Seamus Heaney

There can be few sights as poignant as that of an Irish poet struggling to find the right word on a slate-grey afternoon in London. And not any old Irish poet, the Irish poet: Seamus Heaney, 'Seamus Famous' as he is known in his native County Derry. From the top-floor boardroom of his publisher, Faber & Faber, the 61-year-old Nobel Laureate, former professor of poetry at both Oxford and Harvard, and three times winner of the Whitbread prize, looks out through narrow, puffy eyes over the rooftops Read more [...]

John Mortimer

From his father, as Sir John Mortimer cheerfully tells everyone, he inherited bronchial asthma, glaucoma and a tendency for his retinas to become detached. He was also bequeathed a number of walking-sticks. On an autumnal Tuesday morning, as I approach the house his father built on a wooded rise near Henley-on-Thames, Sir John waves one of these sticks at me from his study window, which proves that his sight can't be as bad as he makes out. His father went blind in middle life, though that was never Read more [...]

Jeffrey Archer

The lift glides to a halt at the penthouse suite on the 13th floor. A butler leads the way along a panelled corridor and into a spacious, glass-walled living-room. Lord Archer is standing in a rhombus of sunlight, his back to the glinting spires of Westminster. He raises his right hand, palm flat, and barks: 'Stop!' My first thought is that he has gone mad. Actually nuts. He doesn't like to talk about it, but he used to be a policeman, spent five months in the Met before resigning in 1960. Now Read more [...]

Gore Vidal

On a cliff-top high above the Amalfi coast an awning flaps lazily, stirred by a welcome breeze, and then is still once more. It shares the temperament of the aged American bachelor standing under it, on his balcony, pondering the cobalt-blue sea half a mile below. 'You know,' Gore Vidal says with a heavy sigh, 'every morning at ten a tourist boat sails past and I have to listen to a woman telling my life story over a Tannoy.' Pause. 'It is followed by another boat which tells the same story in Italian.' Quite Read more [...]

D. M. Thomas

Luminous white hair, dandruff on black polo neck, florid complexion, thick lips cracked and bruised, fingers stained yellow from smoking... The 64-year-old Cornishman drinking Rioja and chain-smoking Marlboro Lights at the table by the window is either a broken-veined pervert or a literary genius. As it happens, DM Thomas has been described as both - female critics tend to favour the former theme, male critics the latter. Actually, what he looks most like is the survivor of a bomb blast, emerging Read more [...]