POETRY COLLECTION John Hegley Dog (Methuen £9.99) ate it e e.
He may claim not to be overtly antr- cat, but Luton’s laconic lyricist rs more likely to be caught putting a dog among the pigeons. John Hegley’s pooch prose has previously taken equal billing with sonnets about spectacles and drttres about dads but now he has put his best paw forward and allowed his best friends to take the lead
He may be known in certain circles as 'comedy's poet laureate', but tucked Within the humour are some deeply pOrgnant episodes such as the painful hospital vrsrt in ‘My Own Mum' or the difficulty in expressing feelings before it's way too late in ’Say It Now’. There rs even the odd bitter interlude: ‘I want to inform you that BETRAY rs an anagram of BYE RAT’ we are rnformed In 'NO'.
The champion of the underdog has proffered a collection that rs barking but brilliant. (Brian Donaldson)
RURAL MEMOIR Adam Nicolson Perch Hill: A New Life (Penguin £7.99)
After a night on the tiles (or Mayfair, at least), Adam Nicolson rs vrolently robbed. He decides to flee the crty. Not for Mr Nicolson, thOugh, a weekend cottage. He wants to get stuck rn. So he moves to the Sussex Weald, rears chickens, takes hedging lessons and suffers visits from intractable poets and smug guests.
lnevrtably, what happens on the fringes of hrs tale rs often as interesting as rts centre. At some stage of the story, girlfriend becomes wrfe, though we hear precrous lrttle about rt. But Nrcolson's forays rnto the lrfe of Kipling, who ended hrs days Just a few miles away, are fascmatrng, Hrs phrlosophrcal digressions srt comfortably alongsrde the mundane and often drsastrous practicalities of farming.
It could so easily have become deeply hackneyed, but Perch Hr/l rs a fundamentally lrkeable book, sincere, humorOus and revealing. And all from a Telegraph Journalist. It's enough to make you vote Tory. (James Smart)
114 THE lIS'I’ 19 Oct—2 Nov 2000
John Banville Eclipse (Picador £15.99) * v
John Banvrlle has a history of tackling high-minded and esoterrc toprcs, somethrng he attempts agarn in Eclipse wrth unconVinCrng reSUIts.
We pin the narrator, recently retrred thespian Alex Cleave, Just as he has suffered some form of breakdown and returned to the house of hrs upbrrngrng rn an attempt to sort out hrs troubled world. Far from strarghtenrng out, Cleave seems to retreat deeper rnto a world of ghosts and rntrospectron, exrstrng as much in the past as the present.
Eclipse attempts to deal wrth the thorny issues of rdentrty and self- knowledge but throughout there rs a detached aloofness and a stupend0usly ornate prose style which creates, possrbly delrberately, an arr of pompOSIty.
His overly showy use of words begins to grate and leaves the endrng of the novel, when unexpected tragedy strikes, feeling hollow or worse, like some sort of pretence.
CRIME FICTION Pauline McLynn
Something For The Weekend (Headline £5.99) e 7“”? e»
Otherwise known as Mrs Doyle, the tea-obsessed housekeeper in Father Ted, Pauline McLynn trades in her ever- bOrlrng kettle and puts pen to paper for this debut novel.
Leonora Street — Leo for short — rs a small-time Dublrn private eye. Hacked Off With havrng IUSL turned 30 and bored of her useless bOyfrrend Barry, Leo needs a break. So when the local tycoon sends her on a weekend cookery c0urse to spy on hrs suspected cheating wrfe, her bags are already packed. But there's Just one problem, Leo can't cook.
Roll on a catalogue of comic disasters as Leo battles it Out in the kitchen while keeping tabs on her clients wrfe. DeSprte a rather predictable narrative, Something For The Weekend’s strength lies in McLynn’s Witty character portrayal and a very lrkeable herome. And wrth the endrng left unresolved, there’s plenty of scope for a follow-up, (Helen lvlonaghan)
POLITICAL REVISIONISM Andrew Rawnsley
Servants Of The People (Hamish Hamilton £17.99) if e .i ~:~; e
Anyone who knows Andrew Rawnsley's Quick wrt from Channel as late, lamented Po/itrcs Show wrll delight in his fascinating accOunt of life behind the closed doors of New Labour
He takes us from day one of the first ’LabOur' government to take power in 22 years and paints a picture of some talented and ambitious rndrvrduals whose relative inexperience leads them rnto a quagmire of sleaze. It’s all here from Gordon Brown’s early dealings With the Bank Of England, the Mandelson/RobrnsonANhelan scandals, the Dome, devolution and Serbia, and it makes enthralling reading.
