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CHARLES WEBB New Cardiff . ".2. iv 0....

ith a satirical wit that

belies the 26 years since

he last put pen to paper, Charles Webb has come back with a novel that puts him straight to the forefront of American literature. New Cardiff is an enjoyable romp through the story of Colin Ware, a London artist trying to get over his partner’s idea of a practical joke.

Expecting to get married, he is somewhat shocked to receive an invitation to a wedding between his fiancee and someone else. Striving to mend his broken heart, he sets off for America and ends up in New Cardiff, small-town hicksville, New England. Trying to fit in, he meets an array of odd residents, each with a quirk that is accentuated to the point of verbal caricature.

Using these characters, Webb takes a stab at all that is wrong in American culture; from the overbearing, manic marketing mogul that New Cardiff employs to sell the town, to the stereotypical mouthy yank tourist who knows everything there is to know about everything and proceeds to tell anyone that will listen.

Assisted by sketches drawn by Webb’s lifelong partner Fred, the novel guides you through the dialogue that takes place as Colin finds a new love in Mandy, a care

assistant from a local nursing home, and fends off advances from his ex to get back together. Lives are changed but everyone, including the retired bus conductors, seem happy by the end.

The author of The Graduate, Webb’s later books failed to scale the same heights and he ceased all output in the early 70$ claiming ‘society should not always expect output from its writers and artists’. Having sold the rights to The Graduate cheaply, this attitude led to periods of real poverty but he now admits to feeling more focused and comfortable

because of this.

4-" Luff" m

.harqui lAav


A clichéd story told with verv

102 THE LIST 12—26 Apr 2001

Charles and Fred take a moving look at simple lives

Certainly, in New Cardiff, Colin mirrors Webb’s trajectory, regaining his artistic focus once he is settled in a simple existence on the south coast of Britain,

looking after the aforementioned retired bus

conductors with Mandy. Webb has always lived the anti-materialist lifestyle, residing in campgrounds and, at one point, a French nudist colony, much to the initial disgust of his children. This way of life, however, has helped to keep hold of the cynical, satirical outlook that made The Graduate such a glorious success and it’s put to great use with this amazing and deeply moving

look at simple pleasures and simple lives. (Aly Burt)

CONTEMPORARY CRIME JOOLZ DENBY Corazon (HarperCollins £9.99;

Alma is the estranged daughter of Bradford academics stranded in a loveless marriage. The martyrdom of her one true love an alcoholic Geordie poet with a hard—on for Trotsky who goes by the name Jack Collier long behind her. the dyspeptic whizx—fuelled friendship of Millie and Max is all she has to show for a life lived in the shadow of sooal paranoia. The fact that this couple of warm- hearted townies seem to be the only people who understand 90th little Alma is of no help.

When things fall apart. as they inevitably do for those who are over- educated and under-employed. through the breakdown of her marriage and her cat being put down. Alma wisely decides to get away to her parents villa in Spain. After a chance enCOunter with the mysterious Culty

ODS Foundation. Alma begins the knife-edge walk between possible spiritual awakening and indoctrination.

Joolz Denby is a thrilling writer. give or take the odd clunking srmile. and she will have you page-turning like few others. coming on as she does like the fetid offspring of Poppy Z. Brite and James Herbert. However. this stOry has been told so many times before that it is difficult to register even the slightest Surprise.

Also. she has a tendency to draw her characters in such a vividly quirky way that they often swamp the story's central drive: as With Armistead Maupin. you often care a little too much for all the subsidiary characters at the expense of everything else. Denby has. however. managed to follow Stone Baby her off-kilter take on Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying With considerable aplomb and if you fancy the slightly cliched seCUrity of a Ioner-meets-organised-religion thriller. look no further. (Paul Dalel

First writes Putting debut novelists under the microscope Lallta Tademy

Who she?

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research and mite "it" wont? Co"? fi‘x'. t‘a’ liltintt" L‘ tum, bonkers l.‘i;:e"‘\.':2 taut-w gamble pa-d :"f the lx‘ok found its i'lit‘ ‘.fi.‘:‘. tr\f asvm register of outiiitx fitm" kw “.'.l‘. as Opiahs Book (Il;it‘.

Her debut Alli?! ifftl’n'lt; i'ltll [Mlfi ladei'i, hired a glt*'l(3tli\>tll:;l ‘.'.‘lit,‘ tracked (lti‘.'..'l her great Emat great great giandiiiotht-r. Hating l)l(:‘.'l()tl§3l‘, assiiiiie’l ’lt'l ancestors to be “free people "if colour", her findings were the catalyst for laderny to re create her feiiiaie aiicestois' iiws and charting the history of her family's p; ssage llOll‘. slavery. to freedom.

Basically. . . ladeiny's debut is worthy and adriiiiablt: if hardli, scriitillating. the author can be admired for her six/eepiiig research and painstaking attention to detail, Also striking is the fleshaiid blood cliaracterisatioii, particularly her three distinctively vivid heroines. SLi/ette. Philomene and Fli/abeth. Yet. the novel lacks the poetic sensil’)ility and humour of a Toni Morrison or Alice Walker and there's something emotionless and detached about the storytelling. Overall. a triumph for quantity over quality.

First line test ‘On the morning of her ninth birthday. the day after Madame Francoise Derbanne slapped her. Sii/ette peed on the rosebushm.‘

iAllan Radcliffei

I Cane River Is {)t/b/isheri by Headline priced f? 12. 99.