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FOR THIRTY-FIVE years author David Irving has kept a private diary. It has proven useful in countless actions. For the information of his many supporters he currently publishes an edited text in his irregular newsletter ACTION REPORT.

THE SKETCH, left, is a detail from an unflattering cartoon published in The Guardian in 1977 when it reviewed David Irving's book Hitler's War. He purchased the original from artist David Smith, from whom FOCAL POINT commissioned several skilfully executed caricatures.

Key West, July 18, 1999

INTERESTING letter from Frank I., says he might move to the naval station here. There are four intelligence positions in the drug interdiction program; the humidity would be better than the heat in AZ. He's curious why I come. I reply:

I came to Key West in 1987 after a total freeze smashed the heating system of our London apartment building for three months. My secretary checked with Pan-Am. Remember? It used to be an airline, which incidentally made its first-ever flight from here: there's a monument to Juan Trippe right outside our International Airport building (I've seen McDonald's that are bigger).

Pan-Am said the sun was currently shining in South Africa or Florida.

My then secretary Susanna was very politically correct, and said Not South Africa. We flew to Miami, and stayed on Collins Avenue a few days but became thoroughly depressed by the peeling paint, the geriatric and penniless population, the boarded-up shops and the Cubans. I was writing The Missing Years of Rudolf Hess at the time. I said: "I've heard of the Keys. Let's drive down there."

As you drive down US.1 -- the Overseas Highway -- you become more and more depressed at how the Americans can ruin a landscape: huge billboards dotting the Everglades, fast food and gas stations all down the strip -- until you get to Marathon and the Lower Keys, beyond the Seven Mile Bridge.

Suddenly it becomes just as you imagined it would be. Windswept; deserted; shallow turquoise waters, pelicans, huge butterflies, mimosa, poinsettia, and bougainvillea all the year round. The city of Key West itself, the Old Town, is all white wooden houses and picket fences, with wreckers' lookout platforms on the roofs, and with (sigh) tourists (I of course am not one of them) riding round in guide-buses and trains.

I've been writing here on and off for twelve years now. The city is unaccountably proud of the welcome it extends to homosexuals, and it has paid the price. I used to say, "Get on a plane in London in a dreary, drizzly November, and step off in Key West in high summer, surrounded by people in bikinis -- many of them women." Not now.

The homosexual population is, I have noticed for the first time this summer, dying out. Not just thinning out, but perceptibly dying.

The polished marble stones let into the AIDS monument at Higgs Beach are multiplying fast. Waiters who minced around us a year ago are already dead from the plague.

The city too has finally fessed up, a month ago, to its dirty little secret, that for a decade the seas and beaches around it have been polluted with human fecal bacteria that is three times deadlier than permitted by federal limits, but just within Florida state measuring standards. So there are advisory notices on all the beaches.

These suggest that it might be safer not to have a swim right now. In fact it would be safer to smoke a cigarette instead -- in England we'd say "to have a fag", but in Key West this might be misunderstood. As things stand it would certainly be no less deadly either way.

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