The Decline and Fall of a Friendship

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Just occasionally, a book is published that transports the reader through time and space to another world. The world in question here is that of Habsburg Mitteleuropa: a place of duels and balls, opera and cafés. It is a rickety, multinational empire of ten languages, and at least twice as many minorities, all ruled over […]

Fate & Flight

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Part of The Peregrine was first published in 1967. It and its additions still have a great power to astonish and thrill. Who was John Alec Baker, with his bike and binoculars, the Chelmsford man of so many unsatisfactory jobs, that he could turn the average birdwatcher’s diary into some of the most marvellous prose […]

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John Dugdale on James Salter

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The octogenarian American writer James Salter is being fêted this month as an overlooked fiction giant. Two publishers have joined forces to advance his claims to admission to the literary pantheon, with four reissues accompanying the paperback appearance of Last Night (Picador 132pp £7.99), a new collection of short stories. 

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Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Not long ago Patrick Hamilton was practically forgotten.  In his introduction to the 1974 edition of Hangover Square, J B Priestley remarked, ‘there must be a whole generation of readers who know nothing about him and his fiction’. By the start of the current century Hamilton, who enjoyed international success from the mid-1920s until his […]

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Rachel Ferguson

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Alas, poor lady – poor Rachel Ferguson. Few today, even among the well-read elderly, mention her eccentric and haunting novels, though from the 1930s to the mid-50s she was up there with Margaret Kennedy, Rosamond Lehmann and – almost – with Elizabeth Bowen. Born into comfortable circumstances in 1893 (a childhood in a Thames suburb […]

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An Inspector Calls

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

To start with, appropriately, a confession of guilt. Although there could be no greater admirer than I of Georges Simenon, I had not until now read a single one of his Maigret novels. The Simenon I know and revere is the author of such extraordinary fictions as Dirty Snow, Monsieur Monde Vanishes and The Strangers […]

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