Marie Colvin, mortal danger was what made life worth living

1 December 2018 9:00 am

When Britain finally lowered the flag in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2007, the army’s top brass valiantly claimed…

Rat and Mole pay a visit to Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame’s classic

Kenneth Grahame: another boy who wouldn’t grow up

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The title of Matthew Dennison’s new biography of the man who wrote The Wind in the Willows appears to nod…

After 70 years, has the Prince of Wales learnt nothing about the monarch’s role?

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Republicans hate to admit it, but the stability brought by the long reign of that most careful of monarchs Elizabeth…

The second richest woman in England: Bess of Hardwick as Countess of Shrewsbury. (English School, 16th century)

Bess of Hardwick: Tudor England’s other great Elizabeth

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Bess of Hardwick — who died Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury — was a remarkable and fascinating woman. The wife…

Anne Lister: Regency flirt and expert seducer of women

24 November 2018 9:00 am

In the winter of 1820–1 a 29-year old woman named Anne Lister went to stay with some female friends who…

Handel is rowed in a gondola on the Thames, in an illustration for ‘The Water Music’

Handel’s greatest hits — the glorious London decades

15 September 2018 9:00 am

Paul Kildea describes the glorious decades when Handel bcharmed London society with one masterpiece after another

Lord Carrington. Credit: Getty Images

Peter Carrington: loyal, funny and driven by a sense of duty

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘I’m sorry to bother you, Peter, but you were a famously successful Leader of Their Lordships and I wondered whether…

Harvey Milk. Credit Getty Images

The ‘other’ life of Harvey Milk

15 September 2018 9:00 am

This is the story of the ‘other’ Harvey Milk. We all know about Harvey the San Francisco politician who was…

Jimmy Page performing with Led Zeppelin in May 1975. ‘He did believe that he had the power to control the universe’

Jimmy Page is a Capricorn – that says it all

25 August 2018 9:00 am

In 1957, aged 13, Jimmy Page appeared with his skiffle group on a children’s TV programme dedicated to ‘unusual hobbies’…

When Graves was wounded at High Wood on the Somme he was listed as dead. The sense of being a revenant probably affected him for the rest of his life. [Mary Evans Picture Library}

Ménage à quatre with Robert Graves

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Robert Graves was full of ambivalence, says Andrew Motion – defiant and needy, shy and bombastic, unusually sensitive to suffering and capable of great courage

Anita Leslie, aged 23 in 1937 © Tarka Leslie-King

Anita Leslie: sparkling socialite with the Croix de Guerre

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Anita Leslie knew how to tell a story. Arranging to sit for a portrait six months before she died, she…

Bruce Lee in a scene from Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee: weird, gruesome and oh-so-cool

28 July 2018 9:00 am

Every cinema-loving person has a favourite Bruce Lee moment. My own comes towards the end of Enter the Dragon, the…

Mandela revisits his prison cell on Robben Island in 1994 [Getty]

What Nelson Mandela really craved in prison: Pond’s Cold Cream

28 July 2018 9:00 am

So much rubbish has been written over the years by those who feared, revered or pretended to know Nelson Mandela…

Tommy Nutter in 1973 — the most exciting tailor on Savile Row in decades, according to Hardy Amies

You didn’t have to be mad to work for Tommy Nutter — but it helped

2 June 2018 9:00 am

The tailor’s art is a triumph of mind over schmatte. Not just in the physical cutting and stitching, but in…

Hello darkness, my old friend: Paul Simon, determined to ensure that his true self remains in shadow

The sound of silence that echoes round Paul Simon

26 May 2018 9:00 am

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble choosing the jacket cover of Robert Hilburn’s authorised biography of Paul Simon…

Dorothy Parker: poet, short story writer, acidic reviewer and queen of the Algonquin Round Table

America’s wittiest women fight to be taken seriously

26 May 2018 9:00 am

From Aphra Behn to Virginia Woolf, women who make a living by their pens have frequently felt the need to…

The young Descartes: I fought, therefore I thought

5 May 2018 9:00 am

Descartes is most generally known these days for being the guy who was sure he existed because he was thinking.…

Kitty Marion: too radical even for the suffragettes

28 April 2018 9:00 am

The suffragettes are largely remembered not as firestarters and bombers but as pale martyrs to patriarchy. The hunger artists refusing…

Inger Nilsson as Pippi Longstocking in the Swedish television series. Astrid Lindgren drew deeply on her own childhood for her books

There’s much of Astrid Lindgren in the carrot-haired rebel Pippi Longstocking

21 April 2018 9:00 am

Pippi Longstocking is a nine-year-old girl who lives alone with a monkey and horse in a cottage called Villa Villekulla…