CONTEMPORARY SCOTTISH The Angle Of Incrdence Alex Benzie (Viking £16.99) Sometimes you just know that a certain moment in a novel is there for more of a purpose than just providing a glorious image. Such is the way just over halfway through Alex Benzie's The Angle Of Incidence when the central character Catherine O'Hara recalls the moment in her childhood when she came across a tree made of ice. Giving away the full significance would be too cruel, of course, but it’s enough to say that the effect of the glassy bark and the events which they lead to is the key to much of the drama.
’These moments come in some organic fashion and there is a centredness about some images,’ believes Benzie, former community journalist and surveyor at the cleansing department. ‘The more I was writing about it the more it seemed to be more significant, and itspivotal in that we find out more about Catherine’s father. Its almost a summary of what happens to her afterwards.’
The Angle Of Incidence is the Glasgow writer’s follow-up to his acclaimed mid-90s debut The Year’s Midnight. Literary peers such as Pat Barker, Adam Thorpe and Jim Crace needed little encouragement to chant his praises and his new work
Covering the angles: Alex Benzie
should enhance that reputation yet further.
Written with a rare wealth of imagery, substance and beauty, the novel tells the story of Catherine, a young woman who has left her native Ireland to take up residency in Glasgow during the 50s. She has fled the ghosts of her past only to find new spectres awaiting her in Scotland as the family she builds here fractures and separates. Again, she attempts to create a fresh start with an artist who allows her to see life in new ways. But will the ghosts leave her be?
While it is clear that Benzie is no Welsh/Warner/Legge wannabe, he is keen to distance himself from fellow compatriots whom it would be easier to compare him to, such as Andrew O’Hagan. ‘I don’t see myself as allied
to any kind of movement and if I did, I'd probably start going in a totally different direction altogether,’ insists Benzie, warming to his theme. ‘I don’t see it as the role of the writer to be a cultural definer. That’s best left to people at large — writers should just tell their stories.’ It's not that Alex Benzie isn’t proud of his literary heritage — he points to Alasdair Gray and Janice Galloway as fine practitioners — he just doesn’t see a glut of them to get excited about.
’If anything, I’m drawn to the magic realists, which is partly why Scottish writing isn’t a goer for me. I don’t feel that sense of otherness or other worldliness about the writing.’ (Brian Donaldson)
I The Angle Of Incidence is published on Thu 27 May.
84 THE us1 13—27 May 1999
Tom Morton (Mainstream £9.99) *‘kt
Seeing through the gauze—eyed gaze of the heavy drinker has been a 'focus’ and inspiration for much literary output whether it be the characters or the writers themselves. Faulkner, Bukowski, Hemingway, Burns. They all liked their sauce to be cold and their hangovers blazing, going on to create unforgettable art.
Tom Morton, broadcaster and columnist, has filled his anti-hero Alexander ’Zander' Flaws, to the brim with the stuff as he staggers his way along the trail of a missing student, a deranged cleric, some decadent aristocrats and a stash of designer drugs. For some reason, he is allowed
behind the wheel of a lvlerc, which he hilariously calls Riefenstahl, and veers off in all sorts of misdirections. Still, he
Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Daren King Who he? Daren King was born in 1972 in Harlow, Essex. He left school with
i one GCSE (English). His further
education came about at Bath Spa
1 University College, where he gained a
BA in Creative Writing. He currently resides in Hertfordshire where he indulges in his passion for techno,
jungle and house. When he travels, he
tries to make it at the expense of
His debut It’s called Boxy An Star and attempts to do what most publishers crave — a fresh and new voice creating a fresh and new universe. The novel's somewhat immodest and digging-its- own-grave catchline is ’the most
- original book you’ll read this year.’
Basically . . . Basically, it’s a love story
; about two teenagers with nothing but
each other, their pills and their transvestite dealer. Luckily, it is not simply another drugs bore but an encapsulation of a 'lost generation’ whose underclass status is magnified when the pills run out.
First line test ’We me an star are under the pill bag. The pill bag is a jumbo big bag an is massive an full up of pills. We
‘ like it loads, It feels nice on us. On me
an my girl she is called Star an we are in love. I love her.’
In the mix It has been compared to A
Clockwork Orange (for its language) and Waiting For Godot (for its absurdist existentialism). Both for the post-Ecstasy
generation, naturally enough. E Back chat Geoff Dyer believes it makes
most literary novels seem impoverished
: while Matt Thorne describes it as ’a
thoroughly exhilarating tale of pills,
T thrills ’n’ pineapple heads.’
' To whom is it credited? ’To my family with love.’ (Brian Donaldson)
1 I Boxy An Star is published by Abacus
is not without some powers as Flaws manages to sweet talk his way into the I knickers of a variety of members from ; the opposite sex — a skin game, he 3
reminds us, was the ’Kingsley Amis cure for a hangover.’
Guttered cracks along at a fair rate of knots, with the plot becoming more entangled by the paragraph. Whether you have any sympathy for the
narrator and his strife will largely come
down to whether you hold affection for the non genre or haven’t been worn down by Bret Easton Ellis and his endless references to cultural icons. If not, Morton and his flawed hero are on a loser straight away. (Brian Donaldson)
I STAR RATINGS I I *ittt Unmissable *i'kt Very ood I I iii Wort a shot I t t Below average I * You've been warned
at £9. 99.