THE WRITE STUFF
Creator of Francis Urquhart and bestsellers like The House Of Cards, Michael Dobbs gives Ann Donald the three line whip on personal matters.
Name Michael John Dobbs.
Previous jobs I was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and Deputy Chairman of Saatclri & Saatclri. l was ChiefOf Staff to Norman Tebbit and Assistant to Mrs Thatcher. Prior to that. rrry first long terrrrjob was the news editor at The Boston Globe in I972 and. more recently. I wrote a IICWspiIPCl' column for the Mail On Sunday and The Ros/ml (.i/ohe.
Route to becoming a writer It was by accident when rrry wife and I were on holiday and I was very bored and she bet rrre to write a book — and out of stubbornness l did. Books are a great deal of fun because by and large you're your own boss and people are much nicer than in the world of politics - and rnrrclr better paid.
Oaily routine l don't have one. I start in the morning and will work through till I'm exhausted or until I‘m disturbed by outside matters like forthcoming elections and the like.
Inﬂuences ()n the literary side I have so many. partly because I've been encouraged to read rrrore widely since I started writing myself. Most recently Lawrence Durrell has become a hero. Other influences? You mean apart from Francis Urquhart? l'm influenced by the world ofcurrent affairs. Contemporary politics are too invidious btrt I think Norman Tebbit is a great character.
Ambitions To go on writing bestselling books. I have no pretensions of literary craftsmanship in terms of Booker prizes or writing books that will be read in 300 years. I attempt to write books of literary merit that will be. read by people now.
Fears Failure. A single book that didn't make it would be awful but to fail consistently would be devastating. Income Let's just say that it's substantial but not enough. Goodfellorr'e MP by Michael Dobbs is published by HarperCo/lins at [I 6. 99. The author will be at Waterstone 19. [3/14 Princes Street. Edinburgh. Wed 29 Jan. 7pm.
I Who’s A Pretty Boy Then? 150 Years Of Gay life In Pictures James Gardiner (Serpcnt‘s Tail £25) Thankfully. after several hefty books chronicling the history of homosexuality. somebody at Serpent’s Tail decided to do it in pictures and in coffee table format. Gardiners book contains more than 600 photographs depicting a multitude of gay lives and lifestyles spanning I50 years.
The book's strength is its fusion of the obscure with the familiar: of intimate and personal moments with important
political landmarks. Somehow the clipping from a local newspaper of a man arrested in I9l3 for the ‘extraordinary rrrania of female impersonation‘ resonates as nruch as a nrore familiar image of Divine in full flow. From disco bunnies to demonstrations; from Diaghilev to Jarrnarr. this is a whirlwind tour which nevertheless does slow down to a rrrore poignant pace in its pictorial remembrance of those lost through AIDS.
Gardiner's choice of photographs representing the passage ofevents is as wide as it is idiosyncratic but the book’s celebratory feel is infectious and ultirrrately fascinating. (Toni Davidson)
I My Favourite War Christopher John Farley (Granta £8.99) At hypersonic speed and with mind-boggling satirical eloquence comes young Farley shooting straight from the lip of his disillusioned tabloidese journo creation Brinkmarr. Arr Ivy League black man stuck in a dead-end USA-Today job when all he really yearns for is The Washington Post‘s saving call.
Brinkrnan rails against all and sundry —~ conglorrrerated rrredia. politics. society. culture. dating. racism and his sorry but intelligent self.
This is beautifully extricated prose tip to the point Farley transplants his protege to The Gulf War for the ultimate showdown and succeeds in losing the plot big tirrrc. A prorrrisirrg debut by a sharp fictional mind that requires only a little tweaking in the plot departrrrerrt before he goes Top Ten. (Ann Donald)
I Eat Fat Richard Klein (Picador
.C I 5.99) It is not the eating that rrrakes you fat. but the guilt and shame of being fat that rrrakes you eat. according to Richard Klein. Eat fat. he says. embrace your size with glee: fat (the
‘ noun) is fat (the adjective).
