I The Butcher Alina Reyes (Methuen

f £9.99) Written in the week after

' Reyes attended a course in erotic

literature, this plucky little book is ' bursting with pace and frankness.

5 During the hot summer months, a

3 young female art student takes a job

in a butcher shop. Every day, a fat, perspiring co-worker regales her with vivid sexual reveries.

What makes the crude seduction click is the setting. In the tiny shop, the hot. sweet smell of meat is

inescapable, hypnotic, a kind ofgrim . aphrodisiac. The red flesh crowds in,

blurring the line between the living

L and the dead. Reyes‘s taut, lavish

descriptions of gleaming knives

' slicing through wads of oozing meat

, are curiously enthralling. When the young woman finally yields to her

panting suitor, it all feels perfectly

5 natural. (Carl HONOré)


I Under Fire: An American Story Oliver North with William Novak (Harper Collins £17.99) A hefty book with a hefty price tag and probably worth every minute and every penny. Those who thought that North was the archetypal dumb

to save his president‘s face are in for a shock. As are those who had him targeted as a scheming back-room boy with ideas above his station. North comes across as an intelligent. cunning, loyal and exceptionally brave man who, far

positively disobeying his superiors, actually used his wiles to (almost) pull off an enormously audacious scam that would have fallen at the first hurdle ifit hadn't been for this good old American boy.

Naturally there's plenty to make the reader wince North's nauseating patriotism, his ; description of the Contras as - freedom fighters, the contradiction

? inherent in his obsession with getting

, the hostages (all four ofthem) back i from the Lebanon while thousands i were slain in Nicaragua with

1 American weapons. But, and it‘s a big but, he does show Reagan up as the charlatan we all supected, does

I implicate his bosses at the NSC, and i does prove that the US legal system is a sham. (Philip Parr)


£5.99) Now into its second collected

volume. this little column has

9 amassed a large cult following in the Guardian. And why not? After all,

who hasn‘t at one time or another

- wondered why an ice-cream with a

chocolate flake is called a 99 or why nobody sells nylon shirts any more?

Here are 200 pages that tackle the

burning questions of our time. What

are the true capabilities of TV detector vans? Why does asparagus

make your urine smell? Why don’t L

82 The List 22 November 5 December 1991

puppy dog prepared to go to the wall

from either simply obeying orders or

I Guardian Book of Notes and Queries edited by Brian Whitaker (4th Estate


A new series where writers talk about

how they kept the wolf from the door

' while they papered their walls with - rejection slips, starting with Booker

near-miss Allan Massle.

. ‘I never entirely believed the people

who used to say that you couldn’t make a living from writing, because it was

i perfectly obvious that a lot of people

did. So I think that from the time when l

started being published, certainly from when i started doing things fairly

regularly for newspapers, it seemed

' fairly clearthat, given average luck, l 1 would eventually be able to make quite

a respectable living. ‘I was a schoolmaster at a prep

school for about eleven years afterl

3 graduated, then I worked in Home for a i while, teaching English as a foreign

, language. Although I knew while i was 3 at university that I intended to be a

? writer, my early efforts weren’t terribly e encouraging. lcombined part-time

' teaching with writing for about eight

f more years, until l realised I was earning more from writing than I was 1: fromteachlng.

‘ln a curious way, my time as a teacher was valuable because it actually stopped me from doing too much writing; I think it's quite a good thing fora novelist to begin rather late.

I've noticed that writers who start very young tend to run out of material, they reach a point where they don't seem to have anything left to write about. There‘s no doubt that once you start being published, your relationship to your experience changes; F. Scott Fitzgerald was a very good example of somebody who was terrified that he was using up all his experience, and so he tried to force life into producing material for novels.

‘I didn’t publish my first novel until I

I was almost forty, by which time l'd

accumulated quite a lot of experience; I don’t mean anything dramatic or exciting, just ordinarythings. lthink it's better to do that before you become a novelist, spend some time just living a fairly normal life. (Sue Wilson)

airliners supply parachutes to passengers? Prying themselves away from their vegetable gardens and Amnesty letter-writing, Guardian readers serve up the answers with relish. With such relish, in fact, that there are far more answers than questions. As a goldmine ofquirky and trivial information, this is one of those reference books most usefully perused in the fifteen minutes beforr

: setting off for a party. (Carl Honore"


I Great Law and Order Stories edited by John Mortimer (Penguin £4.99) A

bit ofa marketing ploy this, as it‘s not

« about law-abiding folk at all but a 5 crime and mystery anthology in

disguise. All the old favourites are

here Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, E Poe, Chesterton, Rendell as well as I ' an appearance from Rumpole to

justify the title to carping critics. I The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter Albie Sachs (Paladin £5.99)

In 1988, Sachs, an ANC activist, was ;

blown up by a car-bomb placed by

South African security forces, losing .

his right arm. This account of his

' recovery is engaging in its honesty about Sachs‘s feelings, physical and ; emotional, and in its powerful but

; unproselytismg political convrctrons.

