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When characters leap off the page

AS IF Malcolm Bradbury didn't have enough trouble. His new novel, Dr Criminale, failed to make the Booker shortlist and has been coolly received by the critics, who decided they'd had enough novels in the wandering academic genre. This one follows a television researcher's quest for the wandering Bazlo Criminale, a mysterious, polymathic philosopher, who turns out to have a less-than-creditable past. Now Bradbury has been contacted by an American professor with the same surname. While the approach was friendly, this is enough to make any author (and publisher) blench: there has been a series of suits over what is known as 'unintentional defamation' since 1910 and the case of a barrister named Artemus Jones. He had taken exception to a light-hearted piece in the Sunday Chronicle. 'There was Artemus Jones,' the sketchwriter wrote, fancifully characterising figures among the crowd at a Dieppe motor rally, 'with a woman who is not his wife, who must be, you know - the other thing]' Though the author and the paper's editor proved they did not know and hadn't heard of a real Artemus Jones, the jury still awarded substantial damages. Bradbury tells us he discovered the name Criminale some years ago above a shop in Italy. 'It was perfect for a philosopher with a tainted quality,' he says. And at the request of William Criminale Jnr, professor of oceanography, geophysics and applied mathematics at the Washington University in Seattle, he has dispatched a copy of the novel. Bradbury's fingers are crossed: 'His career is so far away from my Criminale's,' he says hopefully.

THE crowds watching Tosca on the giant screen in Covent Garden tonight won't see Pavarotti at his most mobile as he plays the artist Cavaradossi: the tenor's 20 stones preclude much gadding about these days. When the production team discussed this problem with him, Pavarotti, himself an amateur artist, was forthright - 'I am a painter]' Artists, he went on, tend to stand still and observe what is going on around them. And so he does.

Cornish expansion

ANYONE who fears that the empire-building days of our monarchy are over should take a look at the latest accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall, the financial base of the Duke of Cornwall (aka the Prince of Wales). What in 1990 was 'a landed estate of approximately 128,000 acres spread over 22 counties', by 1991 had become 'a landed estate of approximately 130,000 acres spread over 23 counties'. The Duchy has snapped up a little matter of 1,927 acres in Hereford and Worcester.

FASCINATING news emerges of the plans for the Big Breakfast Show, which replaces the Channel 4 Daily from 28 September, to brighten your early morning. Not only will it be broadcast from a 'real house' in east London, but celebrity guests who plug books or shows will be punished by being made to do forfeits - 'like cleaning the windows'. So it seems the real house will either have very clean windows, or the Big Breakfast Show won't have any guests.

Legal recognition

MUCH of the credit for the weekend's revelations of an alleged homosexual vice ring in the upper echelons of the Scottish legal establishment should go to Kenny Farquharson and Willie Paul of the Scotland on Sunday newspaper. Will this scoop, we wonder, impress the judges of the Scottish Law Society's Silver Quill Awards for legal journalism? Probably not - Farquharson and Paul have entered similar tales for the last two years, but walked away with nowt so much as a pencil. Can't think why.

YOU'VE been diligent in supplying us with dire titles of books of memoirs. Angela Laing tells us of Teeth at War, the privately printed reminiscences of Lt-Col J R P Thomas of the Royal Army Dental Corps, a copy of which is at the Royal British Legion in London. And we're very grateful, meanwhile, for news of Sixteen Hands Between Your Legs by the eventer Julian Seaman, just published by Robson Books. More please.


16 September 1944 Harold Macmillan writes in his diary: 'Left with General Alex in the famous open car. We motored on north of Florence to a village called La Trellia. Then we climbed a hill and to the top of a high tower. From there one could see the whole great Apennine range stretched before one's eyes, and for two hours with glasses and maps we watched the fierce battle that was taking place. On our way home, we stopped in Florence. The Duomo, Baptistery, Giotto's tower, Palazzo Vecchio, Loggia di Lanzi, S. maria Novella - all these stand quite uninjured. No Allied shell or bomb fell in the city. These were General Alex's orders. All the destruction is German. He is very proud of the fact that so far he has succeeded in saving Rome, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Assisi, Perugia, Urbino from any except minor damage.'