This is rrrore than a diet. it is a mantra
' at the tcrrrple ofsizc. A repetitive. ' indoctrinating incantation to eat real fat
and stop snacking on fat-less fat: to feel
good about fat; and to admire. even lust after fat on others. After all. the belief that thin is beautiful is a recent fad. fuelled by the rrredical-nutrition- insurance-beauty industry.
Fair enough. I‘ll eat to that. But Klein has not put enough flesh on the bones of what is a convincing thesis. What should be a corpulent torrre. busty with voluptuous examples. is a slender. urider-researched volume which does not fill out to the width of its own idea. (Thom Dibdin)
I Cross Channel Julian Banres (Picador £5.99) Barrres‘s first short story collection. these ten tales explore the rnulti-faceted relationship between Britain and France. Barnes traces the two rrations' historical connections right tip to l-Zurostar in a few well~chosen words. the key skill of a short story master.
I A White Merc With Fins James Hawes (Vintage £5.99) A childhood resident of Edinburgh. Hawes. armed with a PhD on Nietzsche and Kafka. embarked upon a diversity of careers before borra fide lecturing. His experiences have provided excellent fodder for this hyperactive. extreme novel. An alienated 30-year-old graduate deterrrrirres to get his life together the qrrick way — by robbing a bank.
I love You To Bits And Pieces Gillian Helfgolt with Alissa 'l'anskaya (Penguin £6.99) The irrspiraliorr behind the movie Shine. this is the life of Australian pianist David Helfgott as related by his wife. A child prodigy. Helfgott. his career in the ascendarrt. suffered extreme mental breakdown. largely the legacy of a turbulent rrpbrirrgirrg. His slow recovery. both personally and professionally is a rrrasterpiecc of tragedy and triurrrplr.
I The Big Kiss Davrd Huggins (Picador £5.99) A truly awful debut novel which you just can‘t ignore. Steve Cork‘s rrrarriage to ex-model l.i7. has run aground. His business partner's drinking lras reached new heights. The firm is being taken over by walking ego Alan Demon whom Steve suspects of very forrl play. A sex and violence thriller. Naughty fun.
I The Statement Brian Moore (Flamingo £5.99) Although a litre novelist. Moore is often too dry for many palates. The Statement being a prime example. A cosmopolitan writer. the pivot for this thriller is France. Pierre Brossard has been itr hiding for over 40 years having been serrlerrced to deallr for war crimes. Now he must elude a dogged. anonymous hit squad. (Susan Mackenzie)
I Alan Mason Tue 28 Jan. 6.45pm. Dillons. I74—l76 Argyle Street. 248 48 I4. Alan Mast reads extracts from his latest book Me/o‘i’huma (Taranis £8.99).
I Mary Ramsay Wed 29 Jan. lprn. John Smiths. 57 St Vincent Street. 22l 7472. The author and retired primary school teacher reads from her poetry collection A Penny Wort/r ()j‘lt’ingr (Neid Path £3) in the children's department of the store.
I Ruth Bendell Wed 29 Jan. Iprrr. Dillons. I74—I76 Argyle Street. 248 48 I4. Rendell signs copies of her latest Barbara Vine novel Brimstone ll’ei/iling (Penguin £5.99).
I Janice Galloway Tue 4 Feb. l—me. Collins Gallery. University of Slrathclyde. Richrrrorrd Street. 552 4400. ext 35 IS (Ken Simpson). The author. recently shortlisted for the Saltire Award for Where ion Find It (C ape £9.99) reads from Irer work.
I The Shore Poets Sun 26 Jan. 8pm. £1 (free). Fruitmarket Gallery. Market Street. 225 2383. Ron Butlirr. larr McDonough and Ann Shivas continue the Fruitmarket events of poetry with music courtesy of The Tartan Gussets.
