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The Mission Continues

Last week saw the publication of Joe Klein’s new book, Charlie Mike. The title refers to the services’ phrase for ‘Continuing Mission,’ and the book recounts how returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have organized themselves into two extraordinary groups, which will send in teams to help out disaster areas or other crisis points, where their army experiences enable them to adjust to the situation with great speed and immediately make themselves useful. ‘We do chaos,’ as […]

By |October 31st, 2015|0 Comments

A Necessary Hitch

Leafing through a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Letters (Delacourt Press, 2012), I believe I received the shortest letter he ever wrote. It reads: ‘OK, KV,’ a reply to my invitation to come to the Cheltenham Literary Festival in 1993, of which I was artistic director. He and his wife Jill Krementz duly came, and we housed them in Sudeley Castle, the impressive residence of Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe, a longtime festival supporter. Along with them we billeted Gore Vidal and his […]

By |October 28th, 2015|0 Comments

Absolute Bedlam

About three years ago, my elder son Toby gave me a distinctive Christmas present – a coupon for eight people to play Paintball. A few weeks later, Toby and his two siblings plus an assorted crew of friends joined me in weather that ranged from driving rain to outright snow at a paintball center outside Newbury. The game has evolved from the last time I played it – you can buy rapid-fire rifles, smoke bombs and even hand-grenades, which explode […]

By |October 27th, 2015|0 Comments

Fancy Fencing Underwater?

George and Shalva Kokochashvili are twin brothers from Tbilisi, the capital and largest city of Georgia. Both are civil engineers and inventors, and together share sixteen Georgian and Soviet Union patents for inventions in sport, medicine (surgery, plastic surgery, burns, water therapy) and engineering. But above all they share a passion for fencing. They have been involved in the sport since 1972, and recently George sent me the book he and his brother have been working on painstakingly for several […]

By |October 2nd, 2015|0 Comments

Forward, Backwards, Sideways

‘The reasons for the American Civil War were simple: the South didn’t want to give up their slaves, and the North didn’t want the South to secede.’ Thus Christopher Dickey, speaking last weak to an invited audience at the Player’s club on Gramercy Park South. The occasion was the publication of Dickey’s new book, Our Man in Charleston, the story of the British spy in the years leading up to the Civil War and beyond who, almost single-handedly,altered the course […]

By |October 1st, 2015|0 Comments

Spy Story

To the New York Public library for a half day’s special conference on Philanthropy. The reason for the four hours of discussion was the summer issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, the magazine which every three months posts an issue looking at one particular subject. Other recent issues have been on Fashion (just out), Swindle and Fraud, and Death (a bestseller). The magazine now sells some 44,000 copies an issue, an amazing amount for 224 pages all on a single topic.

Besides reproducing […]

By |September 24th, 2015|0 Comments

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