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RORY MACLEAN, STEPHEN BAXTER AND ALEX GARLAND
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Queens' Country Paul Burston (Little Brown £16.99)
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This is a book which was aching to be written, infusing the rather staid genre of observational anthropology With a pOignant and timely gay DGFSDGCIIVG. Paul Burston travelled to eight locations in the UK ranging from Suburban Essex to the crUising grounds of Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, along the way meeting and interVieWing that most eclectic of hybrids — the gay person. What Burston discovers — the nervous c0untry queens pottering ar0und in their cottage garden, the disco bunnies gyrating in their cages — he records With empathy and 80d WII.
The danger of such a book is that it is easy to blither ridicule your subjects, to assume a cultural superiority, but Burston expertly utilises his experience both as Gay Editor of Time Out and as established queer theorist. This allows him to share the lives of people and set those experiences both in a historical and political context. (TD)
The Artist's Widow
Shena Mackay (Jonathan Cape £12.99) * i
For those of us who Just managed to scrape the 0 Grade, the world of the artist holds a romantic allure. Opening at the private View of the deceased John Crane’s last paintings, The Artist’s Widow presents us With two generations of a famin of artists — Crane's Widow Lyris and Nathan, her talentless great-nephew on the make.
Havmg gatecrashed wealthy London society Via marriage, Nathan’s nouveau riche family try to get their hands on the family silver It soon becomes clear that none of the disparate rabble of friends and relatives are satisfied With their lot in life, each forced to question the validity of their closest relationships,
In a tale tinged With sentimentality, Mackay nevertheless demonstrates a mastery for intricate plotting. The problem is that many of the characters are far-from-endearing cliches, dev0id of real insight, While the insubstantial climax makes the whole disappomtingly twee exerCise seem pOintIess. (CP)
A Sort Of Homecoming Robert Cremins (Sceptre £10) *
Reading this novel, yoa can't shake off the feeling that Robert Cremins is due a Visit from Luofer himself. Only a Faustian pact could explain why this poorly-crafted ramble through the lives of twenty-somethings ever eluded the publishers' shredder.
Harsh.7 No. Shelling out ten bucks to read obVious schoolboy humour about acne, Christmas carols and U2 or mundane upmanship instead of content is harsh. As is being subjected to Lowry-thin characters in a trite plot With the presumption that weak postmodern irony can hide that fact from the reader
Underestirnating yOur audience's patience and intelligence is suicide and the ineVitabIe death knell finally comes When the tedious protagonist Iremonger, a character With all the charm of a surgical truss, gets the crap beaten out of him and you cheer rather than commiserate. Life's far too short for this sort of thing. (CD)
Perdition USA Gary Phillips (No Exit £6.99) it t t t
In LA, one man’s not is another man’s uprising. Black PI Ivan Monk’s moral perspective on the unbalanced racial eQuation of modern America threatens to turn every ODJE‘CIIVG JOb into a personal crusade. In the follow-up to i/io/ent Spring, the search for a serial killer leads him into conflict With neo- Nazi skinheads — fiction that's scarily close to fact, given recent events in Jasper, Texas. Easy Rawlins toughened up for the 90s. (AM)
Exit, Orange & Red
Martyn Bedford (Black Swan £6.99) * * it
Someone’s carrying out terrorist attacks on the Urbopark shopping mall in Hallam (a fictionalised Sheffield) and, as events escalate, local reporter Constance Amory becomes personally involved. Bedford brilliantly reconstructs the City's industrial past and links it to its consumer wonderland present, but the chapter elements are arranged in too rigidly repetitive a formula to let the mystery hit top speed. (AM)