John Preston

The Grand Hotel after the bombing (Photo: Getty)

Behind the scenes at the Brighton bombing

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Sadly, I can’t see it catching on, but one of the notable things about Jonathan Lee’s new novel is that…

'Jack' in his St John’s Wood studio, his portrait of Luisa Casati on the easel

The Etonian peer who became an assistant to a Mexican commie

18 October 2014 9:00 am

The lefty hereditary peer has few equals as a figure of fun, in life or literature. The late Tony Benn…


The author’s father didn’t want you to read this book. It’s hard to understand why

19 July 2014 9:00 am

There were several times when reading A Dog’s Life that I felt as if I’d fallen into a time warp.…

‘Jeanne arranged for a Marie Antoniette lookalike to linger coyly in the undergrowth in the park at Versailles’

The queen, the cardinal and the greatest con France ever saw

14 June 2014 8:00 am

You usually know where you are with a book that promises the story ‘would violate the laws of plausibility’ if…

Jeff Bridges stars in the 2010 film, True Grit Photo: Kobal/Skydance Productions

There's so much mystery around Charles Portis that we're not even clear whether he’s alive

7 June 2014 9:00 am

The American writer, Charles Portis, has had what some novelists — the more purist ones — might regard as an…

(FILE) In Profile: 100 Years Of US Secretaries Of State

Hillary, Obama, Osama — and a hapless Bill

22 February 2014 9:00 am

The actor David Niven was once badgered by the American columnist William F. Buckley to introduce him to Marc Chagall,…

Do you believe in Elves? Photo: John Anster Fitzgerald

Why are Scandinavians so happy when they should be so sad? 

25 January 2014 9:00 am

As I sit here in my Sarah Lund Fair Isle sweater, polishing my boxed sets of Borgen and nibbling on…

Major John Wesley Powell  with a Paiute Indian, Arizona, 1873 Photo: Getty

Simon Winchester slides off the map

14 December 2013 9:00 am

This book begins with Simon Winchester becoming a US citizen two years ago: ‘I swore a solemn oath before a…


Curtains for kitty! How to care for cats — and how to kill them

7 December 2013 9:00 am

The New Yorker has always had a peculiar affinity with cats, perhaps because they have a lot in common —…

Landseer’s portrait of Queen Victoria riding in Windsor Home Park four years after the death of Prince Albert

Queen Victoria, by Matthew Dennison - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

When Prince Albert died in 1861, aged 42, Queen Victoria, after briefly losing the use of her legs, ordered that…

Move Along, Please, by Mark Mason - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Mrs Thatcher was widely believed to have said that ‘any man over the age of 26 who finds himself on…

A poster for the American mind-reader Alexander, 1915 (reputedly printed by ‘Av Yaga’, Bombay)

Magic, by Ricky Jay - review

3 August 2013 9:00 am

People, they say, want different things from a book over the summer than they do the rest of the year.…

Dear Lumpy, by Roger Mortimer - review

25 May 2013 9:00 am

After the success of Dear Lupin, Roger Mortimer finds himself facing something not normally experienced by former Guards officers who…

'Kurt Vonnegut Letters', by Dan Wakefield - review

27 April 2013 9:00 am

In the early 1950s Kurt Vonnegut became the manager of a Saab dealership in Cape Cod, a job which often…

Away with the fairies

16 February 2013 9:00 am

There have been plenty of books in recent years in which apparently sane hacks go off in search of loonies…

Mono Print

Beautiful and damned

9 February 2013 9:00 am

According to his mother, Neville Heath was ‘prone to be excitable’. He was that all right — and then some.…

The further tragedy of unknowing

5 January 2013 9:00 am

Margaret Evison spent Easter 2009 with her 26-year-old son Mark, who was about to go to Afghanistan as a lieutenant…

Torn between ideology and compassion

29 December 2012 9:00 am

On 1 September 1978, the then prime minister Jim Callaghan invited six leading trade unionists to dinner at his Elizabethan…

Divided loyalties

3 November 2012 9:00 am

On his first day at boarding school in Kenya in the early 1950s, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o stood to attention as…

Colossal windbags

27 October 2012 9:00 am

‘Senior British diplomats really knew how to write,’ declares Matthew Parris in his introduction to The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase, a…


Bookends: Umpty, umpty, umpty…

11 August 2012 6:00 am

According to Ogden Nash, the reason the British aristocracy wrote so much is because they could never understand what they…


A date with death

2 June 2012 7:00 pm

On 8 January 1937, an old man was taking his prize songbird for an early morning walk in the eastern…

Enter a Wodehousian world

26 May 2012 4:00 pm

On 26 February 1969, Roger Mortimer wrote to his son, Charlie: ‘Your mother has had flu. Her little plan to…


One that got away

21 April 2012 11:00 am

There are six drawings in the back of this book. They’re not very good drawings. In fact they look as…

Africa’s excesses

17 March 2012 9:00 am

There are an awful lot of prostitutes in Africa and most of them seem to pass through the pages of…