The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach

In 2002, a wealthy 85-year old industrialist called Jean-Baptiste Meyer is murdered in his Berlin hotel. A sixtysomething Italian, Fabrizio Collini, is responsible. After 34 years’ blameless service as a toolmaker at the Daimler factory, he has snapped. Meyer is shot four times in the back of his head. It is an appalling crime which…

Autumn by Ali Smith

So how do we ever know what’s true? Elisabeth said. Now you’re talking, said Daniel. Elisabeth (teenage girl) and Daniel (elderly man) are discussing Goldilocks (an exchange which comes, by the way, with Ali Smith’s trademark absence of inverted commas). In Daniel’s version of the story, Goldilocks is a vandal who has broken in and…

State of Emergency by Dominic Sandbrook

‘For God’s sake, bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country!’ Home secretary Reginald Maudling (who admittedly did not need much of an excuse) spluttered this after a 1970 visit to Northern Ireland. Such gossipy titbits are a major reason why Dominic Sandbrook’s books on Britain since the 1950s are so entertaining –…

Amazing Grace: The Man Who Was W.G. by Richard Tomlinson

It’s definitely autumn. The cricket season is over. But don’t be downcast, people of England: the Ashes are looming! W.G. Grace loved Australia: he enjoyed insulting Australians. In his biography Amazing Grace, Richard Tomlinson describes the ‘final, hellish’ two weeks of his tour there in 1873-74 as being ‘like an extended Victorian episode of Men Behaving Badly‘.…

Peter Hall’s Diaries edited by John Goodwin

‘I’ve been re-reading Peter Hall’s Diaries. Suddenly they start to make sense. They’re a catalogue of misery.’ Richard Eyre It would be easy to dislike the late Peter Hall. Indeed, many people did. After all, he set up the Royal Shakespeare Company in his twenties, was knighted while running the National Theatre in his forties.…

Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse

Autumn’s here, but don’t despair. There’s this: ‘It was that gracious hour of a summer afternoon, midway between luncheon and tea, when Nature seems to unbutton its waistcoat and put its feet up.’ Yes, the first paragraph sets the tone. You either warm to it or mentally curl up in a peevish ball. If the…