Michael Holroyd

The air of madness in Michael Holroyd's study is so charmingly baroque it must be contrived. Every surface is strewn with papers; two wicker armchairs have come to rest, like driftwood, near the desk; there is a sock by a table leg; and, among the clutter on the polished floorboards, a couple of cardboard boxes contain a handful of birth certificates, property deeds and albums of sepia-toned photographs. These are his family relics, the meagre detritus of three generations of turbulence and wilful 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 [...]

Elton John

Witnessing Elton John greet his burly, unshaven manservant with a peck on the cheek and a fruity 'How are you, dear?' was more than I had any right to expect. But then he sat on his piano stool, placed his fingers on the keyboard, and sang half a dozen of his most memorable ballads - all with the jutted jaw and the grimace of emotion directed at me, his one-man audience. Now, as he shows every sign of laying on one of his celebrated tantrums as well, I get the feeling he's just spoiling me. The Read more [...]