William Waldegrave (Photo: Getty)

William Waldegrave: too nice ever to have been PM

‘Lobbying,’ writes William Waldegrave in this extraordinary memoir, ‘takes many forms.’ But he has surely reported a variant hitherto unrecorded…

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) with his children Scout and Jem in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman should never have been hyped as a ‘landmark new novel’, says Philip Hensher

Philip Hensher on the tangled history of To Kill a Mockingbird’s much-anticipated ‘sequel’

Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, by William Corden the Younger, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter. ‘What a hold the place has on one,’ she observed of Cliveden

Love nest or den of iniquity? Cliveden has always been shrouded in mystery and scandal

Well, you can’t say he wasn’t warned. Swimming pools, Nancy Astor told her son, Bill, were ‘disgustin’. I don’t trust…

War games

Welcome to the world of Big Byz

The title of Victor Pelevin’s 2011 novel stands for ‘Special Newsreel/Universal Feature Film’. This product is made by the narrator,…


Rich, thin and selfish in Manhattan

The scene: a funeral parlour in New York. Doors clang as a family relative, the ‘black sheep’, saunters in halfway…

Israeli soldiers treat hostages after they were held for a week at Entebbe airport after the highjack of an Air France plane, 1976 (Photo: Getty)

Was Operation Thunderbolt the most daring mission in history?

Operation Thunderbolt was, Saul David contends in this gripping book, ‘the most audacious special forces operation in history’. In June…

Supporters pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo before a match at the Mayol stadium in Toulon (Photo: Getty)

France’s favourite bedtime story: a sanitised version of the French Revolution

The great conundrum of French history is the French Revolution, or rather, the sequence of revolutions, coups and insurrections during…

Looking idiotic: Cathy Fechoz performs ski ballet at the Olympic Games, Albertville, 1992. The sport no longer exists

Anyone for eel-pulling?

Scholarship for its own sake has rather gone out of fashion, although I’m sure Spectator readers would be the last…

Sneer of cold command: Velázquez’s portrait of the Count-Duke of Olivares, Philip IV’s ‘Ozymandias-like vizier’ (detail)

Spain’s golden age — with a silver lining

As every schoolboy knows, ‘the empire on which the sun never set’ was British, and ‘blue-blooded’ was a phrase applied…

Mexican soldiers stand amidst poppy flowers and marijuana plants (Photo: Getty)

The war on drugs is stupid and counter-productive

Rosalio Reta was 13 years old when recruited by a Mexican drug cartel. He was given a loyalty test —…

Boccaccio and Petrach

The constant inconstancy that made Italians yearn for fascism

Jan Morris on the inconsistency and paradox that has characterised Italian thought over the centuries — and the desperate search for certainty

Author Ken Kalfus (Photo: Getty)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and other characters to make you cry with laughter

Coup de Foudre has a line from Antony and Cleopatra as its epigraph: ‘Some innocents ’scape not the thunderbolt.’ In…

Geoffrey Mutai leads the New York City marathon in November 2013

The harsh, lonely lives of Kenya’s astonishingly gifted runners

Two Hours is a kind of Hoop Dreams for runners. Ed Caesar follows a handful of Kenyan marathoners, tracks their…

Kamal Daoud (Photo: Getty)

The Outsider — from the viewpoint of the victim’s family

In 1975 the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, in a lecture at the University of Massachusetts, identified Joseph Conrad’s Heart of…

Jonathan Ames (Photo: Getty)

The best Jeeves and Wooster novel Saul Bellow never wrote

Wake Up, Sir! is the latest novel by the American humourist Jonathan Ames; the book first appeared in the States…

Athenian general Xenophon

Financial crises are nothing new in Greece — they go back at least to the Peloponnesian War

Financial crises are nothing new in Greece. Back in 354 BC, at a time when Frankfurt was still a swamp,…

‘Working Boats from around the British Coast’: mural with mermaids and a dancing lobster by the visionary artist Alan Sorrell, commissioned for the Festival of Britain, 1951

Fishy women: the mermaid in folklore, art and literature

The first mermaid we meet in this intriguing, gorgeously produced book is spray-painted in scarlet on a wall in Madrid,…

Has A.N. Wilson reached the last port of call on the tempestuous sea of faith?

A.N. Wilson has had a tempestuous journey on the sea of faith. His first port of call was St Stephen’s…

Dennis Potter, 1978 (Photo: Getty)

Dennis Potter: one of the last great masters of vituperation

‘Genuine invective is an almost lost art in our wild satirical age,’ Dennis Potter complained in New Society in 1966.…

‘Pleasures of a sea voyage’ from Three Men and a Bradshaw

Where are the green silk blinds of the once luxurious Metropolitan Line?

Most current writers on railways don’t want to appear at all romantic lest they be shunted into the ‘trainspotter’ siding.…

Robert Moses in 1952

The sadist who wrecked New York, and the last of the great biographers

John R. MacArthur on the bureaucratic titan who gratuitously bulldozed a great city and displaced and demoralised half a million of its inhabitants


The boy who rebuilt the sun on earth

In 2008, when Taylor Wilson was 14, he created a working nuclear fusion reactor, ‘a miniature sun on earth’. At…

The Sex Pistols stole the introduction to ‘Pretty Vacant’ from Abba’s ‘SOS’ (Photo: Getty)

Copyright: the great rock’n’roll swindle

For a music fan, the quiz question, ‘Who wrote “This Land is Your Land”?’ might seem laughably easy. Yet if…

‘The Number of the Beast is 666’ by William Blake

The end of the world: an illustrated guide

At the heart of the eschatological ideology of the Islamic State is the belief that when the world ends (and…

American marines coming ashore at Guadalcanal, 1942 (Photo: Getty)

Hirohito, MacArthur and other villains

The history of ‘great events’, Voltaire wrote, is ‘hardly more than the history of crimes’. Physically, the war in Asia…