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m. ’ 4.\.\ 5;“ is hired by a glamorous antiques dealer to trace three mysterious men. The plot then coagulates into illogical confusion. and the sub-plot — involving a young. pregnant girl, the product of a concurrent case — becomes considerably more captivating. The thought-provoking climax is. however. the book‘s saving grace. (SM)
Why Diamond Had To Die Richard Burns (Bloomsbury £12.95). Former INLA member Diamond and an apparently simple delivery job (in return for da‘s life) produce an intricate plot ofsurprise. deception. tight corners and lust woven into a lattice ofpolitical and terrorist organisations. Within the engrossing family of characters, Diamond is strangely innocent. appealing and strikingly humorous. eliciting in the reader a desire for his survival. The outcome is tragic, uplifting and ironic. (SM)
SANITY IN STORAGE
Dream of Darkness Patrick Ruell (Methuen £11.99). When ex-security man Nigel Ellis sits down to write his memoirs, more than one organisation between London and Johannesburg is anxious to prevent publication. For his daughter. however, perplexed by so many past events. unravelling the mysteries of her formative years is essential to her sanity. Conventionally but convincingly narrated, this well-constructed novel takes a jaundiced (hence. one presumes, all too accurate) look at the world of intelligence and espionage. (SB)
The Lion Rampant William Paul (MacDonald £11.95). Appearing appositer in the rosy post-Govan glow. this novel is set in a nearly independent Scotland. Its central character is Andrew Wallace. a charismatic leader ofthe SNP. The plot revolves around the machinations of various interests who don‘t want to see Scotland separate from the UK, and around Wallace‘s efforts to stop them. A good idea. though the most is never really made ofit. and there are times
'- CONFISCATION OF
when, because ofthe pedestrian prose style. it reads just like any one ofcountless book club thrillers. (IG)
The Monarchs Are Flying Marion Foster (Pandora £3.95). This lesbian detective story is a rare example ofa novel in — regrettably in this case — almost a genre of its own. The genre. however, is not particularly well served by this book which. despite a promising plot. is marred by serious references to the central character’s ‘crisp Virgo mind‘ and even worse. A crying shame that so small a body of books should have to include a turkey like this. (10)
The Knot Garden Geoff Nicholson (Hodder & Stoughton £10.95). Fat and miserable TV gardening expert apparently bumps himself off (or was it murder?) leaving a trail of clues as intricate as the Elizabethan knot gardens which are his horticultural
speciality. Several different characters are engaged to investigate - the various aspects of the ‘suicide‘, |
Kwita, young gorilla. looks the camera in the eye. From Gorilla: Struggle For Survival in the Virungas, published by Bloomsbury at £16.95.
and their telling of their own stories constitute the novel. The split narrative often. though not always. works quite well. some of the jokes are hilarious. and the denouement is acorker. (IG)
MURDER MOST EDINBURGH
- I Blood Line Alanna Knight
(Macmillan £10.95). Set in Victorian Edinburgh. this atmospheric little
UNDER WRAPS: THE BOOKS
West & Wilde, Edinburgh’s lesbian and gay bookshop, has recently mounted a campaign to challenge what is perceived as the carte blanche oi HM Customs to confiscate whatever they please, without offering reasons or explanations. Several consignments oi books for West & Wilde have been seized over the last six months. The confiscation has caused financial loss, but there are, says Bob Orr, greater issues at stake.
‘Ever since we started (lormerly as Lavender Menace), we've always depended on importing, because the lesbian and gay market wasn’t particularly important to British publishers. That included some erotic material. It all, of course, went through the hands oi Customs. We never really had any problems. As the market gradually changed, and the run-of-the-mill, everyday sort of titles became readily available over here, we continued to get erotic writing from America.
In the last six months, Customs seem to have changed their strategy. Before that, they were very casual and didn’t bother us. Now we’re getting several parcels opened. The vast majority of our orders come through, but they're seizing the erotic books-which are not, I should add, exploitative pornography.
The issue at the heart of all this is that, although you do get the option to challenge their decision, the only way you can do it is to go to court. And there has never been a recorded case in this country where an individual—even for things like food - has been successful against Customs. It really is a pointless
exercise, and it can cost a great deal of
If a Customs' ruling goes unchallenged, the goods are permanently lost, with no compensation. The jurisdiction of HM Customs lies, says Bob Drr, under an impenetrable cloud. “The law in
Scotland is very obscure and very vague with regard to obscenity. There are no statutory laws. Customs operate under their own statutes - they don't need to refer to any law. They aren't even obliged to say why they’re confiscating something. To defend a case in court when you don't know what the charges are is virtually impossible.’
West & Wilde are particularly annoyed about the role that Customs have assumed: ‘We don't feel that Customs have the knowledge, experience or even the time to judge what is acceptable. It’s not theirjob. We're trying to pressure them into either giving us a clear idea of what we can and can’t have, or just to lay off,’ said Drr. (Kristina Woolnough)
novel. one in the series of ‘Inspector Faro Mysteries,‘ is a delightful read. A body is found at the foot of the Castle Rock, just as Queen Victoria is due to visit. The authorities want to hush the matter up. but can the Inspector get to the bottom of the mystery, which seems to have its roots in the case which killed his father, and touches on some intrigue surrounding Mary Queen of Scots. before the Queen arrives? Probably. but I'm not telling. (IG)
VULGAR POLAR BEAR
Glory Days Rosie Scott (The Women's Press £4.50). The heroine of this book is a huge, terrifying ‘polar bear’ of a woman who sings in a rock band, has abused her children and counts drug addicts and gangsters amongst her friends. She is also immensely likeable. and brilliantly drawn by Scott who has such flair for dialogue and setting that the plot. perfectly adequate though it is. often seems merely incidental. The book is crude, sexist, immoral and hugely enjoyatle. (IG)
TAME AND THE SAME
Frontier 01 Fear Michael Hartland (Hodder & Stoughton £10.95). Its gruesome prologue aside. this is a fairly conventional political thriller. The action ranges over three continents and revolves around the beautiful heroine’s attempts first to seduce and betray, and subsequently to protect, a Pakistani potentate. Competently written, but just a shade samey. (IG)
Alan Taylor wrestles with Greer, Maugham and others and comes out alive.
The Root of the Matter Father Anthony Ross (Mainstream £12.95). The pity of this book is that it is not twice the length. It begins with the birth of its author in 1917 and ends in 1945 with his ordination as a priest. The two are connected by the simplest conjunction that cannot hope to capture the turmoil it took to convert a boy brought up in Free Presbyterianism — the Wee Frees - to Roman Catholicism. So, in a sense, this is a ‘spiritual‘ autobiography but it is much more than that. Fr. Ross writes with elegance and simplicity of his upbringing in Caithness in the pre-war years. It is an evocative portrait reminiscent of Neil Gunn‘s Morning Tide. But he is equally at ease in Edinburgh at the University, vividly colouring in the ambience and the characters. Here the comparison is with a book by a near- contemporary, David Daiches’s Two World’s, a classic ofits kind, as this is surely destined to become. (Alan Taylor)
The List 7 — 20 April 1989 65