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Feeding Frenzy

Stuart Stevens (Abacus £9.99) at i * Stevens's third travel book finds him trying to eat at each of the 29 European restaurants which have garnered the highest honour awarded to chefs three Michelin stars. Just to make things more complicated, Rat, his female travelling companion from New York, has bet her boyfriend they can gorge at all of the restaurants in 29 days.

In essence, this is like a road movie without a driving narrative or a conclusion. Instead we have Stevens's observations on Europe’s greatest and most grand restaurants, his theories on food and its significance and the whole is Spiced and coloured by the everyday trials and tribulations that trans- European travel wreaks on Stevens and Rat. Feeding Frenzy is halfway between a novel and a gourmand's diary. Its lack of critical detail will disappoint hard-core foodies just as surely as the lack of a plot will foil anyone after a fiction fix. Still, the writing is crisp, leavened with humour and Stevens's gustatory theories are intriguing. (JT)

FICTION Naked David Sedaris (Indigo £7.99) ****

’. . , We were well into the summer re- runs when our household was shaken by a series of very real crimes no TV detective could ever hope to crack. Someone in our family had taken to wiping his or her ass on the bath towels. What made this exceptional/y disturbing was that all our towels were fudge- co/oured. . .’

The New York based playwright and radio commentator is relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic. This is his second collection, following the highly praised Barrel Fever. Through his readings on radio, Sedaris has garnered a national reputation as a stOrytelIer, a talent much in evidence here.

In these essays, a meander through his memories of adolescence with his parents, Greek grandmother and many siblings, Sedaris's writing frequently veers into the modestly brilliant, the stories clicking to an absurd, satirical rhythm that takes one a moment to catch. There are many chuckles to be had, a belly laugh every few pages; but the greatest work lies in the undertow, a sad amber song to the life that's gone. (DL)

Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic Terry Jones (Pan £5.99) ***

The question how can a Douglas Adams book be written by Terry Jones, of Python fame? In fact Starship Titanic is not first and foremost a book. It was Created by Adams as interactive fiction, a CD movie - for the uninitiated, a computer game. Jones was roped in

STAR RATINGS *t‘kit Outstanding * an Recommended *4” Worth a try *1: So-so 1* Poor

when the great galactic Hitchhiker himself ran short of time to complete the novelisation.

The resulting book is a kind of sub- standard Adams or Pratchett comic fantasy with a talking parrot, fish paste sandwiches and a randy alien all playing key roles. Other, unintentional comedy comes from translations of computer game situations into text: 'We can't control the ship unless we can locate all the missing bits of the system and get them back into place!’ pants one character.

Still, it sounds like guite a fun game. (SN)

NON-FICTION High Life 'n' Low Down

Dirty Lisa Verrico (Ebury Press, £9.99) *‘kt

Verrico provides a well written, if lightweight, account of the Shaun Ryder story, tracing his life from poor, young scally through to rich, older scally and modern day Cult pop figure.

Early on, we learn that music itself was never actually that important to Ryder rather it was the clothes, the drugs, the money and the gang mentality that came with being in a band that captured his attention. Later, Verrico follows Ryder and The Happy Mondays from their chaotic first appearances in Manchester, through to their chaotic last appearances in America - and later as the band split and mutated into Black Grape. Ryder's relationship with his perennial right hand man Bez is treated sensitively, as is his relationship with his other hardy perennial - drugs.

Although this book, subtitled ’The Thrills And Spills Of Shaun Ryder', isn't the most in-depth account of one man's life, it is an exciting, informative read.(JB)

CRIME FICTION Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

Walter Mosley (Serpent’s Tai £11.99) at Hm

Taking a break from Easy Rawlins, Mosley introduces elderly ex-con Socrates Fortlow via a series of tales that is something less than a novel, but more than a collection of short stories. Each episode carries a moral lesson never overstated as Socrates tries to balance Current good deeds against the evil of his early life. The everyday dilemmas of a good-hearted man living in poverty form a rich backdrop as Mosley creates a memorable and gently dignified hero (AM)

What's A Girl Gotta Do?

Sparkle Hayter (No Exit Press £6.99) it at a a

Bright and sassy, Hayter’s prose leaps off the page with as much energy as her unconventional protagonist. The gorgeous Robin Hudson is a tabloid reporter working for an American cable news network, drawn like the genre’s best reluctantly into the role of amateur sleuth when a colleague is murdered. With a sharp tongue and an illegal pepper spray as her only weapons, she treads on plenty of toes in this back-stabbing environment. Miss Marple gets a dose of Girl Power. (AM)

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reviews BOOKS

I Knew I Was Right

Julie Burchill (Heinemann £15.99) it t it

When word got out that the bad girl of British journalism Julie Burchill was to write her autobiography. there must have been a few people experiencing sleepless nights. Her two ex- husbands. those responsible for hiring and firing her from the national press, anyone who might have incurred her poisoned pen along the way . . . Burchill was surely out to draw blood.

They needn‘t have worried. lf Burchill was going to diss anyone close to her, she wouldn't have waited to write 'I Knew I Was Right. She’d have said it in the columns of everything from the Mail On Sunday to the Sunday Times. And so Tony Parsons, who she met as a fellow NME gunslinger in 1976. escapes with a ticking off for luring her into marriage and a maisonette in Essex.

Disappointingly. Burchill pulls her punches, revealing little more than what has already become legend. The story of her exciting. fantastical route from working class Bristol to the streets of London which she discovered at age seventeen - were paved with speed. Her reign as queen of London’s Groucho Club. Her affair with Charlotte Raven. The book tends to soften rather than enhance her hard- nosed image.

Burchill exploded onto the face of British culture at the same time as punk, determined it wouldn't upstage her. The problem is, while Sid Vicious will be forever remembered as the ultimate rebel, Burchill is still around. He'll stay forever young. while she is pushing 40. He didn't get to write his autobiography. but then. he didn't need to. (Kathleen Morgan)

Julie Burchill: soft round the edges


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