Zenga Longmore

Ghosts of No. 10

If you associate Lord Salisbury more with a pub than with politics, here is Andrew Gimson to the rescue, with succinct portraits of every prime minister to have graced — or disgraced — No. 10 to date. You will find no trace of waspish mockery in his book. In a time when heroes are constantly

Imagine Eastenders directed by David Lynch

Ghostly doings are afoot in Edwardian London. Choking fog rolls over the treacle- black Thames. Braziers cast eerie shadows in grimy alleyways. Two sinister doctors hunch beside a dying fire in the appropriately-named Printer’s Devil Court, ‘a dark house, with steep, narrow stairs’. Having supped on a hearty repast of lamb stew and treacle pudding,

The Quickening, by Julie Myerson — review

The plot of The Quickening (Arrow/ Hammer, £9.99) by Julie Myerson (pictured) revolves around pregnant, newlywed Rachel and her sinister husband, Dan. Rachel’s ghostly journey begins when Dan suggests a holiday in Antigua. Even though Rachel has a creepy premonition when she sees a photograph of her Caribbean destination, she’s not deterred. Of course, strange

Getting the knives out

It’s odd that this book should be about a cleaner, because it exactly conjures up the emotions I felt when I worked as a cleaning lady many years ago. Contemplating the grease-encrusted kitchen floor I was about to scrub, I’d cry aloud: ‘How long must I perform this thankless, gruelling task? Why me?’ These agonised

Carrying on regardless

As a devotee of Fay Weldon I was amazed but nonetheless delighted by the change of her usual style. Set in 1899, her latest novel charts the lives and loves not of She Devils but Lord Dilburne’s household, both above and below stairs. The trademark Weldon wit is very much in evidence, only this time

Golden oldies

Jackie Kay, one of Scotland’s most celebrated living writers, is a woman of many voices. In her latest collection of short stories the voices mainly belong to women of middle to old age. Many are lonely, some are caring for barmy relatives, some are barmy relatives. Reality Reality’s most successful tales glow with a quiet

Going to the fair

Why would anyone want to buy this dreadful book? The frightful Simon Cowell appears to have co-operated with the author, and it is littered with repellent photographs — chiefly of a smirking Simon surrounded by beautiful ‘ex-girlfriends’. (Cowell is keen to inform us that he has had lots of girlfriends. He is not gay. Not.

Growing up in no man’s land

People who say, ‘Why don’t Asians try to integrate?’ ought to have known Yasmin Hai’s father. A Marxist Anglophile from Pakistan, Mr Hai imposed ‘true Englishness’ on his bewildered English-born children. He forbade them to speak Urdu. Western clothes were favoured instead of the traditional salwar kameezes and his girls’ beautiful ebony locks were cropped

Venus in tears

Saartjie Baartman, who performed under the name of ‘the Hottentot Venus’, became one of the most famous theatrical attractions of Georgian London. Exhibited like an animal for the entertainment of a paying crowd (‘two bob a head’), she was routinely obliged to suffer sharp prods in the buttocks from her curious audience who ‘wished to

Happy days in Middle America

According to Bill Bryson, 99.9 per cent of the world’s ills originated in America during the 1950s. Well, he doesn’t actually say that, as such, but in the course of his book he reveals some pretty grisly statistics concerning his homeland. Apparently, chemicals in food, endless nuclear-bomb testing, teenagers, intensive television- watching, American world domination,

How to succeed as a failure

‘Why do your tales of degradation and humiliation make you so popular?’ a fellow drinker at Moe’s Bar asks Homer Simpson. Homer replies, ‘I dunno, they just do.’ The toper would have been wiser to have addressed the question to Toby Young. No writer in Christendom has made a greater success out of failure. Young’s

Rescued by reindeer

‘Something about the idea of being a travel writer distresses me,’ laments Jenny Diski in the introduction of her book. ‘So,’ she continues, ‘this is not a travel book.’ Well, distressing as this news may be to both author and reader, this is a travel book. All travel writers have their foibles. Some wish to

The distaff side of death

The reason one heads straight for the obituary column when one is confronted by the Daily Telegraph is the abundance of rarefied mischievousness one finds therein. If it is grovelling hero-worship you crave, then Telegraph obituaries will disappoint. In Chin Up, Girls! we delight in a portrait of Dame Barbara Cartland: ‘In her later years,

The ghosts that haunt Brick Lane

What an extraordinary book. It reminds me of a magnificently woven carpet whose eclectic style combines oriental, East- ern European and Hebraic adornments. Threads are abruptly snipped and left dangling. Curry and blood-stains are spattered upon it, causing confusion and alarm. Gavron’s work defies categorisation. It is not a collection of short stories. It is

An uninspired foreign correspondent

What are the essential elements that make a good book of letters? The first is mild spite. Had John Gielgud spared us his catty asides (such as his amusement at Larry’s latest attempt at Iago) his letters would have been horribly dreary. The second is a lively correspondent. Fanny Kemble’s vivid letters describing the horrors

A bas la différence!

Kathy Lette’s latest novel begins with a zany one-liner: ‘How can we win the sex war when we keep fraternising with the enemy?’ The next sentence is a zany one-liner: ‘God, apparently as a prank, devised two sexes and called them opposite.’ The third is also a zany one-liner, and the fourth and the fifth.

Intruder in the dust

The Emma of the title was an intrepid young woman who journeyed to the Sudan in search of exotic adventure. Owing to an ill-chosen marriage she found herself at the centre of a bloody civil war. A few years later she met with an early death. One’s loins need to be well girded before embarking

Mr Nice and Mr Nasty

Quentin Crisp was, among other delightful things, a human paradox. He loathed the Gay Liberation Movement as bitterly as he despised Oscar Wilde, yet he did more than anyone else to change people’s attitudes towards homosexuality. He was unashamedly flamboyant, yet spinsterish and celibate; the sex act, he explained, was like ‘undergoing a colostomy operation