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Julian Maclaren-Ross - memorialised in fiction by Anthony Powell in a sequence from his A Dance to the Music of Time as the enigmatic novelist X Trapnel - remains a fascinating figure.
John Betjeman called him a genius and Evelyn Waugh revered his work, but a colourful life in Soho bars, alcoholism, drug-taking, his erotic obsession with Sonia Orwell, a wartime court-martial and his dandified dress (he once worked as a jobbing gardener in Bognor Regis, "behind a mower in his cream suit, cigarette- holder tilted skywards", as a friend observed) have tended to overshadow his literary achievement. The elegant attempts he made to create a hard-boiled idiom for English fiction similar to that of Ernest Hemingway and James M Cain were also bedimmed.
This week, Paul Willetts, whose biography of him, Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia, is a cracking portrait of bohemian London, which revisits the life and work of the writer and talks about the recently published Selected Stories (pounds 9.99, Dewi Publishing), a new collection of Maclaren-Ross's short fiction.
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