Arts and Entertainment

Private Alex Stringer, of the Royal Logistic Corps, was 20 when he was blown up in Afghanistan: "The reason I lost my left leg so high up is because the burning paint cooked my left leg all the way down to the bone. But if I hadn't set myself on fire, I would have bled out and died – as a result of it, all the arteries became cauterised".

Review: Solo, By William Boyd

Boyd’s Bond is driven but torn

Barbara Taylor Bradford: 'People think I do very little work, but I do 12 hours a day'

I'm surprised I haven't run out of ideas Right now I have seven ideas for novels on bits of paper. I'm prolific: I've been writing for 34 years and right now I'm writing my 29th novel.

Book of a lifetime: The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

When I first read The Transit of Venus, I was rather underwhelmed. I was in my twenties then and recently back in Australia after a period when I had thought I would make my life in France. I came to Shirley Hazzard's third novel by way of The Bay of Noon and The Evening of the Holiday. These ravishing early novels, both set in Italy, fed my nostalgia for Europe. I identified intensely with their young female protagonists whose private dramas were lifted into grandeur by the antique backgrounds against which they played out.

MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service, By Gordon Corera

The move of MI6 in the late Nineties from modest, relatively covert premises (though bus conductors were prone to yell, "Spies alight here") to one of the most glossily ostentatious buildings in London was not welcomed by many of the staff, who referred to their new home as Legoland.

Young Philby, By Robert Littell

Can this espionage story of the mythic Kim Philby give us something new?
Playwright William Boyd

William Boyd: From Chaplin to Chekhov

'Longing', a play based on two short stories, opens next year, the writer tells Susie Mesure

A bedroom in Habanavista

B&B and Beyond: Habanavista, Havana

A penthouse overlooking Havana's Malecón seaside wall is a new breed of 'casa particular', says Claire Boobbyer

James Tait Black Prize: Six authors shortlisted for Britain's oldest literary award

Six renowned authors from the past century have been shortlisted for a prize to recognise the best ever winner of Britain's oldest literary award.

Glamour sheen: With shades of gold, slate and tumeric and a simple pattern, this Persephone wallpaper by Clarissa Hulse adds a touch of glamour without dominating a space, £48, clarissahulse.com

All hung up for autumn

From swirls of colour to geometric metal patterns, Trish Lorenz unrolls the latest wallpaper trends

Richard Attenborough in the classic 1947 film 'Brighton Rock'

Information Commissioner confesses: Motorman case is too big for us to handle

Christopher Graham tells Leveson Inquiry that tackling case of private eye Whittamore is 'impractical'

Susie Rushton: Holiday reading is hard work

My best holiday memories aren't of sunsets or dolphin sightings but of wallowing in the shallow end of a swimming pool, giant inflatable ring wrapped around my middle, my face shaded by a fat paperback. I can't brag about the quantity of my beach reading like some: I'm slow, easily distracted, and usually only notch up two novels over a fortnight's break even while my hungrier holiday companions tear through one Penguin Classic after another.

The Blagger's Guide To...Mervyn Peake

A great talent as writer, illustrator – and father

DVD: Brighton Rock, For retail & rental (Optimum)

This fabulously over-ripe adaptation of Graham Greene's razors'n'rosaries gangster novel starts as a cheeky film-noir homage, but it soon tips over into self-parody: no scene is complete without some rolling thunder, some religious icons, and music so bombastic that Dr Frankenstein would have it on his laboratory iPod.

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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
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War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

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Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

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Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

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The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

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Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
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If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
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Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

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General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

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Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
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The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?