John Harvey on Books & Writing – his own & other people 's – Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

This is the End, My Friend …

Well, sort of …

I began this blog just after my 70th birthday, when a good friend suggested 70 was a good time to do something new. And so, with that in mind and with my 76th birthday a matter of days away, I’m doing something new. Ceasing to write this Mellotone70Up blog. Partly because, while I still enjoy doing it, in the last few months it’s begun to feel a chore; and partly because I feel I should do something (slightly) new.

So there will be a new – smaller and less frequently updated – blog that, rather than trying to cover a whole range of artistic and cultural areas (including where to get a good flat white and the quality of porridge at Pret a Manger), will restrict itself (more or less) to the subject of writers and writing – my own and other people’s – with a focus on what I’m working on, events in which I’m due to take part and news of any forthcoming publications.

The title of this new blog is Some Days You Do …

And its URL is

Happy reading!


Art/Photography Shows of the Year

  • Hello, My Name is Paul Smith : Design Museum
  • Making Painting: Helen Frankenthaler & JMW Turner : Turner Contemporary
  • Hannah Hoch : Whitechapel Gallery
  • Robert Adams, The Place Where We Live : Jeu de Paume
  • Modern Art & St. Ives : Tate St. Ives
  • Malevich : Tate Modern
  • Anselm Kiefer : Royal Academy
  • William Eggleston, From Black & White to Colour : Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Marlow Moss : Tate Britain
  • Constructing Worlds: Photography & Architecture in the Modern Age : Barbican

Movies of the Year, 2014

One way or another I saw a lot of films this year – including those seen on DVD/TV, 76 in all – but, overall, I’d count it as an indifferent year in which the outstanding titles stood out easily – as did those which quickened the pulse with anticipation, only to wholly or partly disappoint. I’m thinking of Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest, with yet another name cameo lazily used in place of the originality and wit found in most of his work, and – for me, most disappointing of all – Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, where too few moments of cinematic brilliance were submerged within too many inert scenes of sub-Chekovian conversation. As to the hugely over-praised Mr. Turner, I confess, having seen the trailer on several occasions, to very low expectations, which, during the 35 minutes I suffered, were borne out in full. How can I dismiss a film on such a partial viewing, you might ask? Well, by then the style of caricature acting and dialogue were clear and if it’s okay to set a book aside if it hasn’t grabbed you after five or six chapters, why not a movie? I might add that of the dozen or so people I’ve spoken to who saw the film in its entirety, only one thought it was just about as good as it was cracked up to be.

So, after all that, what’s left?

Three way ahead of the rest:

  • Ida : Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Leviathan : Andrey Zvyagintsev
  • Stations of the Cross : Dietrich Brüggemann

And, in differing ways musical, and both highly enjoyable:

  • We Are The Best : Lukas Moodysson
  • Twenty Feet From Stardom : Morgan Neville

Along with, in the year of Darkness, Darkness

  • Pride : Matthew Warchus

Mention also of the first and third films in David Hare’s Worricker Trilogy, the previously shown Page Eight and the concluding Salting the Battlefield – both funny, politically acute and featuring a lovely performance from Bill Nighy; the central film in the trilogy, Turks & Caicos, was, sadly, little more than a jolly for the boys (and girls).

Book of the Year


Always a bit of a lottery, it seems to me, whether your book ends up in one of these end-of-year lists or not; and quite often the columns you had down as stone bankers seem to forget that rave review they gave you back in May and places where you doubted you’d flourish come through with guns blazing. And that’s quite enough mixed metaphors for the present.

So, hats off to Mike Ripley in Shots, to the Mail on Sunday, and to Felicity Gerry, QC – barrister, media commentator and author – in The Times

Finally, if the festive season is a time to remember old friends, this year is a bit tough for me reading “Darkness, Darkness”, as my late father’s friend John Harvey has decided it’s time to say goodbye to Inspector Charlie Resnick. This one is not dedicated to my Dad as “Cold in Hand” was. But it still triggers memories brilliantly capturing the evocative sounds, sights and smells of Nottingham in all its fascinating contradictions, against the background of Miles Davis and Polish food. I’m told John Harvey thought of bumping Resnick off; I’m not giving too much away to say he doesn’t.

There are standard strategies – old copper brought out to help young female fast-track, tertiary-educated detective – but the twists and turns through domestic violence and tortuous relationships, against the background of a cold case – a murder at the time of the miners’ strike – is an impossibly perfect way to capture a city that is hard to know and hard to leave. The detail of strike funding and divided communities means that, if you take the time to read it, you will wish the pits were still open, Resnick was real, Thelonious Monk was still alive and like me you’ll probably make a New Year’s resolution to read something more jolly.

Darkness, Darkness pb 3

Art Chronicles: Jane Freilicher 1924 – 2014


I first became aware of Jane Freilicher through her presence in Frank O’Hara’s poetry: Interior (with Jane); Chez Jane; Jane Awake; To Jane, and in Imitation of Coleridge. I didn’t immediately know that she was a painter, one of several whom O’Hara befriended, supported, reviewed and who became poetic muses in his verse. Grace Hartigan – For Grace, after a Party – was another; as was, perhaps most famously, Joan Mitchell, in Poem Read at Joan Mitchell’s.

