NEW FICTION Love And Peace With Melody Paradise Martin Millar (IMP £6.99)
The NME once described Martin Millar as the ’first post-punk writer’. Mind you, they also christened Pat Nevin the ’first post-punk footballer’ and probably considered hailing Delia Smith as ’the first post- punk TV celebrity cook'.
Millar himself is not adverse to the label. ’I can’t really remember any British novels from that whole decade after 1977,’ he says, the Scottish burr untouched by half a lifetime in Brixton. ’I was the first.’
A glut of pop writers followed, fluent in the language of popular culture, music and style. But Millar feels no affinity with the likes of Hornby, Kureishi, or Welsh.
’Vonnegut was my inspiration to start with,’ he concedes. ’It was the short paragraphs I lifted for Alby Starvation.’ After that debut — Milk, Sulphate And Alby Starvation — came four more irresistible tales of romantic misadventure and urban surrealism. The last, Dreams Of Sex And Stagediving, appeared in 1994. It's not that Millar’s been sitting around watching his beloved Arsenal on Sky, although he's found time to do just that. The problem was with his now ex-publishers, Fourth Estate. They declined to have anything to do with his latest work, Love And Peace With Melody Paradise, writing a kiss-off letter which so amused Millar, he put it on his website.
’I was very surprised,’ he says of
their response. ’It reads like a GCSE book report.’ He refused, though, to be angry or dwell on the matter, preferring the philosophical approach. ’I figured it would sort itself out in the end. They’re running a business and if you don’t fit in, that’s it — I could think of worse predicaments.’
Having found a new publisher, the small independent IMP, Millar is obviously delighted that his new work is now in the shops. He describes it as ’a hippy romantic
comedy’. Oddly, it’s set at a free festival, the last place you'd expect to find the city-dwelling author.
’My feelings about festivals as stated in the book are entirely accurate,’ he admits. ’It is also meant to be a defence of travellers' rights. I don't write large political tracts, but I do think they've been wrongly blamed for a lot of things.’ Still running with the underdogs — the sage against the machine. (Rodger Evans)
I See book events.
Robert Harris (Hutchinson £16.99) ****t
Just as the power vacuum at the top of the Russian political scene threatens to topple world markets into anarchy, along comes Robert Father/and Harris With impeccable timing and another of his furioust paced thrillers. The essence of this year's ’what if?' is to suppose that Stalin had left more than a political legacy.
The tremendously-named Fluke Kelso, a political historian from Oxford, is in Moscow for a conference on the opening up of the Sowet archives. A bit of a loner and no apologist for Stalin's atrocmes, he is intrigued when a former high-ranking bodyguard claims
to know the whereabouts of a missing Oilskin-bound notebook which the moustachioed tyrant constantly had at hand during his final months.
The ensumg chase around Moscow and across Russia displays Harris as a master in the craft of political thriller- writing. His characterisations are well observed, even if there is the odd moment when something or someone goes against type, purely for plot- development purposes. And while his explanation of the motivating forces in modern Russia Will probably be seen as naive overSImplification by the pundits, it Will speak more clearly and to more people than any editorial about the potential dangers in modern Rus5ia. Believable, page-turning stuff.
Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Sue Margolis.
Who she? Sue Margolis was born and bred in a terraced East London house in what she describes as ’a typical dysfunctional Jewish family who couldn’t go into a restaurant without rearranging the furniture six or seven times before sitting down.’ Her big break came when freelancing on Women ’5 Hour when her first kid was a mere SIX months old.
Her debut It's called Neuroti'ca and contains the tagline ’if your sex-life is non-existent because HE's always got a headache, you should read . . .' If the title makes you think of sex and psychosis from a Jewish perspective, you'd be right.
Basically Basically, Anna Shapiro is a
' freelance journalist, commissioned to
write a piece on women who have affairs purely for the sex thing. She decides to take the research firmly into her own hands. Getting over the initial feelings of guilt (Catholics can dig this too) she revels in her indulgence before realising this could have some effect on her marriage.
First line test 'Dan Bloomfield stood in front of the full-length bathroom mirror, dropped his boxers to his ankles, moved his penis to one side to get a better look and stared hard at the sagging, wrinkled flesh which housed his testicles.’
Cast Anna Shapiro, whose mass of fears includes her greying pubrc hair, to which she applies Bush Magic; Dan Bloomfield, the hypochondriac husband; a variety of lovers including Captain Kaplan, the airline pilot, and Harley Street doctor, Alex, who has a thing for stirrups; a variety of overbearing and overweight Jewish mothers.
Laugh ratio Very high, as you would expect from a morality tale about the dangers of serial shagging.
For whom the book is credited 'To Jonathan, who never has a headache.’
' I Neuroti'ca is published in paperback
by Headline at £5. 99.
is '. 'I t t .
24 Sep—8 Oct 1998 THE lIST 93