Ian Thomson has contributed reviews, interviews and articles to the Spectator since 1987. The magazine was founded in 1828. The literary pages represent a broad church of opinions.

Reviews and Articles

30 April 2016

Filming the Final Solution

Article on Laszlo Nemes’s film Son of Saul

26 March 2016

Diced heart and a full-bodied red

Review of Valerio Varesi’s A Woman Much Missed

14 May 2016

Rewriting holy write

Review of Harry Freedman’s The Murderous History of Bible Translations

16 July 2016

The Day Before Happiness Jumps on the Neapolitan Bandwagon

Review of Erri De Luca’s novel

12 June 2015

Beautiful, bedevilled island

Review of books on Sicily

12 March 2015

Wild Man of the Woods

Review of Nina Lyon’s Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man

3 October 2015



10 October 2105

Modernity, Whiskey and Cats: the J.G.Ballard I knew


21 November 2015

The Grand Tour 


21 November 2015

A martyred city

Review  of Frederick Taylor’s Coventry: Thursday 14 November 1940

12 December 2015

Here’s to Bill

Review of A.A.Gill’s Pour Me: A Life

12 December 2015

How a book on Einsteinian relativity became a Christmas hit

Review of Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

11 April 2015

How Fellini made his modernist masterpiece

Otto e mezzo returns to British screens

12 September 2015

Psychedelia and Other Colours

Review of Rob Chapman’s history of LSD and its cultural ramifications

4 April 2015

“I Will Call the Police!”

My Close Encounter with Revenue Protection

21 March 2015

Life in the LA ghetto was nasty, brutish and short

Review of Jill Leovy’s non-fiction Ghettoside

14 March 2015

Anders Brievik: lonely computer-gamer on a killing spree

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad (translated by Sarah Death)

10 January 2015

What unites Churchill, Dali and T.S. Eliot? They all worshipped the Marx Brothers

On the eve of a BFI season of Marx Bros films, Ian Thomson celebrates the anarchic genius of Groucho and his brothers…

29 November 2014

Bob Marley: from reggae icon to Marlboro Man of marijuana

A kind of political correctness dictates that one should not be too hard on Bob Marley, who died of cancer in 1981 aged 36. His loping, mid-tempo reggae sounds slightly…

29 November 2014

Death wears bling: the glory of London’s Caribbean funerals

How Great Thou Art: Fifty Years of African Caribbean Funerals in London by Charlie Phillips

Death is big business in parts of the Caribbean. In the Jamaican capital of Kingston, funeral homes with their plastic white Doric columns and gold-encrusted ‘caskets’ are like a poor…

Wave goodbye to the weight-gaining, drunk-driving Inspector Wallander

11 October 2014

An Event in Autumn Henning Mankell

Some years ago I met the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell at the Savoy Hotel in London, where he was staying. A waitress came up to our table. ‘I think,…

The real Dad’s Army was no joke

30 August 2014

Operation Sealion Leo McKinstry

Dad’s Army, the sitcom to end all sitcoms, portrayed the Home Guard as often doddery veterans. In one episode, Private Godfrey’s genteel sisters are seen to prepare their Regency cottage… Read more

Only tourists think of the Caribbean as a ‘paradise’

28 June 2014

Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day Carrie Gibson

A couple of years ago in Jamaica, I met Errol Flynn’s former wife, the screen actress Patrice Wymore. Reportedly a difficult and withdrawn woman, her life in the Caribbean (apart… Read more

The punk who inspired a generation of British woman to pick up a guitar

21 June 2014

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine is deservedly famous as the guitarist of the tumultuous, all-female English punk band The Slits. Their debut album, Cut, released in 1979, combined jangly Captain Beefheart-style guitarwork with… Read more

Narcotically-induced mischief in an urban wasteland

7 June 2014

Music Night at the Apollo: A Memoir of Drifting Lilian Pizzichini

Fifteen minutes by rail from Paddington, Southall is a ‘Little India’ in the borough of Ealing. An ornate Hindu temple there, the Shree Ram, is set back from the beep… Read more

Exclamation marks, no; aertex shirts, yes!

10 May 2014

A Curious Career Lynn Barber

An Encyclopaedia of Myself Jonathan Meades

Jonathan Meades, the architectural, food and cultural commentator, appears on television in a pair of retro shades and a trademark Blues Brother suit. He looks like a poseur, and indeed… Read more

Jorge Luis Borges and his ‘bitch’

3 May 2014

Georgie & Elsa: Jorge Luis Borges and his Wife: The Untold Story Norman Thomas di Giovanni

When Jorge Luis Borges died in 1986, at the age of 87, he left behind 100-odd slender fictions and as many poems, but no novels. Compared with the blockbusting authors… Read more

Gay Paree: food, feuds and phalluses – I mean, fallacies

15 March 2014

Inside a Pearl Edmund White

In his preface to The Joy of Gay Sex (revised and expanded third edition), Edmund White praises the ‘kinkier’ aspects of homo-erotic life. Practical advice is given on frottage, spanking,… Read more

Was Flann O’Brien at his best when writing about drink? (Answers on a damp stressed envelope, please)

1 February 2014

The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper (eds)

On his deathbed in Dublin in the spring of 1966, Flann O’Brien must have been squiffy from tots of Paddy. A bottle of the amber distillate was smuggled in to…Read more

‘She’s the most important Jewish writer since Kafka!’

11 January 2014

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector Benjamin Moser

The Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector was a riddlesome and strange personality. Strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes, she died in Rio de Janeiro in 1977 at the age of only… Read more

The many attempts to assassinate Trotsky

4 January 2014

The Man Who Loved Dogs Leonardo Padura, translated by Anna Kushner

Leon Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, is a retired chemist in his early eighties. I met him not long ago in the house in Mexico City where his grandfather was murdered… Read more

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