Stewart ilome is the author of Bed London, a novel about sex, violence and pathological sadism that iollows the exploits of The Skinhead Squad as they plunder their anarchic way from Belgravia to Mile End. Brimming with class anger and with a cataclysmic conclusion, the book should lind a welcoming place in the pulp splatter genre.
‘The thing with characterisation is that it’s not smoothing that totally interests me. There are basically two types oi characters that i like. One type is what you’d llnd in pulp iiction where there’s no real attempt to make the character particularly believable. The Fu Manchu stories by Sax Bohmer are one example where the characterisation consists oi descriptions like: ‘lle was mean, lean and high-shouldered.’ Another character that i really like from pulp fiction is Mike Cameron from the Mickey Spillane novels. lie seems to be cornpietely superhuman. lie gets trashed and beaten up in every novel but manages to recover in time tor the next one.
‘A slightly diiierent type of character can be seen in the novel by the 50s crime writer .lim Thomson called The Killer Inside Me. ills character is a guy called Deputy lou Ford. The entire book is written in llrst person narrative and when Ford starts out you think that what he’s doing is all very reasonable, but then it transpires that he’s a psychotic killer. Tiuoughout the book you can trust him less and less, so that by the end the reader is all at sea and you don’t know what to believe.
‘i’m delinltely attracted to those types oi characters that undermine the traditional literary notions oi what a character should be like. I’m not interested in reading a lot ol description, what a character is wearing, how their lace retiects their inside droughts etc. I like it when the reader has to work out tor themselves what’s going on.
‘One ol Iny lavourlte recent characters appears in a book by the law York writer lynne Tillman. Again written in the llrst person, it’s about this middle-aged, gay American writer who lives in Crete and is obsessed by a woman called llelen. She’s my iavourite because she doesn’t appear at all in the entire book!’
(Stewart Home was talking to Ann Donald. lied london is published by A.K. Press at £5.95. Contact 22 Lutton Place, Edinburgh Fits 99!.)
I Starcarbon Ellen Gilchrist (Faber £14.99) This is the latest instalment in the story of the Hand and Manning families. At the beginning of the 90s. Daniel Hand is living alone in North Carolina. facing ﬁnancial ruin. succumbing to loneliness and destroying himseifwith drink. Jessie and Olivia. his daughters by different women. have grown up and left home to face problems of their own. Jessie has marriage troubles and Olivia can't come to terms with her mother having died giving birth to her. Daniel ﬁnds it
hard to let go of both girls as they gain independence and establish other ties.
As all three struggle with the past and the present. they gradually dissolve much of the tension that threatens to fragment the family. instead of destroying themselves and each other. relationships are improved and strengthened.
Gilchrist‘s writing has a light and gentle quality despite dealing with family strife. emotional and psychological chaos. alcoholism and bereavement. She uses much dialogue. successfully giving life to the family and pace to the story. Readable and pleasingly sweet. (Cath Boylan)
£23... I Last lesson In The Aiternoon Christopher Rush (Canongate £9.99) Ostensibly a retiring teacher‘s ﬁnal lesson on Milton‘s Lycidas, this novel is in fact a monologue recounting the formative years and education of the narrator. Campbell Mackay. The contrast between Mackay‘s own education and current teaching practice is the foundation for Rush's satire.
As the novel proceeds it becomes apparent that Mackay — scholar. poet and misogynist — is the object ofthe satire himself and the educational methods he is decrying. Cranford.
Mackay's schoolboy nemesis and later
his college principal, mam'es Mackay’s ﬁrst love. despite being horribly crippled and emasculated.
This is the real source of Mackay‘s impotent rage against teaching methods which Cranford allegedly typiﬁes. Rush, teacher and poet is not Mackay. and that gap is where ourjudgement must arise. in his ostentatious use of language and his absurd nostalgia. Mackay is revealed as the victim of the irony of self-revelation and Rush as an accomplished satin'st. (John Caimey)
I N.P. Banana Yoshimoto (Faber £4.50) ‘i'm sure that you (the reader) have encountered troubled people in your life. as l have. Whether brilliant or ordinary. they have to cope with some burden that constantly makes their lives difﬁcult.’
