o The Letters oi Vita Sackvllle-West to Virginia Wooli Edited by Louise De Salva and Mitchell A. Leaska (Papermac £8.95) One side of the turbulent, tender relationship between two ofthe twentieth century‘s most significant women.
0 Chinese Women Speak Dymphna Cusack (Century £4.95) Luckily in translation. A sympathetic post-Revolution collection of portraits from peasants to princesses. factory-workers, housewives. reformed prostitutes and beggars. First published in 1958. o A Book at One’s Own Thomas Mallon (Picador, £3.50) Jaunty, informal and witty study ofdiaries and the sort of people who commit their thoughts to them. Mallon has read everything and includes most of it. Good to see William Soutar‘s The Diaries ofa Dying Man commended. o The Liie and Times at Leith James Scott Marshall (John Donald £5.95) Not since 1927 has there been a full-scale history ofthe port. This one is well-researched and readable though it‘s sad to see it skimp on modern times. Thus no mention of Leith Heavy, or The Waterfront Wine Bar.
0 Kelsae: A History at Kelso lrom Earliest Times Alastair Moffat (Mainstream £6.50) A ubiquitous labour of love. Detailed, learned and engaging, it is best on the ancients though the oral testimony is lively. But will it sell in Selkirk?
o The Good Apprentice Iris Murdoch (Chatto and Windus £9.95) Since the accidental death of a friend, Edward Baltram is tormented by guilt. In the meantime his atheistic step-brother has decided to become good. If you’ve been through Ms Murdoch‘s previous 21 novels save this one for your next moral and spiritual crisis.
0 Journal at a Solitude May Sarton (The Women‘s Press £3.95) 125 years after Thoreau went to live at Walden Pond May Sarton decided that she too wanted to be alone. A beautiful account of how a sixty year old woman re-discovers her true self.
0 Break In Dick Francis (Michael Joseph £8.95)
0 Easy MoneyJamie Reid (Mainstream £8.95)
What is all the fuss about! Dick Francis was a useful jumps jockey who, if there was any justiw in the world, ought to have won the Grand National. And there‘s no denying that the Queen Mother won’t be without him at bedtime, which is more than can be said of the Poet Laureate. But we must not let that
44 The List 15—28 November
cloud our judgement: ironically - given his equine interests — Mr Francis is no more than a pedestrian writer who spins out an old-fashioned yarn rather too long. Break In marks his return to the turf after a briefsortie into the wine trade with Proof. As ever, a chivalrous jockey. Kit (Christmas) Fielding, rides to the rescue of a maiden in distress. Holly, Kit’s twin sister, has made a Romeo and Juliet match to Bobby Allardeck with whose family the Fieldings have been feuding for generations. When a gossip columnist writes a malicious and unfounded piece about Bobby's business his creditors start calling for their money. Enter the former champion jockey who proves to be just as comfortable in gumshoes as
riding boots. Using his racing connections he is soon harassing the villains, running them to earth in. of all places. Fleet Street.
If racing provides the background for Break In, the real teeth of the story is Francis‘ gripe with modern journalism and its power-crazy barons. And it's here that'the story creaks most. Both Maynard
Allardeck and Lord Vaughnley seem !
more cardboard than real, constructed from media images of Rupert Murdoch or Lord Rothermere rather than the author‘s experience. In contrast the racing world is authentic and his accounts of races show what a lovely cameo writer Francis can be. Surprisingly. in the obligatory single sex scene, he shows the same dexterity.
Would that I could say the same of Jamie Reid who for all his silk and satin is not nearly as impressive as Mr Francis is on dust-sheets. Easy Money is his first novel and one
‘ could say, glibly, that it galloped
away from him. It centres on Lex Parlane, a coke-snorting. champagne-guzzling beery Glaswegian bookie who would make Ally McLeod seem modest. He is that awesome sight of a Scotsman on
the make who, despite his avowed chauvinism. believes that the noblest prospect is the high road leading to England. Parlane is a memorable character whose energy and enthusiasm for life encourages hangers-on. One is James Richmond, a gone-to-the-bad young Sloane, carried along on Parlane‘s tidal wave ofexcess. Through him Parlane hopes to tackle racing‘s establishment, embodied in the Jockey Club, and, more significantly, Richmond pere. the Club‘s Senior Steward.
