The Spectator


Ian Thomson has contributed reviews and articles to the Spectator since 1987. Here is a selection of recent contributions:



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

Ian Thomson 11 October 2014

An Event in Autumn Henning Mankell

Harvill Secker, pp.176, £9.99, ISBN: 9781846558078

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,… Read more


The real Dad’s Army was no joke

Ian Thomson 30 August 2014

Operation Sealion Leo McKinstry

John Murray, pp.486, £25, ISBN: 9781848546981

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’

Ian Thomson 28 June 2014

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

Macmillan, pp.447, £25, ISBN: 9780230766174

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 Reportedly a difficult and withdrawn woman, her life in the Caribbean (apart… Read more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

Ian Thomson 21 June 2014

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

Faber, pp.421, £14.99, ISBN: 9780571297757

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

Ian Thomson 7 June 2014

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

Bloomsbury, pp.214, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408815991

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!

Ian Thomson 10 May 2014

A Curious Career Lynn Barber

Bloomsbury, pp.211, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408837191

An Encyclopaedia of Myself Jonathan Meades

Fourth Estate, pp.341, £18.99, ISBN: 9781857028492

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’

Ian Thomson 3 May 2014

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

The Friday Project, pp.259, £16.99, ISBN: 9780007524389

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

Ian Thomson 15 March 2014

Inside a Pearl Edmund White

Bloomsbury, pp.261, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408820452

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)

Ian Thomson 1 February 2014

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

Dalkey Archive, pp.435, £9.50, ISBN: 9781564788894

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!’

Ian Thomson 11 January 2014

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector Benjamin Moser

Penguin Books, pp.479, £12.99, ISBN: 9781846147814

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

Ian Thomson 4 January 2014

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

Bitter Lemon Press, pp.576, £20, ISBN: 9781908524102

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