N.P. is the title of the last collection of stories by a famous Japanese writer. stories written in English which may never see the light of day in the writer’s native Japan due to the deaths of each successive translator. Gathered together
and tied inextricably with the writer’s life and work, four young people attempt to unravel and resist the lethal pull of NP.
lfbooks were machines. N.P. would be a simple mechanism devoid of complicated gears or heavy brakes — replete with only the necessary parts and accessories needed to make it go, to make the story work. Though simple doesn’t necessarily mean benign. and in parts N.P. is anything but that. on occasions it displays the playful pathos of threat within its spare prose style. (Toni Davidson)
I Sister Jim Lewis (Flamingo £5.99) in his debut novel. Lewis spins a lush dream- like yarn through his own version of the Garden of Eden, in an-age-old story of teenage angst. infatuation. possession. and ﬁnal devastating loss. Ephemeral as summer blossom. this mystical tale unfolds under an assured and lyrical penmanship plunging the reader into a fantastic landscape of the imagination. A must for those lazy. crazy. summer days. I Here We Go Harry Ritchie (Penguin £5.99) Ritchie. literary editor for The Sunday Times visits four Costa del Sol resorts. Assignment: to write a different type of travel book. The result is embarrassingly awful and wallows in its own obnoxiousness. Anyone not into laddish prose and infantile posturing will surely be appalled.
I Fangs (it love David Wong Louie (Picador £5.99) Dirty realism meets the Asian American immigrant experience and emerges as strangely lyrical in this collection of stories. Loss. alienation and a sense of eternal displacement haunt Louie‘s Chinese characters as they struggle to come to terms with their cultural schizophrenia. At times strained. this is still an original American voice.
I True And False Romances Ana Lydia Vega (Serpent’s Tail £8.99) An ‘evil’ spirit that happens to be a feminist. a Bobbit-iike ending for a ﬂagrant Don Juan. an agency dedicated to the reprogramming oferrant husbands and much more in this collection. With deadly wit and ﬂawless verve and charm, Vega records a collective disenchantment with men.
I Sunday’s Child lngmar Bergman (Harvill £6.99) Familiar Bergman territory in this near sequel to the autobiographical Best Intentions. A childhood summer is evoked. a world poised on the edge of unhappiness. As usual it's a family affair. In entering a child's mind and in its ﬁnely measured lyricism. this is writing of the highest quality. (Marc Lambert and Katy Lironi)
I Keith Floyd Fri 29. 6.30pm. Waterstone’s. 121 Union Street. 221 0890. The flamboyant chef and author ofA Taste 0fltaly (Michael Joseph £16.99) will be signing copies of his latest culinary celebration and trip to ltalia.
I Edwin Morgan Wed 3. 7pm. Waterstone's. 45 Princes Square. 221 9650. One of Scotland‘s most renowned poets reads from his latest collection A Sweeping Out The Dark (Carcanet £8.95). I Flow Sat 30. 7.30-9pm. £3. The Arches. Midland Street. As part of the sporadic. multi-media. ambient happening
that is Flow. three writers will be injecting some literary TNT into the proceedings. The unstoppable Barry Graham. novelist and resident poet on Radio Scotland will be appearing alongside regular psychoactive poet Toni Davidson. Cal King. ‘the nemesis of women‘s writing in Scotland' is collaborating with singers and dancers to produce another startling performance.
I William llelli Tue 2. 7pm. James Thin, 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The launch of the radical poet‘s Collected Poems (Canongate £12.99).
I looking For The Spark Wed 10. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556
6743. The launch of the 1994 Harper Collins and Scottish Arts Council collection of short stories. The collection is priced £8.99 and published by Harper Collins.
I In The Footsteps 0i Stevenson Wed 3, 7—8pm. McDonald Road Library. 556 5630. An illustrated talk by Robert Watson.
I An evening with Robert louis Stevenson Wed 10, 7.30—9pm. Portobello Library. 669 5115. Cameo present an evening of Victorian music with dramatic readings from Treasure Island and Kidnapped.
I Stevenson and Swanston Thurs 11. 7—8pm. Oxgangs Library. 445 5699. A talk by Stevenson expert Alanna Knight.
74 The List 29 July—l 1 August 1994