Francis King

The Constant Philanderer

A Voyage Round John Mortimer

By

Viking 560pp £25 order from our bookshop

To Solon’s precept ‘Call no man happy until he is dead’ we should surely add another: ‘And until that event do not write the biography.’ John Mortimer’s first biographer, Graham Lord, was fortunate (though he may not have immediately recognised it) when, after a few months, Mortimer announced that he could no longer authorise his book, thus releasing Lord to proceed on his own with total candour. Valerie Grove, Lord’s appointed successor, faced a trickier task. Mortimer and his second wife Penny are friends of hers and, unlike Lord, who was prepared to be openly disapproving or even rude if his subject’s actions demanded it, she is in any case an essentially conciliatory, not combative, writer. Throughout her book one can only admire the adroit way in which, gently and sometimes also humorously, she either records or merely implies something not entirely favourable to her subject and then leaves it at that.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,