The Lost One – A life of Peter Lorre

(Stephen Youngkin) Standard, almost obsessively detailed reference book on the whispering menace. Peter gets to stroll the green lanes of Paradise for his work in M, Mad Love, Crime and Punishment, Strange Cargo, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Beat the Devil. He gets censured for taking work away from actors of certain nations and ethnicities, e.g., Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, Dutch and Irish (although we doubt the authenticity of that last one, from Beat the Devil).

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Talleyrand

(by Duff Cooper) When told that those who fell in with Napoleon had “betrayed the cause of Europe”, Talleyrand replied that was “a question of dates”.  A legendary survivor, his apparent inconsistency seems to have less to do with a lack of morals than with the exigencies of geopolitics. This elegant biography of the wily, oleaginous and adaptable diplomat-statesman, serving French Kings from Louis XVI to Louis-Philippe, was written by Duff Cooper, who knew a thing or two about difficult men (and women).

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Triumph and Demise

(Paul Kelly) An account of the Australian Federal Labor Government 2007 – 2013. Kevin Rudd, his bete noire Julia Gillard, et al, stalk about like characters in The White Devil, passionless and brainless villains. You could play ‘Sortes Virgilianae’ in respect of some of the players, substituting DSM 4R.

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Recollections of a Bleeding Heart

(by Don Watson) A portrait both affectionate and sharp, of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, beautifully written and constructed by his ‘bleeding heart’ speechwriter (scribbling for him 1992-96).  For all his faults, Keating was a remarkable polemicist and his panache, once he had got to grips with a concept, or a slip by the enemy, was extraordinary. Best example: turning John Hewson’s budget reply charge that Keating would “pull everyone down to the lowest common denominator” into a lethal riposte: “Nothing Keating said in 1992 was as good as this. John Hewson had defined himself as Gordon Gecko….

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Parting the Waters

(by Taylor Branch) This is the first of a trilogy re American civil rights politics under the stewardship of Martin Luther King Jnr, covering the years 1954 to 1963, ending with the march on Washington and the death of JFK. This giant work is bigger than a mere bio of King and its scholarship and sheer mass of detail is leavened with clear and eloquent prose and mature reflection. No panegyric, this: King is treated as a human, remarkable though he was, and as the politician he surely was. A wonderful work that demands to be read and read again….

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