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0 Peter Fleming (Oxford UP £5.95) Brother of the more famous Ian. Peter Fleming was a best-selling author in his own right. the author of one ofthe battiest travel books ever written.Brazi/ian Journey. His godson‘s biography is a diligent piece ofwork. free ofcant and as readable as his subject‘s incomparable yarns. 0 Annie and The Countrywoman Paul Smith (Picador £3.50 each) 'I‘wo tasty. garrulous novels by the itinerant Irishman whose work was banned in his native country until I975. He is a writerofuncomfortable truths. smooth as pumice particularly in his dialogue but with an eye that refuses to glamourise slum life. Like Brian Moore. another Irish exile. his particular forte is his way with woman. amply demonstrated by the two indomitable heroines ofthese magical stories.

0 Lord Hamlet's Castle Hunter Steele (Deutsch £9.95) Many a time and oft the Bard has been used as a spring-board by liberty takers.

Steele comes not to bury ()ld Bill but to tease him. pricking (‘a schoolboy pun‘ he would say) the lofty language. In the process he transforms Hamlet into a ‘hypostar‘. while ()phelia plays with herself and Gertrude makes hay with the balding rogerer. Claudius. Didactic. irreverent. tasteless. but it has its funny moments.


0 Work and Play Carlo Gebler (Hamish Hamilton £9.95) In this his third novel (iebler confirms he is a star in the ascendant. At its heart is a young Irishman. Fergus Maguire. who has left home to pursue legal studies in London. Soon he becomes disillusioned. drops out and acquires the sort of bad habits which could soon see him approaching the law from a different perspective. Eventually he returns home to a father who is not sympathetic to failure and before there can be a

reconciliation Maguire pere shuffles offthe mortal coil prematurely. Fergus is not mentioned in his will and. feeling rejected. he returns to London where he falls in with a bad set. 'I'atelrish types given to snorting coke and exposing themselves in restaurants. Fergus finds it all rather embarrassing but covers up for them nevertheless. He is a likeable fellow. a cross between Richard Ilannay and Holden (‘aulfield. adrift in the racist

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Eighties. Gebler manages skilfully to mesh Fergus‘s different worlds in prose which slips over like slow-poured Guinness. lIe harks back to writers like Anthony Powell. whose first novel - Afternoon Men is still in vogue among Fergus‘s yahoo chums. but he is his own man: romantic but not nostalgic. desperately funny but teetering on the edge of darkness. Read him; you won't regret it. (Alan Taylor)

0 The Owl Papers Jonathan Evan Maslow (Penguin £5.95) Bored with his winter incarceration in a New York apartment Maslow kitted himselfout for an Arctic expedition and went in search of the Great Horned Owl in Pelham Bay Park. Despite being near-eaten alive by hungry dogs (we’re still in the Big Apple) his enthusiasm for owl-spotting was undiminished. His

curiosity is infectious as he pursues the most maligned and enigmatic of the birds of prey by night and day. alone or with well-informed naturalists. in libraries and forests. up trees and mountains. It is a remarkable quest. erudite but approachable. and imbued with a real sense of adventure. Maslow‘s text is decorated with twelve appropriately dramatic and fierce drawings by Leonard Baskin. (Clive Yellowjohn)

0 Fine Food Simone Sekers (Hodder & Stoughton £7.95) A most useful book this. You know how it is: there you are. wandering through the wilds of Wales when suddenly you need Goats‘ Milk Yoghurt. You have to have it. There again. how often do you trek around Devon only to be seized with the urgent desire for Hedgerow Jelly‘.’ Or are stranded in


‘It would have been nice to have been around a hundred years ago when there were still some blank spaces on the map to potter about in.“ Richard and Nick Crane may have been born a century too late to be lamous explorers, but an almost Victorian sense at adventure has taken them on several ‘Iittle explorations‘ oltheir own creation, culminating in theirJourney to the Centre of the Earth, by bicycle. Their book describing the epic journey is published this week.

This time last year the two cousins completed the astonishing two-month cycle ride, through India and Nepal, over the Himalayas and across the Gobi desert, to the north-west corner ol China. Their goal was an unnamed spot described by the Guinness Book 0t Records as the point on the planet's surtace most remote from the open sea in every direction.

Nick Crane rebuts any comparison with 19th-century adventurers, claiming that the ‘total ridiculousness of cycling three thousand miles to a geographical point where we knew all along there would be nothing,’ makes them teel more like two enthusiastic schoolboys. Their enthusiasm was certainly tested: sunstroke, altitude sickness, nights spent in the open in treezing temperatures and the daily struggle to tind loud and shelter were tackled alone. They travelled without back-up and with minimal equipment-

not even a change of underpants!

The book gives lascinating glimpses ol exotic cultures and breathtaking landscapes, butthe bulk oltheir account is the very particular view of the cyclist, detailing each hard-won advance across increasingly unlriendly terrain. Both men kept diaries and the book relives the daily disasters and triumphs, made vivid and invigorating by their proximityto lite in the raw.

Travelling an average ot106km and 510m at ascent per day, the Cranes pedalled through monsoons, blizzards and 115 degree heat. Yet Richard belittles the physical achievement, saying the real triumph ol the journey was ‘the lateral thinking needed to overcome problems, and always keeping optimistic.’

‘Why did you do it?‘ seems the wrong question to ask two men who, between

them, have already cycled up Mount Kilimanjaro and run across the Himalayas. The ostensible reason is to raise money for Intermediate Technology, a charity who specialise in appropriate aid lor the Third World. Previous Crane ventures have raised over £100,000 for LT. and Richard now works with the charity, helping to organised events ranging lrom the ‘Four Corners of the Earth Bike Ride‘ to local sponsored walks.

Doubtless the personal reasons lor such a challenge are complex, and the rewards uncertain; but amongst them must be the ability to say with genuine carelessness, ‘Do you remember when we were in that Chinese road camp in Tibet. . ?' (Julie Morrice)

‘Journey to the Centre at the Earth' by Richard and Nicholas Crane is published by Bantam Press at £12.95.

The List 10— 23 July 39