HEARTBREAK FICTION Tania Kindersley
Elvis Has Left The Building (Sceptre £10) a: a t at
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Before you ask, this has got nothing to do With Est. The title alludes to the way The King used to disappear out the backdoor during standing ovations Ieavmg his hormonal, mostly female, audiences weeping at this final announcement. lvluch in the same way Fred leaves lris after nine years of mature friendship and love With no explanations, she is left in a dark hole Of confUSIon,
Tania Kindersley's contemplative book follows lris' painstakingly slow recovery from emotional pain to numbed self- fulfilment. Initially, her prose seems simplistic and barely literate but it is a style that enables her to cut right to the centre of heartbreak. This tender book Will ring bells With anyone who has ever gone through the wrenching pain of love abandoned
E/Vis Has Left The Btu/ding also works on another level as a love letter to London, that true Mecca of inViSIbiIity, loss, decay and thwarted lives. And occasionally life-affirming heartbreak. (Paul Dale)
PRISON DOCUMENTARY Joe Jackson & William Burke Jnr
Dead Run (Canongate £10) ‘k ‘k t x
What do you do when you're waiting on Death Row? You wait, You plan appeals. But you don’t plan a mass escape. Do you? Dennis Stockton and six other inmates of lvlecklenburg Correctional Centre, Virginia, awaiting state-sponsored exeCution, did. Stockton’s diaries were later passed to two jOUTﬂaIIStS, and Dead Run is the result.
Mingling Stockton’s detailed observations on the escape’s planning With the JOurnalists’ own reporting, it's an odd fish of a tale, part insightful analysis and part brutal, James Ellroy drama. However, what's more terrifying than the prospect of several Death Row inmates (many of whose (onVictions were shaky at best) escaping is the horrific state of American prisons, and the casual disregard shown for the most basic of human rights
98 THE “ST 2i Sea '75 Oct 2000
Dead Run is gripping, sparse and energetic. But more than that, it's a cautionary reminder of the effects of animalising the imprisoned.
Stewart Lee Allen
The Devil’s Cup (Canongate £12.99) ****
On the face of it, writing a book based on the influence of coffee upon world history seems like a pretty daft idea. Not so to intrepid traveller and lover of the beany brew, Mr Stewart Lee Allen. What's more, not only has Allen filled 230 pages on the SUbJeCI of coffee, he's created a cracking piece of investigative Journalism mixed With entertaining travelogue.
The Dew/’5 Cup is Allen’s hilarious account of his somewhat reckless travels ar0und the world retracing the historical spread of the dark stuff from the mountains of Ethiopia over 2000 years ago to the generic caffeine culture of America today.
Throw in some delicious facts (Islamic alchemists believed mixing coffee and milk caused leprosy) and half-baked theories (no culture that makes good coffee ever Wins a war) and you’ve got a highly stimulating read. Look, the Whole reView and not one Joke about coffee table books, (Doug Johnstone)
When The Whistle Blows
(Dedalus £8.99) it
According to the publisher's blurb, When The Whistle Blows 'isn't for the politically correct or anyone else Without a sense of humour’. Now, either the old laugh-o-meter's on the blink again or I've turned into a militant left-Winger overnight.
Puerile, gratunously infantile, extremely naive (sorry for seeming too pc, but here on planet earth, black people Just don't say 'Bwana’ every other sentence), the only funny thing about lack Allen's 'humorous’ novel about the homicidal, psychological breakdown of school teacher Caleb Duck is that it got published at all.
And that's the least of its problems, because there is Allen’s prose style. Which is phenomenally irritating. Why he insists upon, Constructing his entire novel. Out of short, distracting sentences is. Utterly beyond me. In fact, why be bothered to devote a considerable amount of time to this
pile of dross is also a complete mystery. Don't make the same mistake as him, Bwana. (Olly Lassman)
WARTIIVIE ROMANCE Andrew Greig That Summer (Faber £9.99) * *
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The summer in question is that of 1940. Amid the daily uncertainty of life itself, fighter pilot Len Westbourne and radar operator Stella Gardam embark on a relationship which, under the Circumstances, seems doomed. Their romance is the main focus of this novel, but ineVitably bOund up are observations on how ordinary people coped With life during that particular wartime.
And therein lies the problem With this novel; Greig’s characters are ordinary to the mm of blandness. While you are eager to get to the end of the story to find out which of them are gomg to meet their ineVitable untimely demise, it’s a real chore getting there, And When tragedy does befall, you couldn’t care less.
The attention to detail is the novel’s only saVing grace, but that could JUSI as easin be found in a textbook, which rather begs the question, why bother With this fictionalised acc0unt?
ECO MYSTERY Leslie Forbes
Fish, Blood & Bone (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £12.99) a it a: *
The grisly title of the unsav0ury ingredients of plant fertiliser exemplifies the skilful manipulation of
imagery that makes this both an intensely psychological and extremely well-written tale. Former travel writer Leslie Forbes' second novel begins in the suburbs of England, followmg American ex-pat Claire Fleetwood's struggle to solve her best friend’s brutal murder. Plot and enVironment later open up to Wider horizons as she jOins a research team searching the Far East for a mysterious flower With cancer-healing properties.
Framed by intimate insights into the muSings and observations of the plant-obsessed Fleetwood, Fish, Blood <9 Bone is strongly pro- enVironmental, often seeming gently cynical of its varied human cast, although never straying onto that well—trodden path of ecological misanthropy.
Forbes’ non-intrusive and conVincing emotional and sCientific explorations prowde an absorbing, touching and often educational read; a tangled narrative With a climactic conclusion that’s well worth foraging for. (Olly Lassman)
E-MAIL FICTION Matt Beaumont e. (HarperCollins £6.99) t
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Offices are boring, and the bickering, bitching, backbiting and gossiping that goes With them are equally tedious. So writing a novel about office politics, even in the ’heady’ world of advertising is Just as unwelcome.
The computerisation of the workplace has displaced not only the need for pens and paper, but even telephones and meetings, And, from reading Matt Beaumont's tongue-in- cheek tale, sincerity, manners and honesty have also fallen by the wayside at Miller Shanks agency. Told excluswely in e-mails, this is the poor man 's Reggie Perri/i for the new century, prOViding no more insight into work life, presscires and responsibilities than DaVid Nobbs’ black comedy did 25 years ago.
Beaumont knows his subject well enough and has a skill for turning out scathing Sitcom characters With a fine line in put-downs. But very little happens, and What does ()CCUT we care little about. This is the literary equivalent of a Video about bus routes: predictable. (Mark Robertson)