I Ian Rankin Mon 27 Jan. 7pm. Waterstone‘s. I28 Princes Street. 226 2666. The Scottish crime-writer signs copies of his latest novel *Black And Blue (Orion £9.99).
I Jack Womack Mon 27 Jan. 7pm. Waterstone's. I3-I4 Princes Street. 556
3034/5. The American sci-ii writer reads extracts from his latest novel. Lel'v I’m The Future Behind Us (Flamingo £8.99). I Angela Bobbie Tue 28 Jan. 7pm. .Iarrres Thin. 57 George Street. 225 4495. The Edinburgh author launches her
heart“ arrrrirrg autobiography. Bot/r Sir/es- ()f'l‘he l't'lltl’ (Pentland Press £ l 5).
I Ian Rankin Tue 28 Jan. 7pm. Piershill Library. 30 Piersfreld Terrace. 529 5687. Tickets (Free) available frorn library. The popular Scottish author talks about his Edinburgh-based Itt.vper'lot' Rehtts novels and reads from the latest one. B/at'k And Blue (Orion £9.99).
I Ruth Rendell Tue -8 Jan. 7pm. Walerstone's. I3-— I4 Princes Street. 556 3034/5. Writing as Barbara Vine. the award winning rrovelisl reads from her latest paperback 'l'lre Brimstone Ilia/(ling (Penguin £6.99).
I Gail Anderson-oargatz Wed 29 Jan. 7.30pm. Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 3436. The up-and-corrring Canadian author signs her book A Cure /-'or Death Br Lightning (Virago £9.99) — a blend of poetry. magic and realism. .
I Michael Dobbs Wed 29 Jan. 7pm. Water'stone's. I3—I4 Princes Street. 556 3034/5. Tire highly respected political broadcaster. journalist (and author of House (2t'('an/.v) reads from. and signs copies of his latest novel. featuring the recently created character The Goml/el/orr-e MP (HarperColIins £16.99). Due to be televised in the summer.
I Douglas Oliver, Alice IIotley, Mick Imiah Wed 29 Jan. 7.45pm. £3(£2) Netherbow Box Office. 43-45 High Street. 556 9579. An evening of both
scholarly tlrrrlalr) and passionate narrative (Oliver And Notley) poetry. For further inforrrratiorr contact Robirr Bell. Poetry Association of Scotland. ()I764 662 2| l. I A. l. Kennedy Wed 29 Jan. 7pm. Festival Theatre. Nicolson Street. 529 6000. £l(or' 3 for £2) Tickets available from James Thin. South Bridge. 556 6743. The author reads from her latest book. a collection of short stories entitled ()rieinol Blirr (Jonathan Cape £ I499).
I Ian Rankin Wed 29 Jan. 7pm. Stockbridge Library. II Hamilton Place. 529 5677. Tickets (Free) available from library. The Scottish crime writer reads from his latest novel Black rl/It/ Blue (Orion £9.99).
I Ian Rankin Thurs 30 Jan. 7pm. Morningside Library. I84 Morrrirrgside Road. 529 5657. Tickets (Free) available from library. The popular Edinburgh author signs copies of his latest crirrre novel Black And Blue (Orion £9.99).
I Edwin Morgan Tue 4 Feb. 6.30-8.30pm. Central Library. George IV Bridge. 225 5584. Tickets (Free) available from library. The famous Scottish poet holds a participative workshop for new writers interested in learning rrrore about writing poetry.
I Graham Hancock Thurs 6 Feb. 7pm. Walerstone's. l3—I4 Princes Street. 556 3034/5. The author of fingerprints Of The Got/s lrasjoirred forces with Robert Bauval. author of The Orion Mystery to continue the investigation of the mysteries of ancient Egypt. Hancock illustrates their remarkable ﬁndings with slides. answers questions. and signs copies of The Keeper Oj'Genesis (Mandarin £6.99).
82 The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997