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figures It presumes to champIon. (Jonathan Katesby)


Caesars of the Wilderness Peter Newman (Viking £14.95) Peter Newman brings a great deal of scholarship to his ‘popular' account of the Hudson‘s Bay (‘ompany and its successful opening up of the ('anadian hinterland. His writing skills. however. belong to the worst excesses of populist fiction. l’seful and zealously documented research on such pivotal figures as Alexander Mackenzie is undermined by corny one-liners that portray him as ‘thorny as the thistles of his native Scotland' and ‘as immovable as the mountains he crossed'. Worse. there is little rigorous analysis anywhere in the book as Newman gets carried away with anecdotal accounts of macho. gun-toting lie-men in their tobacco-chewing quest for glory. rarely stopping to ask crucial searching questions about motivation and exploitation. For instance. native (‘anadians and women are cannon and bed-fodder. and although Newman is against such illiberalism. he is far too awestruck by his pioneering heroes to give enough space to those without whom his zuiventurers would not have been able to survive. A glaring omission in a hook which. despite its bulk. conceals as much as

it reveals. (Alan Rice)


Seminar on Youth Aldo Busi

((‘arcanet £12.95) A promising village idiot whose father has never forgiven him for not being a girl. and who learns by the age ofeight how to offer sexual treats. young Barbino soon turns to prostitution. first in Milan. then Paris. Forming an ambiguous relationship with an older French woman who puts him up in the vain hope of more than friendship. he slimes his way through society. vendetta at the heart of all his actions. love. ifany. spawned only through hate.

Fascinated by smells. testicles and public toilets. Barbino tells his own distasteful story. revelling in self»abasement. and bring a clinical eye to his liaisons which he treats with scientific cruelty.

Though used to telling a repellent tale. however. Busi‘s talent is sharp. l’erceptive and calculating. his writing has a luminous grace that is faintly mesmeric. sucking you into depths that. in retrospect. might have been more comfortably left unfathomed. (Rosemary (ioring)


Those Lambtonsf: A Most Unusual Family Sir John ('olvillc (Hodder & Stotighton £12.95) I thought the looniness ofthe l.ambtons. which I have had the pleasure to experience at first hand. was simple cccentricitv sliatcd by all the aristocracy. However. .lock (‘olville (who died recently I believed them to he such an unusual clan we should all he enable to enjoy their droll hereditary traits. The attraction of this hook mtIst lie in its implicit promise ofspecial

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treatment. Not for you. reader. the impenetrable barrier of looped red rope; come. march through doors marked ‘Private‘; watch the rich and famous at play. Close examination of this bluest Of bloods should be rewarding: Lambton corpuscles have turned up in a Prime Minister. an editor of the Times. a racehorse trainer. a world authority on Persia and a clutch of Admirals and Generals. to say nothing of Radical Jack. engineer of the I832 Reform Bill. Unfortunately. we are treated to a sanitised potted history of the family‘s prominent members and to only a smattering of anecdote about their-more elusive. more intriguing relations. (‘onclusions are left undrawn; not even a thought on that most interesting Lambton habit of shooting oneself in the foot. (Julie Morrice)


Richard Branson: The Inside Story Mick Brown (Michael Joseph £12.95) In my days of patchouli-scentcd Afghan coats the little discount Virgin shop in Argyle Street Glasgow was a haven of imports and joss sticks. So it came as a bit of a surprise that it was Virgin who signed up not just Mike "l‘ubular Bells' ()ldfield but the Sex Pistols too. According to Mick Brown. Branson (nicknamed Mr Pickles by Malcolm McLaren) is not a great rock buff. proving that you don't have to know much about what you sell only how to sell it.

The book is really the story of the Virgin label and gives a neat. potted

history of the record biz along the


Before Eric Van Lustbader turned his hand to writing. he pursued a successful career in the music business, as a record producer and music journalist. When he found. in the mid-Seventies, that the industry was increasingly striking discordant notes with him, Van Lustbader plumped for life as a full-time writer. By this time he already had a clutch of science fantasy novels under his belt.

‘The Ninja‘ gave up the sci-fantasy genre and became a bestseller. In subsequent contemporary novels. Van Lustbader has delved still deeper into the tensions and contradictions of Japan. But he has never been to Japan, a fact which his gimmick-conscious publishers exploit to the full. If is therefore surprising that he is surprised when ‘Everyone asks me why I haven‘t been.‘ His reasons are succinct: ‘You can‘t learn a thing in Japan. Society is absolutely closed to Westerners.‘

Instead, Van Lustbader gets his source material from Japanese friends who now live in the States. ‘I've immersed myself in its culture through its art and its people. I have spent a tremendous amount of time for fifteen years with these friends, just soaking uptheirexperiences and their

knowledge very, very slowly.‘

Contrast as much as conflict. explains Van Lustbader, is what his books are about. ‘That's part of what Japan is this duality between the soft and the hard. ltalk a lot about philosophy and the kind of ‘feminine‘ things that go on in Japan the gentle things as opposed to the hard masculine things.

Power muscles into the lives of his characters whether it be sexual, physical, philosophical or physical. ‘I think power is what drives most people. Butyou pay for powerwith isolation. It seems tragic to me. They're mono-directional and they lose outbecause of it.‘

As the heroes struggle for a political

power which is also moral, they are forced to make choices. The opt to karate-chop their way through other people's bodies to achieve their goals. ‘My books are my way of getting out my frustration with the violent world we live in. All my heros and heroines have one thing in common - they hate being violent. They see that reliance on violence is not the answer.’

An important factor in Van Lustbader's fascination with Eastern religions and philosophies is the allure of community. ‘l'm so Western, butl strive in my personal life to be more Eastern. ldon't like being alone. I want to be able to feel part of the world around me and not feel frightened by death and growing older and what comes after death. Americans want to get from Ato B as fast as possible they don‘t care about the journey, they want to get to the end. The Japanese care only about the journey because they know that the end is an illusion, that there is no end. I‘d like to feel that way. I think you live a much richer, fuller life "you're not afraid of anything.‘

Eric Van Lustbader's latest novel, Zero, has just been published by Grafton at £11.95 (hbk). Shan is now available in paperback at £3.50. (Kristina Woolnough)