A reviewer faced with 1,155 pages about Robert Maxwell is entitled to look at the pictures first. Joe Haines's biography contains over eighty photographs of his hero, many in colour. Mostly they show him hobnobbing with crowned heads, presidents or prime ministers, with a pop star or a footballer thrown in. One picture, more puzzling than some, is captioned 'Maxwell and team, about to leave Ulan Bator in the Mirror jet'. What can conceivably be the Mirror's interest in Outer Mongolia? Why does the Mirror need a globe-girdling jet? And is it not a bit tricky getting permission to fly a private aircraft across the more remote people's republics? Then there is a picture of an uncommonly orgulous vessel captioned 'Lady Ghislaine, Mirror Holdings' ocean-going yacht'. Where is she normally berthed? (Not in Liechtenstein, that's for sure.) On what missions is she normally employed? Is she ever used for Mirror works outings? Is she perhaps a 'nice little earner' when chartered to Arabs? A picture with a cosier domestic appeal shows the one-time home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, Headington Hill Hall, near Oxford, now the 'council house' seat of Robert Maxwell, lit up by rockets at night, with a huge illuminated sign saying 'Happy Birthday Bob' suspended from a tall tree. Perhaps because the picture does not show the full dimensions of Maxwell's leased Escorial, there is also a view of Headington Hill Hall in the snow.
LRB 31 March 1988 | PDF Download