Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming (1956)

Opens with a kind of pre-titles chapter in which we meet a dentist who is smuggling diamonds out of a British diamond mine in Sierra Leone by paying the black workers to smuggle uncut stones out of the mines in their teeth. He pays the miners cash, takes the stones, assembles them into a package […]

Moonraker by Ian Fleming (1955)

Moonraker is divided into 25 chapters, themselves grouped into three fast-moving parts: Monday (chapters 1 – 7) Tuesday-Wednesday (chapters 8-17) Thursday-Friday (chapters 18-25) The tight time-frame and the solely English locations (London, the Drax rocket firing complex on the Kent coast, and the roads between) make this feel like a very domestic adventure. Fleming’s Othello. Sir Hugo […]

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming (1954)

‘So it is convenient that you should die together. That will happen, in an appropriate fashion,’ the Big Man looked at his watch, ‘in two and a half hours’ time. At six o’clock,’ he added, ‘give or take a few minutes.’ ‘Let’s give those minutes,’ said Bond. ‘I enjoy my life.’ (p.225) Luxury He certainly […]

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (1953)

‘It’s not difficult to get a Double O number if you’re prepared to kill people.’ (p.64) The casino in question is in the fictional French town of Royale-les-Eaux, just north of Dieppe, near the mouth of the river Somme (p.34), based on the holiday resorts of Deaville and Trouville – ie not the sunny south […]

To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 by Ian Kershaw (2015)

This is volume seven in the eight-volume Penguin History of Europe and it is very good. It has to cover a lot of ground and Kershaw does it clearly and authoritatively. He does this more by focusing on broad themes and issues, than getting snarled up in details. It is a high-level overview. Contents The […]

Zero History by William Gibson (2010)

Zero History is a 400-page novel about has-been rock stars and pretentious advertising executives in search of a reclusive designer of ‘really cool’ jeans and jackets. It is mind-bogglingly shallow, pretentious and boring. Zero History is the third novel in William Gibson’s so-called ‘Blue Ant trilogy’, itself the third of Gibson’s three trilogies of novels. […]

My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl (1979)

‘Is this exactly what happened?’ Sir Charles asked me. ‘Every word of it, sir, is the gospel truth,’ I lied. (p.45) Apart from his well-known children’s novels, Dahl also wrote movie screenplays, TV scripts, and some fifty-four short stories for adults which appeared in various magazines throughout his career, the first in 1942, the last in […]

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box 1957–59 by David Kynaston (2014)

Opening the Box is the first book in volume three of David Kynaston’s epic social history of post-war Britain. It opens on 10 January 1957 as Harold Macmillan drops by Buckingham Palace to be made Prime Minister, and ends on Friday 9 October 1959 as the final results show that the Conservatives have won a staggering […]

Family Britain: A Thicker Cut, 1954-57 by David Kynaston (2009)

This is the second part of the second volume of David Kynaston’s social history of post-war Britain. As usual, it is a dense collage of quotes from the diaries, letters, interviews, surveys and speeches of an enormous range of people from Prime Minister Winston Churchill to vox pops of shoppers in the street via civil […]

Family Britain: The Certainties of Place by David Kynaston (2009)

Two more massive ‘books’ contained in one hefty 700-page paperback describing Britain after the war, the first one – The Certainties of Place, under review here – covering the period 1951-5 in immense detail. The main historical events are: The Festival of Britain (May – August 1951) October 1951 the Conservatives just about win the general […]