Easy Money is a highly-readable. 1 bad book which is as suffocating as soap opera. It is padded with too
much detail and too many
characters, many ofwhom have no real part to play in the drama. Reid captures the mood of a race-course well but his copious knowledge is of one side ofthe barrier only. Racing to him is about betting and winning and nowhere is this more obvious in his limp. suspense-less descriptions of races. This is surprising for elsewhere he shows a McIlvanney-iike talent for manufacturing metaphors. When he‘s broken-in he might be worth the price of a saddle. (Alan Taylor)
‘l’m getting complicated now,’ warns Frederic Lindsay, balancing both
‘ words and coilee cup. He laughs and
proposes a link between loss at political innocence and sado-masochism. An unusual approach perhaps but tor serious perversity he otters an explanation oi the naming oi his two new novels.
The manuscripts ior both at these are with Andre Deutsch and the iirst, Lindsay’s second novel, will be published in January 1987. This is Darkness in My Hand, which was the original title at his third novel now going under the working name at Jlll Hips. Neither author nor publisher are satisfied with this. By the time it is
é published it will have been christened
three times. Mr Lindsay seems mildly amused by the entire business and talks about Darkness in My Hand when he really means Jill Hips which won’t be Jill Hips. . . Hevermlnd, itwill sort itsell out eventually.
Fortunately no such contusion surrounds the name at Frederic Lindsay’s iirst novel, Brond. It has been available since Hovember1984.
3 Once discovered, Brond is a name not
easily lorgotten, a malevolent will-o’-the wisp. Brond the novel, is a thriller oi the iirst order; political, violent, sexy and, it goes without saying, complicated. The eponymous Brood ls darkness made physical, the lather iigure we loathe but are drawn towards. So who is the creator at this brute?
loved by lamily and iriends. So, why
; the lasclnation tor the dark side oi lite?
‘Because I’m so much a part at the light side’.
The obvious and uncomplicated answer. ‘The kind oi men who walk about Glasgow in black trench coats,
pushing children oil bridges and plotting
political terrorism are too busy doing
those things to write. So I write lor them.’
Whether this is good news or not is hard to decide. But is is reassuring to know with certainty that he isn’t about
i to leap out at his chair and administer a Glasgow ‘kiss’. The kind he describes so vividly in Brand. ‘A good iootballer
w ‘en he heads the ball bangs it with
the hard bone at the ridge oi the
I lorehead . . . during the winter since i
had come to the city, i had seen it done, stumps and iragments oi teeth spat out in sprays oi blood lrom between burst
, llesh and then a gush ol vomit.’
Lindsay has spent much at his
. working lite lectarlng in English and f Linguistics. He has also worked in the E Mitchell Library and on the Glasgow é buses. in his early twenties he wrote a ' rather large novel which was sent to
BOOK BROND: VIOLENT BREW
Since then, Frederic Lindsay has not been idle. As well as three completed novels, he has written a television screenplay, scripted other writers’ worklor radio, linished the iirst drait oi a lilm script about Plnkerton’s, the American detective agency iounded by the Scot Allan Pinkerton, and is now adapting Brond into a three part drama tor Channel Four. This last is to be produced by Gareth Wardell ol Jam Jar tllms and should be on our screens by the autumn at ’86, not long alter Corgi bring out the paperback.
Scripting his own work lor lilm has created interesting problems. ‘When you’re working irom your own book the temptation is to do something creative, to wander away and write something new.’
But he won’t be tempted and we will soon see a talthial Brond in celluloid.
The thriller as genre presents particular dlitlcultles and Lindsay likes to use the phrase ‘lnltial lmprobabillty’ when describing his own approach. Because Brond deals with nationalist political terrorism, the IRA, and is set in Glasgow not Northern Ireland, he
had to overcome the initial
improbablllty oi the plot to convince
; readers that it could really happen.
‘And it does happen, Scottish prisons
I are lull at political prisoners, but the j public don’t readily associate the two.’
During Lindsay’s involvement with the Scottish National Party he accumulated a kind oi “high-class gossip’, which may well be the germ oi
Brond. Alleged phone tapping, stories oi wllllng activists olierlng their services and the usual M16 titlllatlons. All slightly vague, yet very real, rather like Brond himseli.
‘The thing about the imagination is that it usually realises ltseli in lile.’ (Tami Cushlng-Allan)
publishers but was eventually discarded. After this he wrote poetry ‘to get it out oi my system?
‘i last always assumed I'd be a - novelist. So when l was lorced to take early retirement It was now or never. i ? gathered up my pages at notes at ideas, live here, two there, and wrote.’
Frederic Lindsay sits beside a warm gas lire, dressed in woolly jumper and corduroys and looks as trash as the cliched daisy. He laughs oiten, usually at himseli and not once in almost two hours does he display an edgy temper. Here is a man conlldent in his relatively new prolession, a man pvt-ably well