ROBERT L. FORBES AND RONALD SEARLE (Overlook Duckworth £12.99)
It is one the biggest scandals of our Honours system that Ronald Searle was not knighted. I suppose the bureaucrats in Whitehall thought he was ‘only a cartoonist’. Yet he was on the high shelf with graphic satirists like Hogarth, Gillray and Cruikshank.
Searle was a major artist - a million times superior to Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin or any of those. I am proud to say the cover he did for my book What Am I Still Doing Here? was his final commission. In a typically generous gesture, he gave me the original painting.
As for this particular book, all we are told is that ‘the drawings happily were completed a while ago’. What a delight they are. Flirting elephants, strutting peacocks and blushing peahens, intertwined snakes, a boar serenading a simpering sow.
The drawings are so sunny and romantic - amazing to think that Searle was in his 90s when he died, and had once been a Prisoner of War in Singapore, witnessing and enduring the worst Japanese atrocities. He had every right to be bitter and twisted, but was the opposite. A genius.