Fiction & Biography

FOOTBALL COMEDY STUART COSGROVE Hampden Babylon (Canongate $212.99)

Every Saturday lunchtime and early evening, Stuart Cosgrove and Tam Cowan spout off in a hugely amusing manner about their disdain for Celtic and Rangers. They both have columns in the Daily Record which do more or less the same thing. And yet, despite their trumpeting of provincial causes (St Johnstone and Motherwell, disrespectively), the subtext to their sniping is that, despite all their faults, the Old Firm’s departure to Europe or England or Mars would leave Scottish football in a dire state.

Hampden Babylon, in its warped way, also admits as much. Thirteen of the sixteen players pictured in the book’s opening montage have played for one half of Glasgow’s big two (or both, in one notorious instance detailed within). And the stories merely reflect the domination they have had on both the silverware and scandal dished out in our game.

This update from Cosgrove’s 1991 original is a blistering read, containing chapters on Gazza and Bazza (two of Rangers most gifted recent midfielders whose brains are solidly lodged in their feet) and a pair of Celtic’s sensitive aesthetes Ramon Vega (seen posing with Vivienne Westwood) and Paulo Di Canio (seen lamping an opponent).

And while all the new stuff is great, the real gems lie within the good old days. There’s Hughie Gallacher, the Bellshill ballplayer whose loathing of authority meant refs, managers and chairmen were never given an easy ride. Though not even Bert Fogg, the whistler he kicked into a bath, would have wished Gallacher’s gruesome, decapitated end.

And the tragi-comic tale of Tommy Docherty shows how success can allow an individual’s idiosyncrasies to be accepted or ridiculed. Were he to have won more trophies in his time, the Doc’s brutish manner could have afforded him more leeway with his bosses. Jock Stein, on the other hand, could get away with throwing drinks into the stunned faces of wayward players, as long as he continued guiding his sides to European and domestic success.


Sex, scandal and Sky Sports subscriptions

It’s not all scandal and gossip, however. Cosgrove puts his tales in the context of Scotland as a thoroughly sociable and essentially socialist nation, each individual having been forged from their Caledonian sensibilities. Or in the case of Graeme Souness, trying to run as far away from it as possible.

Cosgrove’s summary is a plea for respect of the common fan. A difficult mission in the ‘virtual’ age where most supporters follow their team via the mercy of Sky Sports schedulers rather than by being lifted over the gate. Supporters are now seen as commodities, the footballers by and large over-paid brats waiting for their next million-pound move. But when the players are as barmy as those seen caning it in Hampden Babylon, who’s complaining? (Brian Donaldson)


Total Recall (Hamish Hamilton €15.99) O...

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An engaging political thriller

104 THE LIST 9’! Na. 1:: Hex I)’,(;l

Private Investigator VI Warshawski is back. The first woman in Chicago with a PI license. she has always been tough, smart. likeable even. But Warshawski's even more endearing this time. perhaps because she's aged a few years: and. let's face it. there's nothing more irritating than a heroine who remains trapped in a youth-and- beauty time-warp. When Sara Paretsky began writing crime. she embarked on a mission to bring strong but real women into her fav0urite genre and she doesn‘t appear to have lost sight of her target.

So what does a national conference in downtown Chicago. where a Holocaust Asset Recovery Act is being proposed. have to do with an impotent life-insurance salesman and his inelegant Suicide? Why does a man named Paul Radbuka. who has been seeing a recovered-memory therapist and now claims to be a surVivor of the Nazi death camps. start pursuing Warshawski's closest Jewrsh friends? Why does her mentor Lotty Herschel

freak Out. just at the mention of his name? And what are the real secrets of this woman's own past?

Drawing from her own experiences of working in insurance. Paretsky entwines seemingly random strands of a local Chicago story into an international crime that stretches back to Switzerland and Germany and binds small financial claims to the brutal horrors of war and genocide. Gently anticipating her readers' expectations. she cruelly subverts them. jumping between different character perspectives. and taunting with tiny half-truths.

Keeping up with VI Warshawski is exhausting. As she races between meetings. babysitting favours. her dai!y five-mile jog. dinners and her journalist boyfriend. you'll be glad you didn't get to be a PI yourself. It's fabulous to experience it from the sofa though. Total Recall is intriguing. engaging. entertaining. and just about as politically pertinent as you can get. (Heather Walmsleyl

First writes

Debut novelists under the microscope. . This issue: Rebecca Reisert

Who she? Rebecca Reisert lives in Louisville. Kentucky and has taught English literature. acting and creative writing for over 27 years. squeezing in time to write more than 30 plays. Having directed Macbeth four times. Reisert became obsessed with some of the text‘s mysteries. Her interest in ‘the Scotch play' led her to travel throoghout Scotland. exploring Macbeth sites. a pilgrimage that resulted in a broken arm while frantically searching for his grave on Iona. Now in her eighth year of remission from ovarian cancer. Reisert sees her debut's resourceful heroine partly as a reflection of her survivor's Spirit.

Her debut In The Third Witch. Reisert imagines a direct role for Shakespeare‘s Wyrd Sisters in Macbeth's downfall. The title character is Gillyflower. whose family was butchered by the erstwhile Thane of Glamis and who was taken in seven years ago by Mad Helga and wise. pragmatic Nettle. Gilly grows to identify herself by her vengeful lust. infiltrating Castle Macbeth disguised as a lowly scullery lad just as her new employer is on the Cusp of becoming king.

Basically . . . Reisert's writing is so rich that it sets your teeth on edge and occasionally verges on the parodic (one character has a voice that is 'soft and Silky. like milkpod fluff dipped in honey'). Overall. however. this is original. atmospheric and agreeably over-the-top. Reisert balancing the intrigue and bloodlust of the royal court with the human drama unfolding below stairs. First line test ““Tis time to rob the dead.“ (Allan Radcliffe) I The Third Witch is published by Flame priced £6.99.