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Mark Ramsden

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by Elson Quick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Like a younger, never grumpy Paul Theroux. And much better on sex and enlightenment., 11 July 2013
This review is from: Baddha (Paperback)
Man gets lost while seeking enlightenment, gets mired in desire.

Wise, funny, no mosquitoes. Excellent travel writing, giving us a vivid account of Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand, shrewd observations of people and places. Much helpful advice for Dharma Bums, plenty to chew on if you've ever dabbled with Zen. Very good if you're more On The Couch than On The Road and essential if you're visiting the Far East or just want to have fun.

P is For Prostitution: a modern primer
P is For Prostitution: a modern primer
Price: 6.13

5.0 out of 5 stars A counter culture Odyssey. A Hippy Harlot's vivid travelogue. Druggier than Burroughs with a much warmer heart, 3 July 2013
The jaw dropping story of a Sacred Whore who gave her all then and now. A truly astonishing tale with some disturbing artistic visions from Dark Goddess Ruth Ramsden. Think you've lived a little? Try this!

The North: (And Almost Everything In It)
The North: (And Almost Everything In It)
by Paul Morley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.60

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unedited Pretentious Drivel...doesn't mention Get Carter...the North mostly Manchester & environs?, 30 Jun 2013
Fancy being trapped in a lift with a speed freak burbling on interminably with hardly any paragraph breaks extrapolating endlessly from his own stultifyingly dull experience, randomly throwing in half digested highbrow references to try to appear intellectual? Me neither.
At least there's an index so you can check if any of your favourite people or places crop up.
Stuart Maconie's Pies and Predjudice infinitely preferable.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2014 10:17 AM BST

The Rapist
The Rapist
by Les Edgerton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.64

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkest Noir, 8 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Rapist (Paperback)
If the narrator of Camus' The Outsider had written an especially disturbing thriller it would be The Rapist - rock hard, darkest Noir, very fine writing, first class storytelling.
An intelligent, proud psychopath on death row tries to win your approval, in the last few hours before the big sleep. You don't like him but it's impossible to stop reading.
While some of us tourists can sometimes concoct realistic stories from knowing criminals and having dabbled occasionally, Mr Edgerton has served time, giving him knowledge citizens prefer not to have.

I'm thrilled to have a new author over whom to obsess. It's been a while since I discovered Ted `Get Carter' Lewis, Elmore Leonard and Thomas Harris. Decades since I saw my first Tarantino. Les Edgerton belongs in that company.

The Devil's Tune
The Devil's Tune
by Iain Duncan Smith
Edition: Hardcover

114 of 120 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Come back Jeffrey Archer, all is forgiven, 17 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Devil's Tune (Hardcover)
Well this started off a stampede to the tills wherever books are sold. Slow, shallow, unconvincing, about as realistic as a government declaring dying people fit for work. Which could never happen.

From Winchester to This
From Winchester to This
by William Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smarter Than Mart, 14 Feb 2013
Many people write autobiographies to settle scores or to justify their own behaviour, as in Martin Amis's Experience. This self lacerating account is considerably more courageous, smarter and funnier, a unique account of a more eventful life. Louche, consistently funny and full of extraordinary anecdotes, (one of his finest works is the Brewer's Dictionary of Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics, any future volume could include much of his own life), this book is framed by the conceit of not being able to write it.

Characters discuss how fictionalised they should be, the narrator muses on what should go to life of a man who was sometimes an unlovable rogue. He's fine with abandoning wives and children, but you have to read Terence Blacker's biography to discover that he once stalked and attempted to ruin one of his obsessions who had abandoned him for twelve step therapy. His eventual habit of falling in love with sex workers a great deal younger than himself, and using his money to control them and maintain his own dominance, is not entirely admirable although many of his companions remember him fondly. His occasional intellectual and social snobbery risks alienating the reader. However, we are at least spared his occasional detours into abstract philosophy. He once reduced a woman to tears of boredom discussing one of the least accessible contemporary thinkers.

I thought I was a William Donaldson completist but I managed to miss the arrival of this 1998 autobiography. So did his own publisher really: no paperback, few reviews. Despite inheriting a shipping fortune and the splendour of his Sunningdale childhood this was never going to appeal to Downton Abbey aficionados. Decades of womanising isn't going to charm Bridget Jones fans. Potential readers may not have known of Winchester School, heard of William Donaldson or be aware that he finished up alone and poverty stricken. So the title was never going to start a stampede to the tills.

He was always a rebel, keener on intellectual pursuits and low life companions despite briefly being a Naval Officer and a member of the Princess Margaret set. He squandered three fortunes, one inherited, one from producing Beyond The Fringe, and the third from Henry Root. As he borrowed the idea for Henry Root from an American writer, and he didn't have the copyright to any of the returned letters from duped celebrities, he was perhaps fortunate to hold on to that one. As Terence Blacker's biography of Donaldson shows, he was sued by a man on an entirely bogus plagiarism charge, and Donaldson recalls here that a theatre producer once tried to ruin him on a legal technicality. He deserved some good fortune in his later years.

