Like Jack, there is no front about him, just a genuine enthusiasm for life as “one of the luckiest men on earth” able to indulge his passion for history and gift for writing by creating a vivid world of blood and battles, bad girls and blackguards that leaps off the page
The book pulls back the net curtains to reveal the naked rage we English try to disguise with everything from jokes and gardening to animals and alcohol. It is as surprising and touching as it is amusing and splenetic – as one would expect from one of Britain’s leading cultural commentators.
“It has always occurred to me that what writers approaching their 50s should do is just disappear and try and become someone else,”
Storytelling saved Sally Gardner, the bright and passionate author of the novel I, Coriander. As a child she was bumped from school to school, at one point ending up at an institution for maladjusted children straight out of Dickens because neither her teachers nor parents could understand why such a clever girl, with an obvious love of books and words, could not read. It was the 1960s and she was dyslexic, a condition that had yet to be recognised.
DI John Rebus does not always see the softer side of Scotland, which is why his creator crime writer Ian Rankin wanted to show his the place is not all murder and mystery in Rebus’s Scotland, he tells Danuta Kean.
After this, The Office and the sitcom Hardware, is he worried about being typecast as “The Everyman”, an expression he uses himself. “I only use it because other fuckers keep saying it, you know what I mean?” he jokes.
Gerald Scarfe, whose needle sharp caricatures have burst many an inflated ego, learned a valuable lesson early in his career about portraits and propaganda. The experience bears fruit this autumn in a book that has already created headlines in the gossip columns.
The hardest thing faced by Hollywood actor Ewan McGregor about his forthcoming road trip with best buddie and fellow actor Charley Boorman, will be getting off his BMW motorbike and taking a cup of tea. But it is vital they do, says Boorman, not least because the trip will make very dull reading otherwise.
Michael Heseltine is hunched up on a sofa in the sunlit drawing room of his Belgravia house. He looks uncomfortable. “You’ll read that in the book. It’s all in the book,” he says for the fourth time, and runs his long fingers through his grey locks. His eyes are a frozen blue. He is wary of letting slip anything that could affect the serialisation of his forthcoming autobiography,
“The trees that were dying, that I took down, were planted in Georgian England. The trees I am planting now will survive for two more centuries. So there is a 400-year span of English history. It puts politics into perspective.” Michael Heseltine