Ian Thomson

Mussolini’s fall from grace

11 November 2017 9:00 am

These days it is fashionable to claim Mussolini as a fundamentally decent fellow led astray by an opportunist alliance with…

Bob Marley and the Wailers at the Crystal Palace Bowl, 7 June 1980

The cult of Holy Bob

23 September 2017 9:00 am

The Harder They Come, Jamaica’s first (and still finest) home-grown film, was released in 1972 with the local singer Jimmy…

‘The Pacification of the Maroons in Jamaica’, by Agostino Brunias (18th century)

Redcoats and runaways

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Much romantic nonsense has been written about the runaway slaves or Maroons of the West Indies. In 1970s Jamaica, during…

Following a mistranslation of the Old Testament, Michelangelo depicted Moses with horns

‘Thou shalt commit adultery’

14 May 2016 9:00 am

Jesuits, the leading apologists for Rome and Catholic revival in Elizabethan England, cast a long shadow over the paranoid post-Armada…

Everything comes down to one man’s suffering: Geza Rohrig as Saul

Should the Final Solution ever be made into entertainment?

30 April 2016 9:00 am

In July 1986, nine months before he died, I met the Italian author and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi at his…

Modern Italy’s heart of darkness

26 March 2016 9:00 am

Valerio Varesi, the Turin-born crime writer, displays a typically Italian interest (I would say) in conspiracy theory. The Italian term…

The Green Man on a roof boss in Norwich cathedral

The Green Man's journey from Nazi to sweetcorn salesman

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The other day I visited a psychic medium in Croydon, south-east London. Mavis Grimstick (not quite her real name) boasted…

From Adrian Gill to A.A. Gill — with love and thanks

12 December 2015 9:00 am

Often, Christmas is a time for moaning after the night before, when the seasonal drinking is remembered (if remembered at…

A poetic and jargon-free textbook on theoretical physics is a surprise Christmas bestseller

12 December 2015 9:00 am

Physics is said to go deeper than other sciences into the riddle of existence. The laws of physics — gravity,…

Shock and awe in Coventry, 14 November 1940

21 November 2015 9:00 am

On 14 November 1940, at seven in the evening, the Luftwaffe began to bomb Coventry. The skyline turned red like…

View of the Bay of Naples, 1832

The delights and dangers of the Grand Tour

21 November 2015 9:00 am

The Grand Tour usually culminated with Naples, ragamuffin capital of the Italian south, where Vesuvius offered a visual education in…

Modernity, whisky and cats: the J.G. Ballard I knew

10 October 2015 9:00 am

That cinema is having another Ballardian moment will surprise few fans. J.G. Ballard, who died of cancer in 2009 at…

Transatlantic grandeur: A Cunard liner in 1932

Notes on cruising

3 October 2015 8:00 am

By the end of my ten-day Atlantic crossing to New York, a new wellbeing seemed to radiate from me. Lulled…

When flower power turned sour

12 September 2015 9:00 am

Aldous Huxley reported his first psychedelic experience in The Doors of Perception (1954), a bewitching little volume that soon became…

Sound and fury — the pianist James Rhodes is very angry indeed

20 June 2015 9:00 am

Ours is the era of everybody’s autobiography. Bookshops groan with misery-lit memoirs — Never Let Me Go, Dysfunction Without Tears…

San Domenico church, Palermo

Palermo: city of jasmine and dark secrets

6 June 2015 9:00 am

The Arabs invaded Sicily in the ninth century, leaving behind mosques and pink-domed cupolas. In the Sicilian capital of Palermo,…

Italy’s highest-paid heart-throb, Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a film director in ‘creative limbo’

How Fellini made his modernist masterpiece

11 April 2015 9:00 am

Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was a box-office triumph in Italy in 1960. It made $1.5 million at the box…

'I will call the police!': My close encounter with 'revenue protection'

4 April 2015 9:00 am

‘Make yourself a happy bunny this Easter with cheap tickets and egg-cellent deals!’ chirped the Abellio train company advert. I…

Life in the LA ghetto was nasty, brutish and short — until one brave detective took on the gangs

21 March 2015 9:00 am

Los Angeles ghetto life — thrashed, twisted and black — is not a world that most Americans care to visit.…

Anders Brievik: lonely computer-gamer on a killing spree

14 March 2015 9:00 am

In 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 69 teenagers in a socialist summer camp outside the Norwegian capital of Oslo, and eight…

Chico, Harpo and Groucho Marx (left to right) enjoy a day at the races

What unites Churchill, Dali and T.S. Eliot? They all worshipped the Marx Brothers

10 January 2015 9:00 am

‘I had no idea you were so handsome,’ Groucho Marx wrote to T.S. Eliot in 1961 on receiving from him…

Bob Marley: from reggae icon to Marlboro Man of marijuana

29 November 2014 9:00 am

A kind of political correctness dictates that one should not be too hard on Bob Marley, who died of cancer…

Drummers at a graveside wear white, based on Ethiopian orthodox funeral traditions

Death wears bling: the glory of London’s Caribbean funerals

29 November 2014 9:00 am

Death is big business in parts of the Caribbean. In the Jamaican capital of Kingston, funeral homes with their plastic…

The woman who invented the Italian resistance

8 November 2014 9:00 am

Italo Calvino, the Italian arch-fabulist, wrote a foreword to this celebrated wartime diary when it appeared in Italy in 1956.…

Wave goodbye to the weight-gaining, drunk-driving Inspector Wallander

11 October 2014 9:00 am

Some years ago I met the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell at the Savoy Hotel in London, where he was…