0 Jill Rips Frederic Lindsay (Andre Deutsch £9.95 ) This is not a novel for the squeamish or those who prefer their murders cut and dried. Lindsay forces readers to the front of the gaping crowd so that they miss none ofthe blood. smell. fear and horror of a man who has had his ‘prick peeled like a banana‘
In a Scottish city. very like Glasgow. a series of murdes which parallel the Jack the Ripper murders. begin in August. Murray Wilson. [ix-cop. ex-alcoholic and currently a freelance detective. finds himselfobsessed with the ‘Jill’ murders. This time round it's the prostitute killing the men in a manner which will have male readers in mental agony. But what looks like a straightforward murder-cum- mystery is in fact a complicated study ofhuman evil.
In his first. highly-acclaimed novel.
Brand. Frederic Lindsay introduced us to his unique style. a blend of mystery. thriller and horror. In Jill Rips. his long-awaited follow-up. he proves his talent for writing an exciting story while controlling the fine line between perversion and pornography. violence and slap-stick. His deadpan delivery and eye for mundane detail produces an atmosphere of cold. black horror. Murray. the central character. is no hero. he is a ‘hard bastard‘. who keeps a lonely detachment while trying to protect his family from the squalor. That we should pity more than like him is due to the honesty of the study.
Soon (‘hannel 4 will be showing a three-part film adaptation of Brand. scripted by the author. Ifyou have yet to read the novel. wait for the paperback and read Jill Rips now. That way you will be one step ahead of the crowds when Lindsay becomes
.» ."~, . '_ ~43 L..." a household name. (Tami Cushing-Allan) o Nairn in Darkness and Light David Thomson (Hutchinson £12.95) The ‘magic easements‘ overlooking the hinterland of David Thomson's Nairn were first opened for me by Maurice Walsh over 50 years ago and the key has lain on the lintel of memory above the door every since. Whether it was that these easements had jammed with the paint of the years or whether I was disconcerted by some of the author's mannerisms (eg the way he records direct speech). I found. on first dipping into this book. that they wouldn‘t open. But on reading more carefully. access was gained to an enchanting environment.
This is a rewarding book — telling of a small boy‘s courage when stricken with partial blindness: of the contrast between his great-uncle‘s large establishment (4(l servants) at Newton. and the modest croft of the MaeDonalds and the small dwellings of Fishertown: of his lifelong conﬂict with his grandmother. and of his close friendship with local people like Michie (who drove one of the horse-drawn cabs) and the MacDonalds of Sandwood Croft. I found the historical sketches least interesting. but there are some fine descriptions of people and places. ()f Michie he writes. ‘I Ie was my Rob Roy. Gallant. fierce. generous.
An impressive list of achievements sit lightly on this rather wary but talkative writer: two published novels, 3 string of successful short stories, regular book reviews in the right places.
Only twenty-six, and all this behind him. Who are Ian Rankin‘s contacts? He smiles, unwillingly, but admits some disillusionmentwith the writing trade: ‘a rat-race once they’ve got hold ofyou.’ He juggles for a momentwith fractions, and concludes that talent probably accounts for only 30% of a writer’s success; the rest is largely luck.
An edge of bitterness creeps in as he vents some bile on ‘NW3 writers’, living in luxury (while he lives in Tottenham) and writing about the traumas of extra-marital affairs. Born and brought up in Cardenden, ‘the mining disaster end’ of File, before going to Edinburgh University, Rankin would term himself a ‘writer from working class roots, drawing on working class experience‘.
Yet his latest novel, Knots and Crosses, a traditional sleuth tale set in modern-day Edinburgh, concentrates less on working class lile than on the city’s sleaze-pits, the seedier seams ol Leith and Lothian Road, their sawdust pubs and bingo halls. A chain of seemingly unconnected child murders has shocked the city into outrage. ’I mean,’ says one of the characters, echoing Rankin, ‘You neverthink of that sort of thing happening in
RANKIN WITH THE BEST
.. _, it, a. y -
Edinburgh, do you?’
