Patrick has webbed fingers and a wet mouth, but little else to endear him. In the opening chapter he blunders through his mother’s deserted house, squeezing between

hot-house plants, a dead tortoise and

a gibbering monkey who quickly becomes the most likeable figure in the book. In the process he discovers a 12th century tome which unlocks the history of Ireland, and spins a

genealogical thread from its troubled

times to Patrick’s.

Armed with this book, and the burning loss of his mother (without whom he is emotionally bereft), Patrick sets out in his ponderous Victorian way to recover her. En route, his long-lost (never-known) grandfather pops up for company, and the touching sense of family ties, blood thicker than water etc, is heightened.

Melting past into present with an excess of words and eccentricity, O’Grady’s novel charts an overly imaginative and distinctly tedious journey. It will take a patient traveller to follow the search beyond the first comfort stop. (Rosemary Goring)


Crimson Joy Robert B. Parker (Viking£11.95). Somebody is murdering black women in the most horrific manner, and the police department, suspecting that the perpetrator might be one of its own number, draughts in hunky ace private eye Spenser to help in the investigation. Spenser and his

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Yoga-a discussion on the eight limbs

MARCH 1 5TH Unusual and attractive vegetables you can grow organically

APRIL 5TH Learning to read the Runes

APRIL 19TH Art as Process





SIMTONW 3W 3d: Oil 226 n“


associate beautiful ace psychologist Susan Silverman get on the track of the killer and quickly discover that he is one of Susan’s patients, but will they be able to prove what they know?

Such are the bare bones of the plot, and very good it is too. It is beautifully and economically constructed and, whilst there is no real mystery (we find out who the killer is relatively early on), Parker finds other ways to keep us in suspense. The structure of the book is simple almost to the point at which the coincidence upon which much of the narrative hangs seems ridiculous, but that point is never reached because of the sheer quality of Parker‘s writing.

By turns funny and breathtaking, the writing is always elegant and has such pace and style that the plot almost becomes a secondary concern—if you think you might get depressed reading about the exploits of an Adonis who can quote the poets and fell an ox with equal and consummate ease, then read the book for Parker’s prose which, as ever, is a delight. (Iain Grant)


Inside Time Ken Smith (Harrap £12.95). Ken Smith applied for the post, tenable for two years, of writer in residence at HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, his brief there being to foster and develop any writing going on amongst the inmates, and this book is the fruit of his experience of the prison.

The subject matter of the book is depressing; the violence is sickening, the routine rigid, the conditions squalid and the oppression unbearable. One of the arguments stated with obvious and commendable conviction in the book holds that prison is futile; its deterrent effect is achieved in full in

' the first few days inside and is

actually lessened by the passage of time: thereafter it is all mind-numbing tedium coupled with the chance for the hardened cons to swap tips and for novices to learn their criminal trade.

Admirable though the sentiments are, however, the full impact of the book is lessened by its stylistic weaknesses vital points are lost amid impressionistic meanderings, much of the material seems irrelevant, and a lot of the prose is muddled and hard to understand. A more direct approach is taken by one of the talents Smith ‘fostered’-‘Dave Wait’- who conveys his own impressions of prison life from the inside without high-blown metaphor and metaphysical speculation. This is much the best part of the book,

- and it is only a pity that the rest is not

of the same standard. (Iain Grant)


Breach OI Promise: Labour In Power 1964-1970 Clive Ponting (Hamish

Hamilton £15.95). Having returned to government after thirteen years of Conservative rule, Labour was perceived as the party of progress, promising liberation from the tired paternalism of the Tories. By the 1970 general election, though, the positions had reversed. Clive Ponting’s account of this collapse of confidence - the public’s in the party, the Cabinet’s in its own ability to govern - constitutes an engrossing insight into the machinations of government and the sheer deviousness of most of the protagonists.

