Robert Conquest has just died, in his 99th year. He was most famous as the man who saw through Stalin’s Emperor’s New Clothes with ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’ (1968) (which, when the truth became widely known after the fall of Communism in 1991, his friend Kingsley Amis said should be re-issued as ‘I Told You So, You Fucking Fools’); but I remember him as one of the earliest scholarly supporters of SF, writing with Amis ‘New Maps of Hell’ (1960) and the ‘Spectrum’ anthologies. Unlike many, he lived long enough to be proven right: both about the murderousness of Stalin and the literary worth of SF. May his dear soul be bound up in the bonds of life eternal.
Yesterday we lost three great men from the world of entertainment. Ron Moody was a tremendous character actor of many decades’ standing, best-remembered for his performance as Fagin in the 1968 musical ‘Oliver!’ Ornette Coleman pretty much invented free jazz in the 1960s, and is as towering a figure in the field of jazz as Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s and Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. But the loss I feel most deeply is Sir Christopher Lee. In a film career spanning over 60 years, in extreme old age he reached a new generation as Count Dooku and Saruman: but or course he is, and forever will be, the quintessential Count Dracula. His tall, spare screen presence and rich, resonant voice have never been matched: for me as a child, he was the embodiment onscreen of all I thought a man should be. May all their dear souls be bound up in the bonds of life eternal.