Miles off the murderer’s trail, despite
regular cryptic clues which drop through his letterbox, stumbles Rebus, jaundiced, lonely detective, the (so-called) typical Scot: dour, Presbyterian, guilt-ridden. As the killings multiply, he finally realises that the keyto this knotty puzzle lies in his own past, in his blacked-out SAS days. It takes a conveniently talented brother— a drug-dealing hypnotist-to
resurrect the clue from its grave, and at
last the hunt can begin. ‘I wanted to show the hidden side of Edinburgh, not the picture postcard
stuff the tourists see.’ It’s a schizophrenic city, says Rankin, haunted by ghosts, and he likes to think of Knots and Crosses as a rewrite of Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde theme. A bold claim; but Rankin is clearly a bold writer. His first published novel, The Flood is hardly coy in its Old Testament analogy, while his plans forthe future are no less bashful. Aiming to avoid pigeon-holing, he intends to ‘play games with genres': a spy-thriller already written, a space story with careering Zircon satellite on the stocks.
Maybe a historical bodice-ripper next? He shakes his head. It would take too much research and Rankin, a writer who can break the back of a book in six days, has no time to waste. As it was, his third novel called for more background work than he — or his wife — had anticipated. Opening the suitcase on their honeymoon, she found it lined with spy books. ’I had the white-hot lever on me,’ he explains, ‘so I started itthen.’
With such dedication, Rankin could go places. But it has to be said: how far can a writer get whose formative years were unillumined by the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh and Brer Rabbit? Only time will tell. But atthe rate Rankin works, we won’t have long to wait. (Rosemary Goring)
Knots and Crosses (The Bodley Head, £10.95) The Flood (Polygon £4.95/£9.95)
Perhaps I was more intimate with the MacDonalds of Sandwood. but Michie was unique. There were gypsy-like things about him which would appeal to any child — red neckerchief. blue or yellow waistcoat with silver watch chain looping from the pockets. black jacket. narrow trousers and soft leather boots. His grey tweed bonnet seemed to my short sight. when I first saw it. to be covered with birds‘ feathers. bright blue. red. brown. green like a mallard. white like a ptarmigan. These were the fishing ﬂies which he used every day on the River Nairn . . . and which he made himself.‘
The ‘Select Index‘ is so select that there is no mention it it of a Thomson or a Finlay (the author‘s Mother's family) though they crowd the pages. But this is a small matter and does not affect one‘s appreciation of a most enjoyable book.(Sandy i lodge)
0 James Hogg: Selected Poems and Songs Ed David Groves (Scottish Academic Press £9.50) Hogg wrote in the best Scottish fiddler/poet/drinker tradition and was admired by many English Romantic poets for being more like the ‘natural‘ man than they were. He introduced an infamous ‘whisky-toddy" to London‘s most effete claret-drinking circles, as well as writing the well-known
C '(mﬁ’ssions ofa Justified Sinner. This is a new edition containing many songs and poems which are here reprinted for the first time in their original form. Some are in Scots. some in the language of the Romantics and some are accompanied by musical scores. Love. drink. nature and the supernatural reappear in the poems collected here— but I like the first one ‘The Mistakes ofa Night' best. You can imagine its content. (Kristina Woolnough)
o The Truth About the AIDS Panic Dr Michael Fitzpatrick. Don Milligan (Juniusfl .95). No doubt the first of many radical ’responses‘ to the Government's AIDS leaﬂet which will cross our paths. In this one, the accusation is that the Government is scare-mongering and has reacted too strongly and expensiver to a virus which is in fact fairly contained in the high risk groups. Most people. I'm sure, don‘t get too distraught either about AIDS or about the campaign to prevent the virus spreading. Ifone is worried. precautions are available. However. the authors ofthis pamphlet (which is very informative, but just interprets the statistics in an under-play rather than over-play mode) are over-reacting to what the} see as a sneaky attempt by Thatcherite Victorian moralists to get us back to the oppressed dark ages. Still, it‘s always a healthy sign if many opinions are expressed and authoritative ones are challenged. (Kristina Woolnough)
o A Summons to Memphis Peter Taylor (Chatto and Windus £10.95) This is an old brown cardigan of a novel. It‘s comfortable, modest
46 The List 17— 30 April