Despite having a massive hit with Beyond The Fringe, and helping satirists like John Bird, N.F.Simpson and some of the Pythons make a name for themselves, he eventually succumbed to financial and domestic chaos in the mid 60s. He attempted marriage and various stable relationships but never recovered from seeing the Moulin Rouge dancers as a teenager or having his first sexual experience with a high class prostitute. The Daily Telegraph obituary called him a 'sybarite', although a Detective preferred the term 'pond life', unimpressed with his raffish mileu, where you were just as likely to meet Mad Frankie Fraser or a sex worker as a renowned writer or actor, He might have made a good character for JP Donleavy, whom he met while producing a play of The Ginger Man. They remained friends, meeting to discuss writing at Harrods, over a milk shake. He was never part of what he termed as the `alcohol culture', despising middle brow drunks like Jeffrey Bernard, the 'rude old tart' in the Colony Club, where camp artistic alcoholics gathered for decades and a culture which prefers Inspector Morse to Wittgenstein, perhaps because his childhood friend Julian Mitchell wrote several of the screenplays, more because of the relentless beeriness.

There was already undisguised autobiography in several of Donaldson's novels, hence the title Is This Allowed? His debut Both The Ladies and the Gentlemen, title adapted from Auden, cover quote from Kenneth Tynan, detailed his life as companion to a Chelsea call girl. This led to the prudes and Christian bores of Private Eye going on and on about him being a `pimp' - encouraged by Donaldson's own term admittedly, he liked being seen as worse than he actually was - but he was merely fortunate to be kept off the streets while penniless, "I made an excuse and stayed". He didn't source punters or spend her money, apart from smoking industrial quantities of dope. It's hardly 'big pimping' as Maltese gangsters would have understood it or today's boneheaded brutes.

There's an intriguing portrait of Peter Morgan, now one of the world's top screenwriters, back then a companion of Donaldson's during marathon crack binges, while they were writing Root Into Europe which starred George Cole.

Incidentally, Donaldson appears in Clive James' The North Face of Soho. If you remember James' abysmal epic poetry in rhyming couplets, you may be surprised to find that James wanted to dramatise Both The Ladies and The Gentlemen entirely in rhyme. For some reason the fat, ugly egomaniac takes several pages to say that one of Donaldson's partners was a vulgar frump, distinctly unattractive. WIlliam Donaldson's lovers included Carly Simon and Sarah Miles, he cuckolded Laurence Oliver with Vivienne Lee, his first wife was a blonde beauty who starred in Bedroom farces and 'Mrs Mouse' was an in demand, upmarket Chelsea sex worker, the refined daughter of a General. But James knows best, the man who inflicted Margaret Pracatan on the viewing public.

Speaking of Show Business calamities, the theatrical disasters recounted here are often extremely funny. He preferred promoting clapped out vaudevillians and surrealists like The Alberts to a pile of poo like Les Miserables. Discovering that the on stage bar served real alcohol inspired one female trouper to keep up a derogatory commentary on the rest of the acts which included a snake charmer who lost control of his fellow performers. "Don't put your snakes on the stage, Mrs Worthington." A New York cabaret star was brought over to perform, opening with 'Hello, my name is Mr Kicks'. The stage kept on revolving, revealing the portly actor Fred Emney struggling into a pair of trousers and then the band once more, and so on through several complete cycles.
He did however establish Peter ,Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett, he published Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes before anyone else and he gave an insistent guitarist who camped in his office a gig: he turned out to be Bob Dylan.
`Where did it all go wrong?' was once asked of George Best, by a room service waiter, as he paid for Champagne with a large wad of cash, a drink he was about to share with a model as glamorous as he was handsome. Blacker's biography, deep breath, 'You Can't Live As I Did Without Ending Up Like This: The Thoroughly Disgraceful Life and Times of William Donaldson' poses the same question. Yet its subject lived longer than many people who didn't use drugs their entire adult life, finishing up by he taking crack regularly for well over a decade.In addition to his theatrical legacy he wrote a great deal, and was a bestseller for some years, in addition to being a critical success. Auberon Waugh thought one of his novels was of Nabokovian quality but recognised that his reputation was unlikely to help build a literary career.

I prefer his satires to anyone else's, probably because he is more recent and humour dates badly but also because I agree with the manifesto: legalise sex and drugs and attack right wing philistines and prudes, particularly those hoping to exacerbate inequality.
This book is well worth avoiding if you're trying not to take drugs, or have recently joined a new men's anti pornography group. It's written entirely in the mindset of an unrepentant sex and drug addict. He did it his way, until he was found at 70, alone, with the computer displaying some pornography. Well, is that really so bad after a life of hedonism, and having written much better books than his detractors? What has Richard Ingrams ever done apart from bully adulterers? Before leaving his wife for a much younger woman. Oh, and he eulogised Malcolm Muggeridge. How absolutely splendid. Should Donaldson have become a pompous misery like Jonathon Miller? Whatever his faults Donaldson undoubtedly helped defeat Mary Whitehouse and those opposing the toleration of drug use and left behind a lot of very entertaining, thought provoking books, among the best of which is this one.

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