Stand-up comedian and writer Malcolm Hardee lets Brian Donaldson take down his particulars as his biography I Stole Freddy Mercury is Birthday Cake is published.

lame Malcolm Hardee

Age 46

Previous Jobs Burglar. mini-cab driver. fork-lift driver. TV producer. comedy club owner. All of which were in London except the burglary. cos you have to move about a bit for that. Route to becoming a writer Just with all the experience I’ve had. really. I was born in I950 and I figured I would sort of go along with the decades so each part of the book has different flavours. Daily routine I get tip very rarely before I lam and if it‘s a weekend I‘m working at the Upper Creek Comedy Cabaret Club. particularly on a Sunday when l compete every week and then get drunk and everything and then come back home again. But in the week. especially in this sort of weather. I've got a motor launch on the Thames. so I take out my boat.

Influences The old school. really. Tommy Cooper. The Goons. Morecambe and Wise. Frankie Howerd. When I was in prison. about seven and a half years ago. I read all of Dickens so he had a bit of an influence. I suppose. I read about a book a day at that point.

Ambitions Have you ever been for a meal at the BBC canteen“? There‘s always someone there you‘ve seen on telly having a meal but you don't quite know his name. That's my ambition to be that person who’s being recognised but you don‘t know who they are. That‘s as high as I want to get. Though it did happen to me in Sweden when I did a thing called The Balloon DttItt'e which was a big craze and when we got off the plane it was on their local news and they put down the red carpet and all this nonsense.

Fears I‘m not scared of anything. really. I‘ve got a slight fear of heights and a slight fear that I might not see the millennium but I think I'll make it. Incorne It varies. I'm doing quite well now because of the club which is regular income of about a £|000 a week. It‘s only been in the last few years that the income has shot up and I‘m using that to pay the accumulated debts from the last 45 years.

I Stole F reddy Mercury is Birthday Cake by Malcolm Hardee is published by Fourth Estate at £8. 99. Hardee will appear in a show of the same name at the Pleasant'e. Edinburgh. 9—25 Aug (not [2. 22).


I Photocopies John Berger (Bloomsbury £ I 3.99) The thought of John Berger. withdrawn into the peasant wilderness. has disheartened many of his readers in recent years. Photocopies announces that he has never been more immersed in the spectrum of European life. darting across its boundaries. befriending its inhabitants and extending. always. his gift for prose that uplifts life.

Each ofthese 29 stories strikes its own note. but shot through with

Berger's impressions as participant- observer. they make for a stunning ensemble. Street theatre in Barcelona; the eviction ofa Russian emigre in Paris; stumbling on ajunkie who bravely led an exodus of Muslims from India to Pakistan - people are the motor force here.

The anecdotes trigger insights. but more often speak for themselves. Strange how death. anger and longing. so perfectly described. give an optimistic kick. Like mini- masterpieces. reversing light and dark. these ‘photocopies' linger in the mind long after the book is shut. (Deirdre MoIloy)


I A Conspiracy 01 Hope Michael Cannon (Serpent‘s Tail £9.99) Glasgow writer Michael Cannon's second novel is a perplexing mix of the tirneworn and the contemporary. His writing can seem starchy and formal compared to the demotic vigour of his Scottish contemporaries and there is a well- thumbed familiarin to some of his settings. Readers should prepare for yet another visit to the class-riven workplace and the boarding school sealed in aspic.

And yet this account of could-be lovers Jamie. at work-shy hedonist. and Rachel. a cosseted student seeking to avoid the hermetic middle-class world of her parents. is ofthe moment in its sexual candour and the peripatetic wonderings of its characters.

Characterisation is certainly one ofthe novel‘s strengths. Cannon draws wicked thumbnail sketches of Mave. a foul-mouthed sweetie of a baby-sitter and Arthur Puxty. quite possibly the

Michal annon: ‘a perplexing mix of the tlrnetttorn and the contemporary’

most banal man in modem fiction. But this talent can be a double-edged sword. Ultimately it is Cannon's great success at convincing us that Jamie is. for the most part. an arrogant little shit. that makes it difficult to warm to the book. (Teddy Jarnieson)


I Big Sky Mind: Buddhism And The Beat Generation Edited by Carole Tonkinson (Thorsons £12.99) Terrible cover but by the end of the tome perhaps all such dualistic perceptions will have vanished, the difference between a well-packaged book and a badly-packaged book being an illusion. Buddhist thought increasineg accounted for some of Kerouac’s dullest writing. Tonkinson’s book is similarly hard work, but nonetheless a

brave anempgaLdocurtwitiri‘mhke

influence and progression of the philosophy throughout the beat

' movement. It works as a kind of

themed beat reader, using passages from writers including Ginsberg. Burroughs and Ferlinghetti.

