Brian Masters

Cash for cachet

Them and Us: The American Invasion of British High Society by Charles Jennings A dinner-party hosted by Chips Channon at his ostentatious Belgrave Square flat in 1936 frames this book. It is described in the introduction and appears again in the final chapter, for its composition defines what had gradually happened to high society in

How to ruin a good story

Buried within the pages of this book there lies an extraordinary story worth the telling, the bald facts of which require none of the elaboration to which they are here subjected. In 1896 a certain Anna Maria Druce, of 68 Baker Street in London, petitioned the home secretary to have her late husband’s coffin opened,

A week with a human monster!

Thirty years ago Sandy Fawkes was a Daily Express reporter following a story in the southern states of the USA. She met a good-looking young man in a bar, and spent the next six days in his company, driving around with him, eating out, and sharing a bed. He was enigmatic and monosyllabic, but sufficiently

The bare bones of the case

It seems only the other day that Ian Huntley was convicted at the Old Bailey of the pointless murder of two pretty Cambridgeshire schoolgirls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and here, already, is a book about the case by a journalist who covered every day of the investigation. One is bound to ask why. What

The prank that grew to giant proportions

The story has been told dozens of times already, but never gets dull, and until the 1996 McDonald’s libel case there had not been a longer saga played out in any English court. From 1867 the Tichborne claimant dominated conversation for years, and people openly despaired they might die before a verdict was reached. Photographs

So nice and yet so Nazi

We are none of us, thank heaven, one-dimensional creatures easily and succinctly defined by a single characteristic. It is an obvious truth, yet was almost entirely ignored in the reporting of Diana Mosley’s death in Paris last summer, announced with the same clamour as had enveloped her for many of the last 70 years of

Aches and aphorisms

It is difficult to demonstrate why the Lees-Milne diaries, of which this is the tenth volume, are among the best of the 20th century. Easy to feel why, for you race through the pages with addictive passion, not wishing to miss a word, but awkward to justify the excitement. These are not records of momentous

Climbing among the skyscrapers

According to Ward McAllister, the fabled gate-keeper of New York high society in the 1890s, to be counted among the privileged few you needed poise, an aptitude for polite conversation, a polished and deferential manner, an infinite capacity of good humour, and the ability to entertain and be entertained. And also, by the by, pots