Tony Gould, in his biography of Colin MacInnes - Inside Outsider (reissued by Faber Finds) - is in no doubt, 'the volume of essays, England, Half English, contains the best of his writing. The range is impressive too: from expected pieces on popular culture (e.g. 'Pop Songs and Teenagers' and 'Sharp Schmutter'), to an essay on the London drinking clubs ('See You at Mabel's' - 'It's five past three in the afternoon, the London pubs have closed, you're dying for a drink. What happens?), and substantial articles on Nikolaus Pevsner (whom MacInnes described as this 'thoroughly inside outsider') and Ada Leverson (Oscar Wilde's 'The Sphinx' 'whose name,' as MacInnes says 'is so honourably remembered and whose writing remains disproportionately unread' - alas still true).
'To read England, Half English is to be reminded how few writers there are nowadays who are prepared even to attempt what should be the writer's first task; simply to tell us how we live ... who will bother to look at the way we dress and take our holidays, who will listen to the music that erupts from our loudspeakers, who will try patiently and assiduously to see if we can learn something from the crowds, you and I among them, who swarm on the pavement outside his windom.' Dan Jacobson, New Statesman
'He was, in short, the first Pop anthropologist, the first post-war style sub-culture essayist: he created the trade.' Peter York, Harpers & Queen