GONZO CRIME Kinky Friedman The Mile High Club (Faber £5.99)
it W “k ﬁ' i:
If you're not familiar with the author, could be you've been
cooking on another planet for some
time or perhaps living out where the buses don’t run. '1'" tell you what Bob Dylan told me,’ confides Richard Kinky 'Big Dick' Friedman. 'He said “when you die, they let you off the hook". What you need is a perfectly-timed country music death like Hank Williams.’
But Dylan was smarter and ditto the Kinkster. In the shell of a nut, Friedman is probably the one and only non-land owning, cigar- smoking, mystery writing, cat- loving, whisky-swigging, country musician and Jewish sex symbol from Texas. During the 19705, his
band The Texas Jewboys gigged the
KY FRIEDMAN f.
Existential cartoon noir
world with grouchy Bob and partook in their fair share of Peruvian
Fond of remarking that it was time to give up the personal chemistry experiments when Bob Marley fell out of his left nostril, Kinky looked for an alternative career and his first novel Greenwich Killing Time was published in 1986, becoming a cult success before you could say oxymoron.
The Mile High Club is cartoon noir with existential overtones and killer one-liners, the twelfth instalment in a series of cigar-toking, mystery- solving, cat-owning tales centered around a sleuth by the name of, well, Kinky Friedman, of course. It's like Groucho Marx re-writing Raymond Chandler with a final edit by Lenny Bruce.
Kinky, though, has his own means of seducing mistress muse: ‘1 like to pretend I’m Oscar Wilde behind bars with my hair on fire.’ (Rodger Evans)
’2' The Mile High Club is published on Mon 30 Oct. See Books Events.
Rawnsley cleverly sets his framework up early wrth the Blarrrtes on one side and the Brownrtes on the other in a particularly duplicitous power struggle, The former a varnglorious wannabe President, the latter a wickedly lvlac'hre'ivellran career politician.
Servants reads lrke a thriller and Rawnsley constantly Suppresses bras wrth his accrte unclerstandrng of parliamentary processes. Time will prove this to be the decade’s finest political expose. (Paul Dale)
CRIME AUTOBIOGRAPHY Hugh Collins Walking Away (Canongate £10)
Trying to find a place for yourself in ’normal’ society rs hard enough, but when yOLi've served Sixteen years for murder it must be like movrng to another planet. Hugh Collrns’ experience has been documented in Autobiography Of A Murderer as well as in the rnedra and c0untless tabloid headhnes
This new book relays his experience from the moment he get out of prison, followmg hrs attempts to adjust and forge a new lrfe for himself. The rnrtral frenzy of colourful parties and drunken incidents soon give way as he searches for somethrng more solid. Weavrng phonetic dialogue with reflections, rnSrght and frustration, Collins takes you inside his head to accompany hrm on hrs10urney forward,
The love/hate feelings he has towards hrs family, to Glasgow, to fellow lrfers and his adopted Edinburgh spill onto the page in a stream of consciousness
Hrs honesty in not making excuses for his past makes for a compelling read. (Lowsa Pearsoni
Simon Breen Down In One (Review £6.99)
lf Anne Widclecombe really wants a decent reason to crack down on drug culture, she could do worse than check out Simon Breen's debut At best, Billy Down In One's drug-dealing antr- hero — and his hedonistic descent into violent chemical oblrvron makes fOr entertaining reaclrng, but thanks to a tragic side-effect, prevrously rgnorecl by anti-drugs campaigners, falls short of brilliance
Forget for a moment the undeniable physical hazards of pill-popping and cocaine addiction and focus instead on that most sOCropathrc of drug-related consequences, the tendency to relentlessly and self-rndulgently splaff complete and utter bollocks. Half the time rs spent re-readrng paragraphs and often entire pages Just to try and work out what on earth Billy’s clrrvelrng on about
Still, no one can doubt Breen has done his research. The question is: How much ’research' has he done7 And can I have some too, please7 (Olly Lassman)
J.G. Ballard Super-Cannes (Flamingo £16.99)
At 70 years of age J G Ballard rs a stylistically old-fashioned writer who