A January Miscelleny

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Why do all my posts need a single subject? Here are some random moments from the past month that slipped through my fingers. First, I took a walk along Regent Street on Christmas Eve – there was hardly anyone around, and little movement except the flapping of electronic angel wings. One of the nicest (and […]

Waugh Stories

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Imagine being part of a literary dynasty; the pressure to achieve must be unbearable. We automatically think of stern Catholic Evelyn Waugh as his dynasty’s prime mover, the man whose innovative satirical writing came to symbolise an era (that’s him above, looking extremely cross). But he wasn’t the only writer. Alec was the younger brother of […]

Stories Set In Country Houses

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The 2018 Bryant & May novel will be set in a country house, as I thought it was high time I gave Agatha Christie a bit of a going over. Adrian Tinniswood’s excellent book ‘The Long Weekend’, on life between the wars in the English country house was a big help here, because he describes […]

No More Classical Allusions?

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‘Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?’ Tony Hancock asks his fellow jurors. ‘Did she die in vain?’ In ‘The Producers’, nervous accountant Gene Wilder attempts to do the books of sleazy theatrical agent Zero Mostel, who terrifies him, inducing a hysterical fit in Wilder. ‘You’re going to jump on me!’ Wilder screams, ‘just like […]

Cinema Museum Picks 1

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  It came as a shock to be flicking through a copy of BFI Monthly (now called Sight & Sound) to discover that the first British colour feature film was made just 16 years before I was born. For me, ‘British film’ was a tautology, the punchline to a national joke on a par with […]

Six Letters, Starting With B

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Dorothy Bowers was a crossword compiler, born in Leominster, Herefordshire in 1902. She was the daughter of a bakery owner, and after a short and not especially joyful life died at 46 from tuberculosis. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that, on the basis of just six books, she had just been inducted […]

Go With The Flo

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I spent a large part of my life working around delusional types who have ignored the key celebrity maxim; ‘Never believe your own publicity’. But it never stopped them from thinking they had talent where there was none. Actors who step outside their field to comment on subjects they’re not intellectually qualified to cover can […]

How Much Research Is Too Much?

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I remember reading Dorothy L Sayers’ ‘The Nine Tailors’ and thinking, ‘Ms Sayers has definitely fallen into the research trap.’ The murder mystery requires a knowledge of campanology (bell-ringing), and is crucial the plot (there’s a cypher connected to change-ringing, and someone is deafened to death by bells) and although it’s a great novel she […]

My Best & Worst 2016 Films

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2016 was the year that movie scripts full of self-referential crudity finally reached Peak Ironic and burned themselves out, thank goodness. Now perhaps we can go back to good stories, well told. Let’s have no more business success stories or B-team superheroes. I also hope we’ve seen the last of a very tired trope, the […]

‘Strange Tide’ Appears In US

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‘Strange Tide’ just came out in America (the books are running a little behind the UK) and the reviews have been terrific. As I’m at home with a gruesome cold, this is a great lift for me. This just came in from the New York Journal of Books; Due to the ineptness of captain and […]