HISTORICAL CRIME Christopher Wallace

The Pirate (Flamingo £10.99) * * t *

Whatever the impending Disney portrayal of the original swashbuckling Scottish pirate, Captain Kidd, does, it Will probably end up glossmg over Christopher Wallace's rather salient observation that pirates, love 'em or loathe 'em, were the original gangsters.

The Edinburgh writer's past novels have all had a historical angle and, from the outset, The Pirate’s two-fold tale of Greenock-born Mediterranean drug smuggler Martin and his 17th century buccaneering counterpart is compelling stuff

Whatever sensitive introspection Wallace wants to throw at yOu, there’s no escaping the fact that modern day Martin and his mates are nasty pieces of dope-dealing SCum. The author’s confidence as a historical writer means that while the intertWining period plotline is smoothly written, the wannabe gangster’s hackneyed lifester occasionally reads like low-grade Elmore Leonard.

This is gripping stuff though, and definitely the best drug-dealer/pirate story of the last few hundred years. (Olly Lassman)


The Love Of Stones (Faber £10.99) it a. a

Stones. Costly gems of brilliance and inner light, placed together and worked into beautiful Jewels. Tobias Hill brings his poetic eye to the writing and structure of this scholarly novel. He captures the many facets of the lust which grows in human hearts at the sight of preCious things, and expresses them in the story of Katherine Sterne’s modern search for an anCient, priceless Jewel and how two brothers who once possessed a part of the gem, came to lose it

The Love Of Stones weaves its way from 15th century Portugal to modern Japan, via 19th century Baghdad and Victorian London. At its best, Hill makes you smell the dust and detritus of ancient cities and feel the heat of the shade in their squares. Yet, there is something lacking in his main character: a woman written by a man, a paste fake in a skilfully crafted filigree of words. (Thom Dibdin)

104 THE “81’ 1—15 Feb 2001

FAMILY DRAMA Jane Hamilton

Disobedience (Doubleday £12.99) ‘1: t *




Henry Shaw’s mum is haVing an affair. He knows this because he reads, saves and prints out the e-mails to her lover, a RUSSlaTl Violin maker With a nice line in intimate metaphors. Henry's Sister 15 a tomboy CIVll war enactor, his father an amiable otherworldly professor. As if this wasn’t enough, he’s got girl trouble, gorgeous Lily is too good to be true. while Karen is an astute, fat goth

It may have the ingredients of a zingy cocktail but, too often, Jane Hamilton’s novel is too static to be gripping. lts conclusion is pacy enough, but too often the narrative ambles rather than canters. This slow pace does, however, give it time for droll dialogue and the hazy feel of a tale remembered rather than a book churned out.

Hamilton has a warm but detached eye for the emotional compIeXities of family life and for the indifference, hate and love that characterises its relationships.

v (James Smart)


1 Will Lorimer 7 Nobody Dick ( $13.95)


Reminiscent of a kind of Fear And

Loathing In Australia, Will Lorimer’s story of a Scotsman on the verge of a nervous breakdown is definitely disorientating. Havrng gone walkabout, love-Jilted Frankie and his lunatic Tibetan sidekick Lobo ramble about on a perpetual impenetrable bender. And half the time, Lorimer's lunatic world has no need for


The Death Of Vishnu (Bloomsbury £16.99) t t at *

Vishnu has slept for years on the landing of a Bombay apartment building, where the residents tolerate and feed him in return for odd jobs. But now he is dying. As his spirit prepares to leave his body. he recalls his childhood, his youth and his doomed love for a prostitute. Gradually, he identifies himself with that other Vishnu, a powerful figure in the Hindu pantheon. Can it be that he will

relinquish this lowly carcass to be reborn as a deity?

Around him, the building’s other occupants pursue their lives: the housewives Mrs Asrani and Mrs Pathak squabble over bourgeois snobberies; the widower Mr Taneja mourns his beloved wife; the

A charming flirtation with the mystical and the mundane

intellectual Mr Jalal strives for an epiphany to free him from his rational atheism; and the Muslim Jalal's son‘s tryst - Romeo and Juliet style with

. the Hindu Asrani's daughter. As Vishnu's visions escalate and interact with

Mr Jalal's spiritual quest. the building is swept into a potentially disastrous


Manil Suri is a Bombay-born mathematics professor, now based in

, Baltimore. This debut novel is a charming flirtation between the religious

and the rational, the mystical and the mundane, the hallucinatory and the humorous. His brisk, vivid prose conjures not just the thoughts and feelings of his characters, but also the exotic colours, scents and fantasies that

enhance their experiences.

Suri fails to tie the strands into a totally satisfying climax, but he does imbue his novel with a teasing ambiguity, which is sustained all the way to

, the poignant coda. (Andrew Burnet)

drugs or booze to create a Journey of hallucmogenic self-discovery.

The weird and wonderful inhabitants that aid the duo on Frankie’s quest to clean his wife from his mind, and Lobo's hilarioust futile mission to purify the entire world, maintain a focus on what amounts to an inescapany alien adventure.

Although the outlandish structure of

Nobody Dick means that it’s often hard

to keep up With Lorimer's warped train of thought, there's no denying a sublime

sense of chaotic poetry that occasionally L shines through this deliriously foggy Antipodean dream. (Olly Lassman)


Don't Tell Me The Truth About Love

(Fourth Estate £10) * t *

Short story collections, like glossy boxes of chocolates, always seem to contain at least a couple of tasteless items. Dan Rhodes' second collection turns the

whole truism on its head; for his tasteless tales are as delectable as their

romantic counterparts are saccharine. Things kick off badly With the sloppy pathos of 'The Carolingian Period’,

about a professor's realisation of the love

he has lost. Once Rhodes has got rid of

his clumsy symbolism, and wrapped up

an overlong ode to a Vietnamese cellist, he moves into darker territory, and

Shines more brightly for it. Here, a lonely

man finds love on a landfill Site, a peasant girl destroys her good looks through neglect, and an ageing woman mutilates her lover With a spoon.

Mordant, distressmg and lip-smackineg

surreal, these dark narratives may not

tell us the truth about love, but do reveal Rhodes to be a writer of warped, uneven promise. (James Smart)


, Chrissie Glazebrook The Madolescents (Heinemann £10)


In her debut novel, ChriSSie Glazebrook has created a lightweight and only sporadically funny black comedy which

examines the borderline psychOSis of teenage life in working class Newcastle.

Our herome is Rowena Vincent, a

trainee mortiCian and self-proclaimed

Warrior Princess, and a firm devotee of Baileys, chips and Hula Hoops. Rowena

gets up to all the usual teenage stuff

shoplifting, snogging, drinking but as her behaViour becomes less and less conventional, she is sent to a teenage

therapy group. The Madolescents, as she

calls them, are a rag-tag bunch of Similar misfits, With whom she finds a

replacement for the family she feels is miSSing.

Although there are funny moments

scattered throughout, these occur too

infrequently and executed in a ham- fisted manner. Ultimately, the character

of Rowena is too scantily depicted to

instil any real empathy, making The Mado/escents yet another run of the mill modern novel. (Doug Johnstone) Continued over page


t t t t * Unmissable

* t t * Very 00d

* i * Wort a shot

t * Below average

* You've been warned