- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate: The Unauthorised Biography Paperback – 6 Sep 2006
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
About the Author
Graham Lord is a biographer who has also published novels. For nearly 20 years he was the influential book columnist of the Sunday Express. He lives mainly in France.
Top Customer Reviews
Throughout he relishes "evidence" from interviewees who have something derogatory to say about Mortimer, to the extent that he fails to exercise any sensible judgment about the value of what they are saying; for example, he interviews one amongst hundreds of school contemporaries who, years later, says Mortimer failed to make much impression on him, and present that as a representative view - although clearly it is worthless as evidence. At times he acknowledges that Mortimer's first wife was both promiscuous and an extremely difficult woman, but when it suits him Lord presents her as a martyred victim. The author's own right wing political views colour many of his judgments and are over-intrusive, as are his increasingly bitter personal judgments. A statement that Mortimer embellishes his anecdotes is accompanied by the non-sequitur "In other words they're lies?" Yet Lord is perfectly happy to use those anecdotes regularly in the book.
This could have been so much better if Lord had put aside his bitterness and his wish to shock to produce something properly researched and reasonably balanced. If Mortimer did withdraw any authorisation, he made the right decision.
It was apparent from the first two pages that the author, Mr Lord, an unfortunate surname in some respects for this book, was not going to be heaping uncritical praise on Mr Mortimer. In fact, it seemed to me he was really rather relishing the chance to scrape his claws down the subject's naked flesh. His charge that Mortimer hates god is not really justified in the pages that follow even if the subject finds shortcomings in religion. I'm with Mortimer on this one. So, we're in for a bubble pricking exercise, fasten your seatbelts. Mortimer and Rumpole for the defence, Lord as self-appointed chief prosecutor.
And emerges the subject as a character who is vain, philandering, dishonest, insecure, superficial, over-rated, camp, unattractive emotionally retarded, cowardly, faithless, bullying, sozzled, and slapdash. All charges supported by a range of character witnesses predominantly based around Mortimer's earlier life and first marriage. It's a scurrilous but utterly compelling read, the latter being essential for the author and the reader. It's well written and pacy as it might well be from such an experienced journalist. It's not without some praise for some of Mortimer's writing, and for his undoubted charm and mental agility. Oh yes, he can also cook a little and he's not a bad father, liberal with it.Read more ›
Mortimer may well be ugly, lecherous, bibulous, a showoff, a humbug, a champagne socialist and, at times, a repetitive bore. However, unlike Lord, he has literary talent and has produced some of the funniest novels and most memorable characters in modern English fiction, such as Haverford Downs in Summer's Lease or Rumpole of the Bailey. A Voyage Around My Father is one of the best plays written in the latter half of the 20th century and was a fitting swan song for Laurence Olivier whose performance of the role of Mortimer's father was superb.
This is not to say he is a great writer and much of his work, particularly his so-called journalism - soft interviews with "personalities" and vapid "profiles" - is worthless. He may not have written the screenplay for Brideshead Revisited although why it has taken all this time for those involved to make this claim is a mystery. At the end of the day, these are trivial points and Mortimer certainly deserves better than this feeble job which is little more than a rummage through old newspaper cuttings. In one paragraph alone, Lord quotes interviews from the Times in 1960, the Telegraph in 1998, the Express in 1993, the Daily Mail in 2002, the Sunday Express magazine in 1991 and the Independent in 1999.
Take a tip from me - ignore this and buy Summer's Lease or Dunster or Under the Hammer or one of the Rumpole collections and read something by a talented writer and not this bilious diatribe full of spite and vanity from a literary midget.