Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

Jenny Diski “was a writer for whom no subject was taboo”

enny Diski wrote candidly about her cancer diagnosis in her London Review of Books column. Photograph: Rex

enny Diski wrote candidly about her cancer diagnosis in her London Review of Books column. Photograph: Rex

Kate Kellaway writes:

Jenny Diski, who has died of cancer aged 68, was a writer for whom no subject was taboo. Her remarkable first novel, Nothing Natural (1986), about a sadomasochistic affair, was feted and damned in equal measure. It has a quality that persisted in all her work: a refusal to censor, a breezy determination to keep it real (whatever “it” turned out to be). She was the least deceived writer imaginable, and she was never complacent. She once said she wrote each new book out of a feeling that the one before had been a failure. She did not stop her zestful experimenting: 11 novels, two collections of short stories, memoirs, travelogues and essays. Each book was a new departure, but she is likely to be best remembered for her nonfiction.

In her idiosyncratic travelogue Stranger on a Train (2002), she intriguingly linked crossing the US by rail with escapist journeying in her youth on the Circle line of the London underground. In 2009, with The Sixties, she pulled off an unhackneyed account of the decade – sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, and Aldermaston marches. But her memoir Skating to Antarctica (1997) is the most remarkable of her books. It stars her daughter, Chloe, who steers Diski into finding out what became of her mother, with whom relations had been severed for decades. The narrative alternates startlingly between a trip to the frozen south and this search – Diski’s reluctant advance towards catharsis.

Fidel Castro, Cuban dictator, dies at 90

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

Kevin Sullivan and J.Y. Smith write:

Fidel Castro, whose Cuban revolution turned his Caribbean island into a potent symbol of the world’s greatest ideological and economic divides of the 20th century, has died, Cuban state media announced late Friday. He was 90.

The death was announced on Cuban state TV by Castro’s younger brother, Raúl, who succeeded his sibling years ago as the country’s leader.

The son of a prosperous sugar planter, Mr. Castro took power in Cuba on New Year’s Day 1959 promising to share his nation’s wealth with its poorest citizens, who had suffered under the corrupt quarter-century dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

Mr. Castro, a romantic figure in olive-drab fatigues and combat boots, chomping monstrous cigars through a bushy black beard, became a spiritual beacon for the world’s political far left.

Brian Inglis “belonged in politics to the centre, critical of the extremists in Labour and the Conservatives…”

Brian Inglis

Brian Inglis

In his obituary of Brian Inglis, Richard West writes:

Under the guidance of Inglis, the Spectator became for a time by far the most lively and readable of the weekly papers, as it was once more to be 20 years later. Like the proprietor, Sir Ian (now Lord) Gilmour, Inglis belonged in politics to the centre, critical of the extremists in Labour and the Conservatives, without enthusiasm for Liberals either, at any rate not with a capital letter. Under Inglis’s guidance, the Spectator championed during the 1950s most of the causes that came into law in the 1960s – easy divorce, the relaxation of censorship, the toleration of homosexuality.

Neil Langdon Inglis

Neil Langdon Inglis

Read the featured interview with Interlitq about his father, the author Brian Inglis, by Neil Langdon Inglis, U. S. General Editor of Interlitq, and a contributor to Issues 18, 19, 20 and 21 of Interlitq, and Interlitq´s “English Writers 1”, “English Writers 2” and “English Writers 3”,

Francis King “was fascinated by meanness and evil…”

rancis King in 1993. Photograph: Denis Jones/Evening Standard/Rex

Francis King in 1993. Photograph: Denis Jones/Evening Standard/Rex

Jonathan Fryer writes of Francis King:

Francis loved to travel, developing a passion for Egypt. Always immaculately turned out in suit and tie, he had the exquisite manners and precise diction of a former age. Though a strong supporter of the Conservative party, he held some radical views, not least relating to his sexuality. He was a prolific correspondent and took great delight in private missives in adopting fake personas of both genders, notably the putative Italian aristocrat, Francesca di Rimini Pimini. Francis claimed that the letters page of one edition of the Spectator was entirely filled with spoof letters he had sent from backwoods’ colonels and spinsters.

He was an extraordinarily kind and generous man, his generosity latterly obliging him to sell of some of his best paintings, including a magnificent Duncan Grant. His tolerance of some of his acquaintances’ dishonesty and unpleasantness puzzled many of his friends; despite being such a good man himself, he was fascinated by meanness and evil – as is reflected in some of the characters in his books.

Douglas LeVien, New York Detective Who Infiltrated the Mafia, Dies at 68

Douglas A. LeVien Jr. in 1972. Credit Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

Douglas A. LeVien Jr. in 1972. Credit Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

Douglas A. LeVien Jr., a former undercover police detective who in 1972 infiltrated the meeting ground used by New York’s five Mafia families, a landmark operation that produced scores of convictions, died on July 30 while vacationing in Saratoga, N.Y. He was 68.

The cause was a heart attack, his son Vincent Douglas LeVien said. Except for several months in the late 1970s when, under apparent threat of death from a high-ranking mobster, he was placed in the federal witness protection program, Detective LeVien lived in Brooklyn all his life.

An expert on organized crime who in a four-decade career worked with city, state and federal authorities, Detective LeVien — a French-Canadian name, pronounced luh-VYEN — was a 20-year veteran of the New York Police Department. Eight of those years were spent under cover.

“He’s disarming,” Edward A. McDonald, a former federal prosecutor who worked with Detective LeVien for years, said on Thursday, reflecting on his former colleague’s success as an undercover operative. “He didn’t come off like a tough guy, but he studied the people he was dealing with and knew what would be appealing to them and what they would be persuaded by.”

Mr. McDonald, who during the 1980s was chief of the federal Organized Crime Strike Force in Brooklyn, added: “He had incredible street sense. He grew up as a kid in the streets of Brooklyn and knew his way around.”

Detective LeVien’s most celebrated cases include the 1972 sting, called Operation Gold Bug, which centered on a Brooklyn junkyard trailer in which known Mafiosi planned a spate of crimes. He also played a two-year role as a drug-dealing millionaire in an operation that snared Enzo Napoli, a representative of the Sicilian Mafia who served the Gambino and Lucchese crime families.

In later years, his investigative work aided prosecutions in the Abscam federal corruption trials, the fatal Howard Beach racial attack of 1986 and the “Mafia Cops” case of the 2000s, in which two former New York police detectives, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, were convicted of crimes, including murder, committed while in the pay of the Lucchese family.

During Detective LeVien’s time under cover, his life was a web of identities assumed and identities discarded, with an array of passports and driver’s licenses to match. His work encompassed seedy motel rooms and million-dollar yachts; diamonds, stolen artworks and kilos of heroin and cocaine; and long, painstaking efforts to penetrate a famously clannish brotherhood.