0 Robert Burns Donald A. Low

(£4.95 Scottish Academic Press) Energetic, respectful bio-crit, the first, puffthe publishers, for a generation. And who are we to gainsay them? There is a new and lucid exegesis of ‘Tam o‘ Shanter‘ which should perk up Immortal Memories come January. Weel done, Mister Low! 0 Gentlemen ol the West Agnes Owens (£2.95 King Penguin) ‘Who can write a whole novel about the people in Britain who still labour with their hands‘?‘ asks Alasdair

In her photo Magda Sweetiand looks anxious. ‘That’s because I was treezing’, she says with the deep laugh which often interrupted our conversation in the St. Giles’ crypt coitee-shop. She was doing the rounds promoting her new, second novel The Connoisseur (Machllan £9.95) which neither the Radio Forth reviewer norl had read because of a postal hiccup. So I tell back on a review which suggested that lnnes Hamilton, the eponymous North Berwick connoisseur, had ended up with the wile he deserved.

“Oh, what a shame’, Mrs Sweetiand said, as concerned as it one at her two children had been given a bad school report. Now, having read the novel, I too think it’s a harsh judgement though the Grassmarket antiques dealer and lone yachtsman isn’t the most sympathetic character I’ve encountered this year. As Magda Sweetiand says: ’He’s a connoisseur ot objects. He knows absolutely nothing about people so he makes all the

, classic male errors about human relationships. He ends up with what he deserves trom that point of view. But you never know why he goes wrong.’ As beiits a caring parent she tinds him

‘quite interesting.’

I did too, but somehow I ielt he was overshadowed, not to mention outmanoeuvred, by the young girl, lona Stewart, who comes to live next door and whom he reluctantly belriends and

patronises. Theirpeculiarrelationship

is at the heart of the book and is the reason why it’s so compelling. , ltistemptingtoIookuponthe precocious pupil of Mary Erskine’s as g the autobiographical element of The i Connoisseur, with the details subtly 2 adjusted. Now over the age when lite , begins Magda Sweetiand coniesses ; (laughing again) to my accusation that 1 she was a child prodigy, having written I trom an Edinburgh/Scotland point at

Gray. The question is rhetorical.

o The Joys ol Football Edited by Brian Glanville (£12.95 Hodder and Stoughton) The new Scotland manager is already renowned for quoting Priestley’s description of the national sport in The Good Companions: ‘hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art.‘ That’s included here as are set pieces by Camus (Algerian goalie and novelist), Pinter, Nabokov, Mcllvanney, Arnold Bennet, Roy Hattersley and many more. Eamonn Dunphy, a Millwall FP, shows footballers needn’t be as sick as parrots when they‘re not on song.


and a sojourn in Canada put a temporary stop to writing but now she's settled in Kenton work that’s ‘tounded

% on experience, observation and

; reality.’

i Hertirst novel was Eightsome Reel, a title which illustrates her graphic perception, but which misleads by its implication of the White Heather Club muckin’ oot Geordie’s byre. It’s a deception reinlorced by the Woman's

; Realm cover otthe paperback. The tact ; that Menzies is shitting it by the

i barrowload is no consolation to Magda ) Sweetiand who pleads: ‘Give me

quality, leave the width alone.’

j The news that she won the Authors’

) Club First Novel Award (and Silver

I view since she wasthirteen. Family lite { Guill) gave hermore satisfaction

19 (£3.95 Penguin) ‘More Dirt’ presents another dollop of new writing from the other side of the millpond. Confirmation of the talent of Richard Ford, Jayne Anne Phillips and Robert Olmstead, though bonuses are Richard Rayner’s compass-less expedition to LA and the first instalment of Updike’s (he with the ‘slight slurp of a speech impediment’) autobiography.

O Goliath Paul Geddes (£9.95 Bodley Head) A topping first page with a wealthy medic literally losing his head is the overture to some zippy action in the Mediterranean. A deadpan, drug-driven thriller.


0 The Loch Ness Monster: the evidence Steuart Campbell (Aquarian Press £3.99) Self-confessed eccentric Steuart Campbell (call him C) has come up with what should be the final word on lake-monsters.

though she leels her work lalls between two stools. For her ‘commercial writing doesn’t have enough llbre whereas literary books don’t satisfy the emotions.’ She is no voracious reader at contemporary liction though she was ‘really hacked oil’ with The Bone People, last year's Antlpodean Booker Prize Winner. ‘ll it had been a Scottish novel,’ she says, ‘with that amount at the vernacular it wouldn’t have made the first hurdle.’ With this year’s shortlist due to be announced on 24 September it will be interesting to see how The Connoisseur—with its sole Scottlcism well-delined —tares. But even it it tells at the llrst, as Magda Sweetiand suggests: ‘At least it’s readable.’ (Alan Taylor)

34 The List 19 Sept 2 Oct

Ogopogo? Water kelpie? Skrimsl? Lagarflyotsormur? Is there any substance to the reports of unidentified swimming objects (USOs) from some of the world’s deepest inland waters since the time of St Adamnan? C defines his terms. N is ‘Nessie’ or the creature it represents, either singly or as a group. L Ness is the home of N (it’s pompous, C reckons, to refer to it by the Gaelic word ‘loch’ in a book written in English) and the two hypotheses undertest are H , ‘that N exists’, and Ho ‘that N doesn texist’. The evidence has to satisfy, not a mere historian, but the most rigorous physical scientist, and since N is presumably animal, that has to be a zoologist. N is taken as the archetypal USO. 10,000 reported sightings of N have left a wealth of original and and circumstantial evidence which C sifts through systematically photos, films, video. sonar and radar scans. By removing every ‘source of deception’, sightings which admit of a natural explanation C gets rid of otters, logs, ripples, seiches, fermented sawdust and deliberate hoaxes. Strange that so many observers of N

proved elusive when C tried to get in touch, that no remains of dead N have been found on the L floor detritus, that the more L Ness is watched, the less N shows itself. C’s conclusion is therefore that H=0 or, if you like, H wins the day. Thus HH=Hm=H 8=H =Hfl=Hp=0 A pity. N was fun while it lasted. Remember it bellowing at the Commonwealth Games? C’s book is concise, readable and exhaustive, but it won’t stop hopeful N -spotters taking the A82 north just in case. (Andrew Bethune)


‘The terror which would not end for another twenty-eight years if it ever did end -— began, so far as I know or can tell with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.’ So begins Stephen King’s new novel It (Hodder & Stoughton £11.95), a massive 900-page book of tension, fear and horror. As always King knows how to get you, how to keep you pinned to your chair, getting to what happens next and avoiding the dark hall where noises and shapes lurk.

A small city in Maine, Derry, harbours an evil presence in its sewers and drains. In the summer of 1958, seven children, friendless and flawed, discover ‘It’ and join forces to meet its challenge. A promise is made which twenty-five years later demands to be honoured. Only this time something is missing and survival is unlikely.

This basic plot is stretched and woven into a complicated pattern of events, characters swarm over the pages and fear permeates everything. King is a master story-teller and he has used every trick he knows in this new novel.

It perhaps suffers from length. The