Painter Among Poets was the title of Freilicher’s last, 2013, show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York; Poet Among Painters, the title of Marjorie Perloff’s  1977 critical biography of O’Hara. New York Poets: New York Painters. The Scene.


When she was eighteen, Jane Niederhoffer, as she was then, eloped with jazz pianist Jack Freilicher, whom she married and later divorced, having met, through him, the saxophonist Larry Rivers when both men were playing in the same band. Freilicher occupied herself during band rehearsals by sketching and painting and Rivers, interested in both Freilicher and her artistic talents, followed suit. It was the painter Nell Blaine who suggested the pair sign on to study with Hans Hoffmann at the Arts Students League of New York. That would have been in 1947.

During the next couple of years, she met O’Hara and the other leading poets in what came to be termed the New York School – Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery and, a little later, James Schuyler. All four men were familiar with the art scene, all, save for Koch, regularly wrote art criticism and reviews, and O’Hara was actually employed at the Museum of Modern Art. There is some small confusion over to which of them she sold her first painting, Ashbery or O’Hara.

By the early 1950s, she was fully immersed in the New York Scene and had met fellow artists Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan and Helen Frankenthaler, all three of whom were attempting to negotiate a stylistic space for themselves amidst the often aggressively male Abstract Expressionism that was the predominant fashion at the time. Strongly influenced by the Bonnard exhibition at MOMA a few years previously, and aware also of the work of Vuillard and Matisse, Freilicher’s riposte to abstraction was a lyrical, light-diffused and vibrantly coloured series of still lives and landscapes that remained at the heart of her work from her first solo show at Tibor de Nagy in 1952 until her last.


Keeping out of fashion, she suggested, gave her the chance to have the freedom to fool around.

I’m quite willing to sacrifice fidelity to the subject to the vitality of the image, a sensation of the quick, lively blur of reality as it is apprehended rather than analysed. I like to work on that borderline – opulent beauty in a homespun environment.

She also said …

I suppose I think more in terms of colour than of line …

… a statement I used as an epigraph to my novel In a True Light, which is, in part, about the New York scene and Greenwich Village in the 50s, though the character of the painter in the novel is more like an amalgam of Mitchell and Frankenthaler than Freilicher herself.

And, finally, here are the last lines from a  poem by James Schuyler, Looking Forward to See Jane Real Soon.

Jane, among fresh lilacs in her room, watched
December, in brown with furs, turn on lights
until the city trembled like a tree
in which wind moves. And it was all for her.




Top Five, Ma!

Strange and a degree infuriating when the Top Crime Novels of the Year lists in the papers you regularly read somehow neglect to find space for your most recent – and, let it be said, well-reviewed – book, whereas those your eyes glaze over on the newsstand (do they actually have those any more?) are far more accommodating. My gratitude, therefore, to the Mail on Sunday. [There, never thought you catch me saying that, did you?]

Mail Best

Last Dozen Books I Read …

  1. Looking for the Light – The Hidden Life & Art of Marion Post Wolcott : Paul Hendrikson
  2. Brooklyn : Colm Toibin
  3. Cry For a Nickel, Cry For a Dime : Woody Haut
  4. Nora Webster : Colm Toibin
  5. About Grace : Anthony Doerr
  6. Sons of Mississippi : Paul Hendrickson
  7. Spouses & Other Crimes : Andrew Coburn
  8. Lila : Marilynne Robinson
  9. Tell No Tales : Eva Dolan
  10. Mrs Dalloway : Virginia Woolf
  11. White Noise : Don DeLillo
  12. Bark : Lorrie Moore


Inspired (?) by the interior of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, a few efforts of my own …





iPod Shuffle, December 2014

… and not a Christmas song in sight.

  1. Trouble in Mind : Mose Alison
  2. Little Road and a Stone to Roll : John Stewart
  3. Subtle Slough : Rex Stewart
  4. Unfinished Symphony : Massive Attack
  5. Try a Little Tenderness : Joe Temperley
  6. These Days : Everything But the Girl
  7. Pancho & Lefty : Townes Van Zandt
  8. Song for Sharon : Joni Mitchell
  9. How Long Has This Been Going On? : Spike Robinson
  10. Heartbroke : Guy Clark
  11. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues : Judy Collins
  12. Washington DC Hospital Centre Blues : Skip James

… and Provides the Answers.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the grave error I made in this morning’s post, when, trusting to my ailing memory instead of the wisdom of the internet, I misnamed and misidentified the female hitchhiker who appears at the beginning of Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly … Catherine Do-Doc, whose blog – Le Blog du Polar de Velda – I was referring to in the earlier post, has speedily set me right.

So the hitchhiker bringing Mike Hammer’s car to a less-than-steady halt is not Velma, as I claimed, but Christina Bailey – the mysterious Christina, trailing memories of Christina Rossetti – Remember Me –and played, one would have thought, unforgettably, by Cloris Leachman, whereas Velda – Velda Wickman, to give her her full name, is played by Maxine Cooper, and is private eye Mike Hammers’ faithful secretary. (They all have one, don’t they?)


Interesting to note that, according to IMDb, Maxine Cooper’s career never really took off, whereas Cloris Leachman went on to appear in many movies and television shows – 260 so far – and is still working. In 1976 she won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Phyllis Lindstrom first in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then the eponymous Phyllis, and in 1972 rightly won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her heartbreaking performance as Ruth Popper in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.



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