Oradour: Massacre & Aftermath Robin Mackness ( Bloomsbury £12.95) Towards the end of the Second World War. on the afternoon of 10 June 19-1-1. the inhabitants ofa village in South West France were I surprised but not unduly alarmed when a contingent ofSS soldiers appeared without warning. Till that moment the villagers of ()radour-sur-(ilane had been spared the worst of the war. But during a few hours on a sunny summer‘s day they became the victims ofone ofthe SS‘s worst and most inexplicable atrocities. The entire population was rounded up on the pretext ofan identity check. Around 45()women and children were led off to the small church. where they were asphixiated by smoke bomb. raked with machine gun fire and bombed with hand grenades. ()ne woman. shot five times. survived. Meanwhile the men were divided into six groups. taken to barns and shot. Four survived. Until now historians have been baffled by the carnage at ()radour. The object of the massacre was not. apparently. to make of Oradour an example to other French villages assisting the Resistance. But Robin Mackness is sure why it happened. and a convincing case he presents. It is a very personal story. for Mackness. an English entrepreneur credited with changing our sleeping habits (he set up Slumberdown). stumbled upon what he believes to be the truth while smuggling gold into Switzerland through France to ingratiate himselfwith Swiss bankers. He was caught. roughed up by the douaniers. and sentenced to eighteen months. In the course of this adventure he encountered ‘Raoul’. a former member ofthe Resistance and the hapless perpetrator ofthe executions. in 1982 the only man alive who could shed light on events at Oradour. The solution he presents to the mystery is so stunningly simple one wonders why no one thought of it before. But that does not detract from the credibility of this absorbing book. (Alan Taylor)


The Crypto-Amnesia Club Michael

50 The List—4; 17 March 1988

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administration‘s illegal support for the Contra rebels. For Americans the shock ofthis scandal lay in the exposure ofcriminal activity at the White House and the CIA by selling arms to Iran (in exchange for hostages. they hoped) and funnelling the cash to Nicaragua.

Leslie (‘ockburn. a CBS reporter. reveals albeit in bland journalese for the first time the murderous nature of the (‘ontras and their drug-running connections. For Europeans. who generally take a more sympathetic view ofCentral America's troubles than the Americans. Cockburn‘s exposure of US crassness and arrogance will come as no more a surprise than does Ronald Reagan‘s description of the ("ontras as ‘the moral equal ofour Founding Fathers.‘ (Ross Garrow)


Blue Fruit Adam Lively (Simon & Schuster £9.95) In his bold first fiction Adam Lively. son of the more famous Penelope. has achieved an unlikely fusion ofscience fiction and the 18th century epistolary novel. The letter writer is John Field and its recipient is his father from whom he ran away two centuries before. Field pere is a physician; his son is a jazz violinist in what could be almost any major city in the United States de


that discerning reader, Philip Roth. And Michael Dorris's book turns out to be a brilliant debut, linguistically tough and supple with a challenging and intricate story spanning three generations of Indian women.

Both writers do not hide a collaboration which would be anathema to legions of the literati. Partly it came about, says Michael Dorris, by their isolation in rural New Hampshire from other writers, forcing them to discuss their work with each other. How both of them. says Dorris, ‘go and begin and write a draft. Discussion is coterminus with the writing. When it's finished we read the words out loud to each other and so far we've agreed with each word.’

Louise Erdrich feels that their common upbringing each has an infusion of lndian blood - in a storytelling tradition helps them to ‘build' stories. Each attended school on reservations and remain closely involved with the Indian community, experience and knowledge of which Dorris has used to such good effect in A Yellow Raft Go Blue Water. Though each is happy to acknowledge the input of the other it has not yet resulted in them sharing the credit on the title page. But that may not be so far off. They are working jointly on an academic book about the dangers of foetal alcoholism and Louise Erdrich feels that a collection of short stories might best accommodate their

Bracewell (Serpent's Tail £4.95) Bracewell's novel is for the smart London set by the even smarter London literati and it reeks of pretension. It is full of metropolitan j wide-boy jokes which are vaguely amusing rather than hugely comic: ‘l have thought of her. just where Elizabeth and Leicester beat oars and not far from where Palace beat the Spurs.’ Like a bad party it leaves a nasty after-taste (especially at nearly £5 for I ll) spartan pages) and even the ironic twist at the end (about the only joke that works) cannot redeem it. (Alan Rice)


Out of Control Leslie (‘ockburn (Bloomsbury £13.95)

This densely written book provides the most extensive analysis yet of the j

true scale and nature of the Reagan

‘To Michael: Complice in every word, essential as air.‘ The cloying dedication in Louise Erdrich’s novel The Beef Oueen (Hamish Hamilton £10,95) to her husband and father of their five chidren (Abel, Sava, Madeline. Persia and Pallas), Michael Dorris. ‘For Louise: Companion through every page, through every day compeer.’ Dorris’s return compliment to his wife in his first novel, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (Hamish Hamilton £10.95).

One naturally fears the worst, particularly when one reads that husband and wife don't just share household chores but ‘coilaborate' on their novels. Expectations plummet. But Erdrich has been acclaimed ‘the most interesting new American intrinsically different styles. (Jenni novelist to have appeared in years’ by Allan)

nos jours. This is his first and last letter to his father and as such it must cover (in 136 pages) a lot ofground. from his days on a slave-ship and his travels in the Far East. to his friendship with the enigmatic Russian captain ofa whaler and his decision to go ashore alone on foreign terrain. It is here that the novel truly gets underway. Though Lively manages the time warp and culture shock rather too smoothly -— Field‘s ready acceptance of his life among ‘African‘ musicians in the teeming city begging more questions than he chooses to answer he does evoke beautifully jazzjamming sessions and gigs and the camaraderie ofmen brought together through their love ofmusic. Field‘s own alienation from his father is reflected in the racial tension between whites and blacks but what could. in a lesser talent, have turned into a liberal WASP‘s tract. bemoaning man‘s inhumanity to man. has emerged as something altogether more sophisticated and memorable. (Jenni Allan)


And The Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic Randy Shilts (Viking£15.95. Penguin £8.95) Hard-hitting stuff. written by the San Francisco Chronicle reporter who became the first journalist to cover the AIDS epidemic full-time. and destined to stand for years as the definitive work on the scourge that staked out its ground in the early l98lis and casts a shadow far beyond the end of this century.

Shilts was on the scene when media and governments ignored the threat, finding little interest to the "general population‘ in the deaths ofhorrific numbers ofgay men. And The Band Played Or: is both an exhaustively-researched piece of investigative journalism and a personal mission. written with dead and dying friends watching over his shoulder. Accordingly, he spares no punches. The 6()()-odd pages interweave the medical. political and social impact of the virus; a catalogue of ignorance. stupidity, greed. denial, despair and eventually accceptance. The hopeful message he tries to squeeze out at the end is undermined by the doubt engendered in the reader that, should the unthinkable happen again. the relevant authorities would be any quicker in mobilising against it.

Perhaps the greatest importance of And The Band Played 0n is that it serves as a tribute to the unknown (pre-Hudson) early victims, and the heroism ofa handful ofgay leaders who braved the taunt of “sexual fascists' from their own community, and were frustrated at every turn by those who could have made a difference. while all the time their ranks were being systematically

decimated. (John Dundas)