Howard Marks: the dreary life of a drugs dealer

Julie Burchill vs celebrity memoirs

14 November 2015 9:00 am

I learned from this little lot that if one has read The Diary of a Nobody, then one can derive…

Clockwise from top left: Rudyard Kipling, Hannah More, M.R. James, Elizabeth Bowen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Candia McWilliam

The best British short stories — from Daniel Defoe to Zadie Smith

7 November 2015 9:00 am

In this handsome two-volume anthology, Philip Hensher convincingly establishes himself as a world authority on the short story, says Ian Sansom

‘Nocturne in Grey and Gold’ by James McNeill Whistler, 1874

London fog: from the Big Smoke to the Big Choke

7 November 2015 9:00 am

‘A foggy day in London town,’ croons Fred Astaire in the 1937 musical comedy A Damsel in Distress, puffing nonchalantly…

Gloria Steinem (Photo: Getty)

Where would America be without Gloria Steinem?, asks Carmen Callil

7 November 2015 9:00 am

This is a book written by a most admirable woman, which is nevertheless — with some rare and excellent exceptions…

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (Photo: Getty)

Umberto Eco really tries our patience

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Colonna, the protagonist of Umberto Eco’s latest novel, is the first to admit he is a loser. A middle-aged literary…

Ferdinand Porsche, the inventor of the Doodlebug and the Panzer tank, was treated with rare deference by Hitler, bordering on idolatry

Ferninand Porsche: from the Beetle to the Panzer tank

7 November 2015 9:00 am

The aggressive character of the famous German sports car, in a sort of sympathetic magic, often transfers itself to owner-drivers.…


When escape to the sun — or even to Devon — goes horribly wrong

7 November 2015 9:00 am

A character in Sophie Hannah’s A Game for All the Family (Hodder, £14.99, pp. 432) presents a theory: ‘Mysteries are…


Warning: this book only contains strong language

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Dan Marshall, the author of this memoir, loves to swear. ‘It’s very difficult for me to write a sentence without…

Even the appearance of a lone wolf at Salem was enough to trigger accusations of witchcraft

Has Salem bewitched Stacy Schiff?

7 November 2015 9:00 am

There have been many books devoted to the terrible events that took place in the small rural community of Salem…

An early photograph of Sinatra, the flute-thin crooner.From Charles Pignone’s Sinatra 100 (Thames & Hudson)

Frank Sinatra never went away — but did he ever grow up?

7 November 2015 9:00 am

‘He never went away. All those other things that we thought were here to stay, they did go away. But…


To the ends of the earth — but not back

7 November 2015 9:00 am

What’s in a name? The identity of the author offers a clue to one of the themes of this intriguing…

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, from the east, painted by the Flemish artist Jan Siberechts in 1695. In the foreground the D-shaped bowling green sits on a raised terrace with a banqueting house on its southern side

Discover your inner nerd

7 November 2015 9:00 am

There’s a curious thing about the bowling green in my Suffolk village. The footpath running alongside it is on a…

Hugh Trevor-Roper (Photo: Getty)

Spies in the spotlight

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Spying is a branch of philosophy, although you would never guess it from that expression on Daniel Craig’s face. Its…

John le Carré in 1964, shortly after the publication of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The real subject of John le Carré’s novels is his conman father Ronnie

29 October 2015 9:00 am

John le Carré has been writing about a mirror world for over 50 years — and he’ll continue to do so for as long as his father haunts him, says Andrew Lycett

Paradise — with a strong undercurrent of violence

Sri Lanka: emerald paradise with a dark interior

29 October 2015 9:00 am

For a genre that is frequently dismissed as dead, travel writing is proving a remarkably stubborn survivor. If anything, this…

iStock_000023680051_Small copy

Puccini’s villain as swashbuckling hero

29 October 2015 9:00 am

You don’t need to know the opera Tosca to understand and enjoy this book about Puccini’s most notorious villain, Vitellio…

Frost was an effective interviewer because he was never combative — hence the famous admission of failure that he extracted from Nixon in 1974 (above) and from Blair in 2003

David Frost’s tablet in Poet’s Corner should have read: ‘To the Unknown Television Presenter’

29 October 2015 9:00 am

On 13 March 2014 a congregation of 2,000 people, including many of the great and the good, gathered in Westminster…

Broadcaster and author, Melvyn Bragg (Photo: Getty)

The Peasants’ Revolt — such a thrilling moment in English history — has eluded novelists in the past

29 October 2015 9:00 am

Considering that it was, as Melvyn Bragg rightly puts it, ‘the biggest popular uprising ever experienced in England’, the Peasants’…

‘I hope you don’t mind these letters that just go on and on’

Iris Murdoch’s letters just go on and on — as she herself was the first to admit

29 October 2015 9:00 am

Iris Murdoch’s emotionally hectic novels have been enjoying a comeback lately, with an excellent Radio 4 dramatisation of The Sea,…

Elect of God, Conquering Lion of Judah and King of Kings, c.1930

The King of Kings and I: Haile Selassie, by his great nephew

29 October 2015 9:00 am

Great men rarely come smaller than Haile Selassie. In photographs, the golden crowns, pith helmets and grey felt homburgs he…


Bedtime reading at Hallowe’en

29 October 2015 9:00 am

The thick of autumn is upon us, dear reader, and with it the shivers. Around Hallowe’en you may be tempted…

Members of the Hitler Youth clear debris after an air raid on Berlin, August 1944

The swastika was always in plain sight

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Ordinary Germans under the Third Reich did have wills of their own, argues Dominic Green. Most actively embraced Nazi ideology, and were aware of the extermination of the Jews. As the war worsened for them, what did they think they were fighting for?

Charlotte Brontë, as she appears in Branwell’s famous group portrait of his sisters (detail)

Charlotte Brontë: Cinderella or ugly sister?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Preparations for next year’s bicentennial celebrations of the birth of Charlotte Brontë haven’t exactly got off to a flying start.…

Author David Mitchell (Photo: Getty)

David Mitchell is in a genre of his own

24 October 2015 9:00 am

David Mitchell’s new book, Slade House, is not quite a novel and not really a collection of short stories. It…

Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu (Photo: Getty)

What does it really mean to have a tyrannical father?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

What was it like, asks Jay Nordlinger, to have Mao as your father, or Pol Pot, or Papa Doc? The…