new titles

The Picador Book Of Contemporary Scottish Fiction ' Edited by Peter Kravitz (Picador f I 6.99) 1H: *1: From Booker Prize winners and airport lounge bestsellers through literary innovators to cult scribblers, Scottish writing is alive and kicking against the pricks. Peter Kravitz’s premise is that while the nation's political life post- 1979 and pre-referendum was all but stifled, our collective cultural muse thrived. From the multiplicity of voices contained here, you’d have to concur. Excerpts come from the likes of James Kelman, Janice Galloway, Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh, and AL. Kennedy. Interestingly, the latter author says the most absurd question she is asked by (English) interviewers is, 'What’s it like being Scottish?’ Perhaps the clues are here. (RE)

Space Is The Place

John F. Szwed (Payback Press £12.99) * t ‘k *

Pianist, arranger, composer and band- leader, Sun Ra was one of the strangest and most colourful figures in the vivid pageant of 20th century music. This first substantial biography will do much to further understanding of his unique music's complex well- springs. It will also help set some his weirder philosophical flights into their historical and intellectual contexts. In unravelling both these strands of a

complex story (and a subject as given to re-invention of the self as Sun Ra presents more problems than most), Szwed combines academic rigour with a fan’s devotion to the music. He has produced an entertaining read in the process, and one which only occasionally gets bogged down in the knottier thickets of mystico-political- philosophical thought. An invaluable addition to jazz literature, but wrth implications which like its subject travel well beyond that music's usual boundaries. (IA)

The Warlock Of


ChristopherWhyte (Gollancz £9.99) ir * *

An ability to converse with the animal kingdom was not the sole preserve of Dr Doolittle. In Christopher Whyte’s follow-up to Euphemia MacFarrig/e And The Laughing Virgin he likes his grandiose titles a servant girl gives birth. The child is no ordinary sprog but one with a variety of magical powers all required when you are encountering people with names such as The Shapeshifter, Obadiah and Mr Stitchlappet.

Kicking off in the valleys of Perthshire, following a path to Edinburgh and beyond into Prague, the novel traces the prodigy's life and times - both amusrng and violent all the way to its bloody conclusion;

The density of the descriptive prose, particularly in the early parts, and the Scots language may be too much for some to stomach, but Whyte can visualise an image or a phrase and turn

Hip to the pips: Jeff Noon

it into something rather lovely. Tough going but ultimately rewarding. (BD)


Jeff Noon (Doubleday £15.99) ****

If you thought dominoes were the preserve of sad, spittle-encrusted old men hunched over flat half-pints in public houses, think again. Noon's characters are all hip to the pips, dysfunctional inhabitants of a semi- futuristic, semi-now Manchester where the doms have replaced the Lottery and society has been subsumed by individual and corporate greed.

Billed as a Philip K. Dick for the 90s, the author IS probably closer to Martin Miller’s urban fairy tales via the wave

of a magic realism wand and a cool

clubland speak that Anthony Burgess might have invented if he could dance. Fast, funny, cruel, ludicrously inventive, and prone to shameless technophilia, Noon’s fourth novel is at least 50 pages too long. The cowboys-and- lndians-on-pharmaceuticals finale is also outrageously over-egged. But if you don't play, you can't win. You’re not chapping are you? (RE)

The Invisible Country

Paul J. McAuley (Vista £5.99) ****

Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, this is a pacy slice of sci-fi with plenty of plot and action. Playing with time, the story embraces 15th century Venice and a physician’s deluded dealings with a Frankenstein—like operator, future Europe and the dangerous use of genetically engineered humanoids, and an artificial planet close to revolution. (SM)

He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

John Birmingham (Flamingo £5.99)

fir ‘k * at *

'Hilarious True Stories of House- Sharing Hell', some of which are so extreme they must be porkies. Based in Australia, Birmingham has survived 89 flatmates, keeping notes on all of them, and yes, this is hilarious. Nice to know that milk-theft is a global problem. A heartening read when your co-habitees are getting on your tits, again. (SM)


H HarperCollinsPublishers



It’s time to meet


in conversation with Ian Rankin at the Queen’s Hall 7th October 7.30pm

Tickets £3/ £1 concessions available from the Queen’s Hall Box Office & all Edinburgh branches ofWaterstone’s.

Tom Baker will also be signing his new book at Waterstone’s Sauchiehall St, Glasgow on 8th October from 12noon - 2pm



TELEPHO\E 013145631 3456

94 THE “ST 26 Step—9 Oct 1997