Patrick Robertson (Jonathan Cape £10) * * *
a tale of adventure
Is there a lower life-form on the planet than the travelling salesman? Your answer to that question might be altered after reading Brian Hennigan’s debut novel Patrick Robertson, whose eponymous hero is such a creature. His adventure starts in Bangkok while smugly reflecting on a full order book, but
before he can tuck into yet another sample from the mini-bar, he’s kidnapped by eco-guerrillas, and wakes up in a rainforest.
Hennigan must have drawn on his own experience in the diverse careers of marketing and stand-up comedy to create a character who uses his killer sales technique to find his way back to Civilisation. His prose is sharp, succinct and drny amusmg and in Patrick Robertson, he has created a paradOXical hero. The salesman's ruthless self-sewing behaViour should alienate the reader, but somehow leaves you cheering him on towards Victory. A definite sale for Hennigan. (Louisa Pearson)
POSTMODERN FICTION Joseph Heller
Portrait Of An Artist As An Old Man (Simon & Schuster £12.99) * t *
Completed by Joseph Heller shortly before his death last December, this is more post-mortem than post-modern. Unsettling and Vicarioust enervating though it is, Heller’s story about an old man trying to write a last great work before the editor upstairs hands down the final deadline, is fascinating stuff. Catch-22 receives several mentions as the author in the story wrestles With his capricious muse and the compulsion to write, if only to fight off boredom and mortality. But the ideas are stalling and
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CRIME FICTION George P. Pelecanos The Big Blowdown (Serpent's Tail £10) it at a * It's not surprising that The Big Blowdown is a very cinematic read: pacey, thrilling, atmospheric. After all, George P. Pelecanos runs his own film production company, Circle Films, which has produced many of the Coen brothers' movies, including their period gangster drama, Miller’s Crossing. Then again, perhaps Circle Films emerged from Pelecanos' love of crime fiction, which he became hooked on back in his college days. Anyways, chickens and eggs aside,
Rampant xenophobia in the USA ,
The Big Blowdown is the first of Pelecanos' 'DC Quartet’, which also
includes King Suckerman (being filmed from a script by The Sopranos' actor
Michael lmperioli), The Sweet Forever and Shame The Devil. i In the first book, Pelecanos takes us back to 19405 Washington DC and i
introduces the reader to Pete Karras, a second generation Greek-American
who gets mixed up in a nasty loan shark racket. Karras collects for a
racketeer, but his heart ain’t in the job; he can't bring himself to strongarm
debtors, especially fellow immigrants. That's a problem for Karras' Mob-
connected boss, who don't waste no time busting up his young lacky. i Pelecanos writes in the hard-boiled style: tough guys, tough crimes, tough
town. And like that other chronicler of post-war urban America, James
Ellroy, Pelecanos fills his bygone world with detail: news, music and, of
course, films. Bubbling through this stew is a healthy concern for the
nation's rampant xenophobia, particularly as endured by the Greek
community in the capital. Sad to say, this is as relevant today as it was in
1946. (Miles Fielder)
the themes are running out. Was it the same, he ponders, for Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad, Henry James? How lucky to have died, like Proust, before it came to this.
Comedy, pathos, cynicism; all of Heller’s traits are here. Ideas are chewed over until the taste goes and characters wander in and Out of stories that start but never finish. Odd and not a little disturbing. (Rodger Evans)
SHORT STORY COLLECTION
The Short Hello (Polygon £8.99) *t***
In jUSI about the finest short story collection you’re likely to come across this year, acclaimed Scottish writer, actor and former stand-up, Susre Maguire presents a wrde range of characters and situations, both tragic and comic. Currently a columnist for Scotland On Sunday, Magune’s talents are tailor-made for the short form. Her astringent, comic voice steers the highly amusmg tale of a holiday plagued by food poisoning in 'Tangerines At Christmas’ and the adventures of starstruck Glaswegian Marina McLoughlin in two stories that are heart-warmineg down-to-earth. MagUire is equally adept at tackling the drama of a dead relationship in the desperately honest ’Bathtime’ and the fraught emotional drama of ’Incomplete', where a young woman ViSits her father on his death bed. Perhaps her most stunning story though is 'Bluebeard’, a modern fairy tale about a woman reclaiming her identity. A magnificent collection. (Catherine Bromley)
Contemporary Fiction Discussion Group Borders Books. 283 Buchanan Street. 222 7700. 12.30pm. Free. The Paismm'rmd Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is under discussion.
The Munros John Smiths in Tiso. 50 Cooper Street. 2pm. Free. Talk and slide shovv by Ken Andrew. author of The Munms (Scottish Mountaineering Trust £18).
Jack Vettriano Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, War Memorial Gardens. 01592 412860. Noon—2pm. Self-taught Scottish artist signs copies of his latest book Lovers And Strangers (Pavilion £25).
Philosophy Cafe Vl’aterstone‘s. 153—157 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9105. 7pm. Free. An evening of philosophical inquiry run by Morag McLurg and open to everyone.
John Fletcher Borders Books. 283 Buchanan Street. 222 7700. 7pm. Free. Vet and author John Fletcher is an expert on deer. Tonight he gives an illustrated reading from his autobiography A Life For Deer: A Deer Vet Tells His Story And Theirs (Victor Gollancz £20).