It's hard, though. to agree with some of Tonkinson’s comments. Was Kerouac’s ultimate retreat to his mother’s home really about ‘pursuing a monastic. contemplative Iifestyle’. or simply a manifestation of his lazy. mother's boy tendencies? Not a book for everyone, but no doubt of great interest to some. (Damien Love)


I Michael Cannon Tue 6 Aug. 6.30pm. John Smith's. 57 St Vincent Street. 22I 7472. The author reads from his new book A Conspiracy OfHope (Serpents' Tail).


I John Cairney Sat 27 Jul. 8pm. Howden Park Centre. Livingston. 0I506 433634. The actor who made a name for himself by ‘being‘ Robert Burns. bids farewell to both Scotland and the great bard before emigrating.

I Poems & Pints Fri 2 Aug. 7.30pm. The

West End Hotel. Palmerston Place. 337

8277. £l.50 (£1). The Edinburgh Writers "

Association presents an evening of poetry readings from Ian McDonough. one of the founder members of The Shore Poets. plus floorspots.

I iiarnish lienlerson anti Friends Sun 4

. Aug. 8pm. Fruitmarket Gallery. 45 Market

Street. 225 2383. £3 (£2). Poetry and songs to celebrate the publication of The Armstrong Nose: Selected Letters 01' Hamish Henderson (Polygon) and Ian Hamilton Finlay’s The Dancers Inherit The Party & Glasgow Beasts (Polygon). I Shakespeare Workshop Thurs 8 Aug. 7pm. James Thin. 53-59 South Bridge. 556 6743. An evening of readings and discussion entitled ‘Hamlet And The Idea Of The Moment'. looking at scenes. characters. images and ideas.

- and evaluating every aspect ofevery


I Paula Yates: The Autobiography Paula Yates (HarperCollins £5.99) Princess Paula: love her or loathe her. this bawdy. blasé and frequently funny expose of her unorthodox life and times before the birth of her latest unfortunately named sprog - is an excellent read. Ignore the scorn of bitter critics and the trendier- than-thou. From Snowdonia to stardom. from Bob to Michael. from The Tube to tattoos: it‘s all there. laid bare. Buy and enjoy.

I Front Potter’s Field Patricia Cornwell (Warner £5.99) Following the discovery ofa naked. mutilated female corpse in Central Park. this unseasonal Christmas outing for Cornwell‘s star vehicle sees Dr Kay Scarpetta. Virginia's chief Medical Examiner and consultant to the FBI. on the perilous trail of an old. ruthless enemy. Compelling. quality writing with mass readership appeal.

I The Blood Brother Gavin Esler (HarperCollins £5.99) More familiar as the BBC's Washington correspondent. Esler‘s third novel. a post-Cold War thriller. competently utilises his professional knowledge of the American political system. Informed by the US Embassy of his hitherto unknown brother's death. veteran war correspondent David Kerr determines to investigate the mitigating circumstances. Espionage and volatility ensue.

I Dylan Behind Closed Doors Clinton Heylin (Penguin ill I) For the rabid fanatic as opposed to the common or garden fan. this churns out the minutiae of Dylan’s recording sessions. l960—l994. Detailing

session (dates. technical data. personnel et al). plus appendices which include working titles and bootlegs. this is undeniably well researched and presented but with limited appeal.

I ldlewild Mark Lawson (Picador £5.99) JFK. having survived an assassination attempt in Dallas 30 years previously. is disillusioned with life and politics. The ageing Marilyn Monroe. her failed suicide attempt merely one event in her disastrous life. is making a comeback movie. Brilliantly written in bite-size chapters this ‘what if?’ novel is the debut of The Late Review‘s chairman. (Susan Mackenzie)

Friday 2 August, 6—8 pm BOOKLAUNCH

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