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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 9 January 2010

"The Fatal Englishman" by Sebastian Faulks

This is a collection of "three short lives"; short in the sense that each is less than 110 pages long and short in the sense that none of the three men lived past 32.

Christopher Woods was a promising young English artist who knew Picasso and Cocteau whilst living in Paris in the 1930s. Whilst developing his art he travelled round Europe with his sugar daddy. He painted a portrait of Constant Lambert who named his son 'Kit' (Christopher's nickname). With Ben Nicholson he discovered Alfred Wallis at St Ives and decided to set up an artists' colony there (although he never actually settled there himself, preferring Brittany. Back in London and contemplating marriage he threw himself under a train.

Richard Hillary was a pilot in the Battle of Britain. Having been horribly burned in a crash he was given plastic surgery, wrote a book about his experiences, then talked his way back into RAF flying, crashed again and killed himself and his navigator.

Jeremy Wolfenden was the brilliant son of Jack Wolfenden, a headteacher and civil servant who became famous for chairing the Committee which recommended the repeal of the law against homosexuality. Jeremy was a Colleger at Eton and then, after National Service, went to Oxford. He lived a promiscuous gay life whilst it was still illegal; his friends included Kit Lambert who later managed The Who. He became a reporter for the Times and subsequently the Moscow reporter for the Telegraph. In Moscow he got mixed up with the Secret Intelligence Service (he was friends with and later married the maid who worked for the embassy couple who ran spy Godfrey Wynne who ran Russian Oleg Penkovsky) and the KGB (following a honey trap with a Polish boy or possibly a Russian waiter or possibly both). Later he went to Moscow; after the FBI reactivated him as a spy he drank himself to death.

On Green Dolphin Street by Faulks (also reviewed in this blog) is clearly based on Wolfenden's life.

Faulks writes beautifully and I found this a fascinating book.

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