Chief among the latter, of course, was Harold Wilson himself, Ponting‘s depiction of whom is encapsulated in the book’s cover photograph: his attempt to achieve an image of the elder statesman is epitomised by his waving to the crowd, by his would-be avuncular smile; but the evil glint in his eyes belies this ostensible innocence, and leaves him looking for all the world like the wolf masquerading as Goldilocks’ granny. ‘You couldn’t believe a word he said’, wrote Tony Benn, at one stage a close ally ofthe Prime Minister’s.

Ponting is perhaps too idealistic, maybe a shade shocked at the possibility of Labour becoming adept in the practice of realpolitik. His evaluation, nevertheless, is evenhanded; and his explication of


For some reason, Penguin’s new ‘Originals’ imprint have been dubbed ‘designer novels’. Explanations include the shape oi the books they are short and fat, and have a near-absence oi writing on their covers - and the sort at writing that will be published - young and avant-garde. 0n the whole, one suspects that Penguin have invented the ‘designer’ tag, to lure readers with the irresistible promise of Novelty. ‘Originals’ is an imprint tor new and lesser known writers-they will be published in paperback Iormat immediately, thus averting the expense of hard-cover lirst novels (which can be dismal Iailures in terms of sales) lorthe publishers. The concept ol designer readers is, however, an interesting one. ‘Designer’ is after all about being seen to be doing and not actually doing: an end to reading (and book reviewing) as we know it perhaps.

complex policy issues displays an incisive intelligence. (Stuart Bathgate)


I The Water Of The Iiills Marcel Pagnol (Picador £5.99) Double bill of Jean de Florerte and Manon des Sources, which inspired Berri’s films, about a hunchback farmer’s troubles with his neighbours over water sources in Provence.

I A Darkness In The Eye M.S. Power (Abacus £3.99) Third in the ‘Children of the North’ trilogy, this one opens and closes with the death ofO‘Reilly, IRA godfather and fictional hero.

I A Cannibal In Manhattan Tama

J anowitz (Picador £4.99) Heiress woos and kidnaps South Sea Island native, then drags him to the US suburban jungle. Satire - via primitive man who is not as primitive as civilized man has been done before eg. Thomas Love Peacock, Crocodile Dundee etc.

I Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide Ed. Silver and Ward (Bloomsbury £14.95) Revised and expanded edition devoted to that pure American genre where sex and violence, sleaze and small-time characters are the norm.

I Behind The Wall Colin Thubron (Penguin £4.99) Absorbing tales of a huge trek around China by this elegant, careful writer and traveller who confronts all he sees with perception and curiosity.

I Beyond The Pyramids: Travels in Egypt Douglas Kennedy (Unwin £4.95) Conversational. Americanized and idiomatic travel book describing, yeah, well, triumphs and tribulations of the author’s journey, with political and religious in-put.

I John Wayne: My Lile With The Dulte Pilar Wayne (New English Library £3.50) Wife tells all (care of ghost-writer) about life with a bullish, obstinate man who would ya beleeeve it talked the same off as on screen. Hell, goddammit.

I The Boy Who Shot Down An Airship Michael Green (Bantam £3.99) First part of his autobiography from the author of ‘The Art of Coarse’ books. Boys‘ own chums, vacs, war wounds etc.

I The Way To Write Crime Fiction Lisanne Radice (Elm Tree £6.99) Clues about the genre for the investigative would-be writer.


I James Kelman will be reading stories and answering questions from punters on Thurs 23. His new book ‘A Disaffection’ has just been published. Thin’s, South Bridge, 031 556 6743, Thurs 23 Feb 7pm , free.

I Alasdair Gray will be reading from his recently published collection of poems ‘Old Negatives’ on Thurs 2. Waterstone’s, George Street, 031 225 3436, Thurs 2 7.30pm, free.

I Hatchard's Literary Luncheon. A chance to swap literary anecdotes with, and spill wine and/or gravy over, such eminent figures as

60 The List 24 February - 9 March