Wednesday, 11 June 2008

ES Turner

A couple of times I've mentioned ES Turner's ABC of Nostalgia - see Nostalgia - but assumed the author's name was too familiar to need explanation (clearly my age and reading habits are showing). Nor did I realise he died only recently. Ernest Sackville Turner was an astonishingly venerable freelance journalist whose career began in the late 1920s, included 50 years writing for Punch, and continued until his death at 96 in July 2006. See the Guardian obituary and this 1998 London Review of Books interview, Seventy Years in a Filthy Trade.

Turner's specialism was British social history, written in a witty and cultivated Edwardian tone. His perspective was of someone old enough to remember the early-mid 20th century, but objective enough to balance affectionate nostalgia against the often darker side of the past. Here's a nice example of his work: Petting Caf├ęs!, a review of Donald Thomas' An Underworld at War: Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War, which reveals a reality of wartime crime that makes Foyle's War look tame and is completely at odds with the usual rosy picture of a nation united. The London Review of Books has a number of his other reviews online.

- Ray

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