ISSUE 18, July 2006
Archbishop Fisher: A Godly man and a Brother
Travel: The train takes the strain
Quarterly Communication: Annual Investiture speech by the Grand Master and Speech of the Pro Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech by the First Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes Grand Lodge of New York: Speech by the Pro Grand Master
   Specialist Lodges: Keeping their eyes on the ball
Education: Planning ahead for the Chair and Events and New premises for Masonic research
Royal Opera House: A right Royal occasion
Royal opening: Beamish Museum
Digital records: Saving our past for the future
Library & Museum: The hall in the garden
Queen's Birthday: Masons played a prominent part
International: A Mason and the Foreign Legion
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity and NMSF and RMBI and RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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York Mysteries Revealed by Revd Neville Barker Cryer, Lewis Masonic (01455 254450), £16.95. ISBN 0955317703.
    If you enjoy a good mystery, then the origins of Freemasonry are a good place to start, steeped as it is in controversy, not least the claim that the first Lodge was held in the crypt of York Minster in ad926 under a Charter from King Athelstan.
    The origins of the “Grand Lodge of All-England” set up at York and the “York Rite” have long fascinated Masons, and the Revd Neville Barker Cryer, a highly respected Masonic scholar, has produced a very substantial scholarly work in York Mysteries Revealed.
    This is arguably the most detailed work on the subject to be published, but it is not for the fainthearted – at 484 pages it is a serious study of the subject – although written in the author’s usual easily readable style.
    The book is also an illuminating insight into mediaeval York, and its intriguing part in the birth of English Freemasonry. It is also a history of England in the Middle Ages, and into the 17th and 18th centuries, when Freemasonry began to take hold on laymen, as opposed to purely operative stonemasons.
    The author takes us step by step through this fascinating story of the growth of Freemasonry and its association with the great cathedral city of York, revealing facts about the Craft and its origins that are a veritable treasure trove of that “daily advancement in Masonic knowledge”.
    John Jackson


What inspired you to write a biography of Rudyard Kipling?

I have always admired Kipling and feel he needed a combative biography to argue his case, as he simply does not appear to be taught in schools or universities, even though he was the greatest writer Britain produced at a time when the nation was the preeminent power in the world. Kipling is condemned out of hand in a politically correct environment for being racist, misogynist and blindly imperialist, yet when you look at his work, it reflects none of those qualities. It was the richness and complexity of Kipling that I wanted to convey.

Which of your numerous biographies of people, ranging from Tony Benn to Emmeline Pankhurst, have you found most challenging?

The most difficult biography I ever did was of a decadent poet called Ernest Dowson who was a friend of Oscar Wilde, W.B.Yeats and Verlaine. He had a terrible life, weighed down by blighted love, poverty, the suicide of his parents, alcoholism and TB, yet he created some of the most enduring lyrics in the language such as Days of Wine and Roses, Gone With the Wind, Wine, Women and Song. I wrote the book with no advance because I so much wanted to do it, then it took five years to find a publisher. Madder Music, Stronger Wine eventually came out in 2000 and got great reviews in the general and the academic press, it was published in the UK and the US and went into paperback.

How do you go about researching your books?

First, I read everything the person themselves wrote, particularly letters and autobiographical material, and I form my own opinion on them. Then I will read what their contemporaries said about them, and then I will look at other biographies. Finally, I check back with as many of the original manuscript sources as I can – Kipling’s papers are in Sussex University’s archive, for example.

When writing a book, have you got a preferred place of work and a favoured writing routine?

I work at home, where I try to be at my desk at 7am. I work through till 1pm when I have lunch although, to be truthful, not much creative work is done after 11am, it’s mainly organising material. After lunch I do more active things (often that means going out on visits) and return to the desk for the last few hours of the day until 8pm when I have dinner. I try to keep to that routine even when I am away (I live in Greece for part of the year).

Who is your favourite author?

My favourite living writer is John Le Carré, whom I consider to be much undervalued by a literary establishment obsessed with vacuous, stylish writing. As for those who are dead, there are too many to choose from. William Golding influenced me tremendously when I was growing up.

Which book are you reading at present?

For pleasure I am reading my friend Richard Whittington-Egan’s reinterpretation of the famous Oscar Slater miscarriage of justice in 1908, The Oscar Slater Murder Story, published this year.

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