David Crozier turns up his collar and spies out all sorts
ofcharacters. In modern times there has never been a spy to equal Kim I’hilby. By the early 1930s his role in life was determined and he set about infiltrating the British Secret Intelligence Service with unwavering determination. Fortified by his ideology and innate charm. and granted the luck of a drunk crossing Marble Arch. he edged his way towards the top of the SIS with alarming ease. Had he not. as he tells Phillip Knightley. misjudged friendships which eventually led to the tightening of the net around him. he may well have been appointed ‘(". head ofthe Secret Intelligence Service. 'I‘his. thought I’hilby. who died in May this year. would have been unlikely and remains a matter ofsupposition. but he would. undoubtedly. have been a member ofthc SIS‘s top brass. “hat is undeniable is the damage he did when he was at his most effective. between 19-1-1 and 1951. Asa former (‘IA agent says. in the curious argot of his trade. ‘when you look at the whole ofthat period . . . the entire Western intelligence effort. which was pretty big. was what you might call a minus advantage. We'd have been better off doing nothing.’ Phillip Knightley‘s biography
reveals little that spy buffs do not already know. The writing betrays signs of haste and the tone is journalistic. Ilunks ofthc meaticr bits have appeared in The Sunday Times earlier this year and the author. updating and revising as he goes along. not infrequently harks back to his own earlier books.
The effect is scissors and pastish but undeniably gripping. Knightley's scoop. however. is a six day interview he gained with I’hilby-
before his death. Was this an attempt to justify. mislead. wipe clean the slate‘.’ With a titan as devious as I’hilby it is hard to tell. But it does afford a glimpse behind the iron arras and reveals the spy. ironing his ’l'imes. engrossed in the crossword puzzle. happily married. following the cricket and dining and drinking well in a country that he loved. Indubitably. he was a traitor and. by proxy. a murderer. but it did not prey on his conscience; all was grist to the ('ause. What else would you expect from a man who. asked by his wife to choose between her. the children or the (‘ommunist l’arty answered without a moment's hesitation: "l'he l’arty. ofcourse.‘ (David (‘ro/ier)
Phi/by: 'l'lte [.1]?qu l'it'tvs oft/1e KGB .llustcrspy Phillip Knight/(ﬂy (Andre[)eur.vt'/1[/4.‘)5)
I MacDiarmid Alan Bold (John Murray £17.95)'1'he first attempt to tie down the infuriating. egocentric charmer. admirably researched and presented with panache and sly humour.
I A Serious Character: The Lite ot Ezra Pound I Iumplirey ( ‘arpenter (I’aber £211) You're damn right he is: over 1001) pages makes for very serious reading. Iiverything you want from a bore and a good deal more.
I Dickens: A Biography Fred Kaplan (Ilodder ck Stoughton £17.95) Though it in no way usurps Iidgar Johnson’s nigh-definitive life Kaplan (previous form: 'l‘homas (’arlylc) has produced a readable. schematic study even if he is fond of his pulpit. I Byron‘s Travel Allan Massie (Sidgwick and Jackson £14.95)
Despite deliberately bodyswerving his lordship‘s disastrous marriage Massie is not only an informed tour guide but a waggish. gossipy companion well-versed in Byronic anecdote.
I Dr Mavorand Mr Bridie Ronald Mavor ((‘anongate and the National Library of Scotland £7.95) As the title suggests the playwright's son stresses the duality of his father — doctor by day. dramatist by night 7 but is not overwhelmingly convincing. An overdue book. replete with quotes from his father‘s letters and examples of his draughtsmanship. compensating for the pedestrian prose and dulb moralising.
I Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? Marion Meade (lleineniann £12.95) A fistful of facts garnished with barbs minted by the diminutive occupant of the Algonquin's hiin chair.
I SorJuana: Her Lite and Her World ()ctavio I’az (Faber £27.50) 'I‘he life and times ofone of the most remarkable Mexican women of the 17th century. likened by that country’s best living poet to Iimily Dickinson.
I The Trial of Socrates l.l‘~‘. Stone ((‘ape £12.95) Did he jump or was he pushed'.’ Stone has the gall to challenge received opinion and conducts the defence the philosopher ought to have made had he wanted to save his neck.
I The Lite ot Kenneth Tynan Kathleen 'I‘ynan (Methuen £5.95) Read it and restore your faith in theatre. critics . and fig leafs.
I Sylvia Plath: A Biography Linda w. Wagner-Martin ((‘hatto £12.95) Sylvia 2 Ted (1.
SURE AND STEADMAN
‘Any chance of getting it banned?‘ asked Ralph Steadman. I said all things were possible. ‘Use your inlluence Alan. Call Tim Waterstone, tell him it‘s blasphemous, anything to get it moving.‘ It is the cocktail hour in well-set Edinburgh and the artist-cum-prophet is all gloom and doom. Psyching himsell up in the Oxford Bar with a pint of Caledonian 80/— and a ‘Low Flyer‘, a generous measure of Famous Grouse. he is worrying aloud about what late has in store torThe Big I Am (Cape, a trilling £15), his latest ink-savaged masterpiece. In tune with the sombre new opus he has assumed the look of a Franciscan monk, his eyes dark as communion wine, what‘s Iett at his silver hair haloing a head that could have been shaped by Henry Moore. Later in a nearby bookshop Henry Moore will come into his own but in the meantime Ralph is playing Jeremiad. As he says at the end at TBIA ‘the end is nigh-but notthat nigh.‘ This is dead serious stutt; Steadman talking on behalf of God. Let me hasten to explain that Steadman has not lound religion, it has lound him. But this is not a book about religion — we don’t want to put you all buying it. It anything, it‘s the
antithesis of religion. The Big Re-write. The Gospel According to Gonzo.
Ralph is a cartoonist in a quandry, or, atthe very least, in a pigeon-hole. ‘They keep wanting me to be lunny,‘ he says, howling into his brew. ‘They' are the pundits who have lapped up every daub till now. And boy can Steadman be lunny. Look at ‘Leonardo‘. Dr ‘The Scar Strangled Banger‘. Drthe cartoons in ‘Between the Eyes‘. Drthe Oddbins catalogue. Drthe man himself.
Buttonight he turns on the melancholy. As ‘God‘s messenger‘ he has very little option. In TBIA he delivers the story at the Creation as it really happened. None of that ‘In the Beginning’ crap. There‘s Mr and Mrs God, the Missus signing ott giving birth to the world. Grumpy God struggles on as a single parent as the first signs of lite arrive in the form of lice.
This is not an auspicious start tor mankind and things do not improve. God is not amused. Man is a mess and manages to make a bigger mess ol the world particularly when he gets religion. Ralph puts words in Mr God‘s mouth which in a earlier age would have had him stoned. In the beginning was the word and the word is blasphemy. Are you listening, Mr Waterstone? (Alan Taylor)
the List 25 Nov -s l)ec loss 61