; I A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains Isabella Bird (Virago £6.99) It was

thanks to the Victorian custom of

f sending middle-class ladies abroad

‘for one’s health’ that Miss Bird,

ostensibly ‘delicate‘, ended up travelling through the Rockies on horseback. Much of her travelogue‘s

charm derives from the way Wild West characters and landscapes are described in such decorous tones, as are our heroine's dealings with the roguishly charming Mountain Jim (sounds a bit saucy. and it is).

I The Golden Spur Dawn Powell (Virago Modern Classics £5 .99) The last offering from this underrated

comic novelist and chronicler of New

York bohemia charts the progress of a Mid-West ingenue as he seeks the identity ofhis true father. An acerbic though affectionate portrait of50s literary life in the Big Apple.

I The Penguin Book of Diaries selected by Ronald Blythe (Penguin £6.99) From the famous (Byron, Dr Johnson) to the obscure (George Sturt, who he?), Blythe has selected judiciously from five hundred years ofjournal-keeping, providing series offascinating glimpses into other people's lives. Selections are grouped by subject, such as ‘The Diarist in Love‘ so that one can read, for instance, about Elizabeth Barratt Browning’s passion for a blind scholar alongside Arthur Munby‘s weakness for working women.

I The Crooked Timber of Humanity Isaiah Berlin (Fontana £5.99) The grand old man of ideas explores the highways and byways of the European consciousness. Berlin is a traditionalist philosopher given to sweeping statements and succinct sentences, which makes his essays readable and amusing while enabling him to move with case from utopian ideals through 18th century thought to the rise of fascism.

(Frances Cornford)


7 cuscow

I Torn ShleldsJohn Smith and Son, 57

Vincent Street, 221 7472. Wed 27,

. 5.30pm. The veteran Glasgow Herald

; humourist will be reading from and

signing copies of his new collection Tom Shields' Diary (Mainstream, £6.99).

I Serpent’s Tall 5th Birthday Party

Waterstone‘s, 45/50 Princes Square. 221 9650. Wed 27, 7pm. The independent,

. idiosyncratic publishing house continues

to thrive in an unfriendly climate, specialising in first novels and paperback originals, and is celebrating the fact with a

, party featuring readings by three of its top i writers— Susan Moncur, Janice Galloway and Margaret Wilkinson, plus sundry


I Delia Smith Waterstone‘s, 45/50 Princes Square, 221 9650. Thurs 5, 7pm. The popular, practical cookery writer and TV chef will be giving tips from and signing copies of her new seasonal offering Delia Smith's Christmas (BBC Books. £12.95).


I Christmas racipeslamcs Thin, 53—59 South Bridge, 556 6743. Sat 23, 11am. A chance to sample some of the seasonal goodies described in Delia Smith‘s new book, Delia Smith '3 Christmas (BBC Books£12.95).

I Disney Cartoon Characters Waterstone's, 13/14 Princes Street, 556 3034. Sat 23. 11am. The costumed figures ofMickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other kids‘

favourites will be on hand to promote

Discovering French With Walt Disney (Harrap £6.99), a new approach to

: language-learning.

I French Book Festival Institut Francais d'Ecosse, 13 Randolph Crescent, 225 5366. Sat 23, 10am—6pm. 50p. A day of Gallic literary activities to coincide with the third ‘Fureur de Lire‘ festival taking place across La Manche. As well as stalls and displays of French or French-related books, there will be talks. readings, theatrical excerpts and more. with a ‘Literary Fancy Dress Party‘ from

8—1 ipm, where costumes should be

' inspired by French authors or characters;

tickets £3 (£2.50).

I Prue Leith Waterstone‘s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Tue 26, 7pm. The revered restaurateur, writer and teacher of fine cuisine will be talking about some ofthe recipes in Leith 's Cookery Bible (Bloomsbury £20).

I Wine-Tasting Waterstone‘s, 13/14 : Princes Street, 556 3034. Thurs 28 7pm.

£1 . A chance to sample (courtesy ofMarks & Spencer) some of the wines ' recommended in Malcolm Gluck‘s Superplonk I992 (Faber £4. 99), the new edition of the popular supermarket wine

; guide. 4 I Brigadier Frank Coutts Waterstonc's. 83 L George Street, 225 3436. Thurs 28,

7.30pm. The former Scottish rugby

7 international, SRU president and soldier

; in the King‘s Own Scottish Highlanders

j will be talking about his new book on army i life. One Blue Bonnet (B&W £7.95).

I Michael Jackson Watcrstone’s, 13/14

3 Princes Street, 556 3034. Fri 29. 7pm. £1 . No, not that one, but the author ofthe i authoritative guide to Scotland‘s national

ripple, Michael Jackson '5 Malt Whisky Companion (Dorling Kinderslcy£10.99), with various waters of life provided for sampling.

I Delia Smith Waterstonc's, 83 George Street, 225 3436. Wed 4, 7pm. The popular, practical cookery writer and TV chef will be giving tips from and signing copies of her new seasonal offering Delia

Smith '5 Christmas (BBC Books£12.95).