Fiction &,'Biography

CRIME. DRAMA ELMORE LEONARD Tishomingo Blues rVrking $316.99) 0.0

The crime author of choice for the Clinton administration is perhaps not the most credible of plaudits laid at the door of this veteran American pulp boiler. He has however, captured the imagination of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and Barry Sonnenfeld and his complex narratives have successfully made compelling movies, Get Shorty being perhaps the most successfully translated text. Tishomingo Blues is a less filmic tome than the more obvious race-and-chase parts of Leonard’s oeuvre but it is as convoluted and twisted as anything he has thrown at us.

it may be grim up north, but it’s hot in the south and Dennis Lenahan is a one-man travelling high diving show he plunges from 80 feet in the air into a tiny tank much to the delight of holiday makers in fading hotels across America. He gets a gig at the Tishomingo Lodge and Casino, reputedly part of the ‘Las Vegas of the south’.

Unlike the lead in many crime novels, the central character Lenahan is neither a motivator nor power broker in the narrative; his presence is as a narrator whose part in the process is more symbolic than significant.

While up on his high-rise plinth he is witness to a mafia assassination. The assassins know he saw the murder but desist from bumping him off as he is taken under the wing of a high-flying stranger, the enigmatic Robert Taylor. Taylor’s motivations for getting close to the mobsters is not immediately clear, but Tishomingo is battle re-enactment country and he and Lenahan end up as part of the action where both sides are doing more than just acting as everyone’s packing live ammunition.

Tishomingo Blues is as disorderly as one of the civil war battles re-played within. Leonard has always had a fondness for sprawling narratives and doles out subplots and asides like they were glasses of sarsaparilla on a hot southern day. That in itself is not a bad thing but the backbone of the story, be it Taylor’s slick inroads into southern gangsterism or Lenahan’s befuddlement at becoming a pawn in a rather shabby chess game is not enough to hold it all together. What makes their relationship more engrossing is Lenahan’s resistance to get involved too deeply in Taylor’s ‘business’ schemes.

While Lenahan is well drawn, many of the southern belles and gents are scurrilous trailer trash, making them easy cannon fodder and unable to feed any tension into the plot. The men for the most part, are no

Merely a prelude to a better story

more than dim-witted, drunken oafs; the women, put upon dreamers. Only Taylor and his crew are the exceptions, pictures of upstanding charm in the face of Neanderthal opposition.

Taylor is hilarious in parts, romanced out of all believability: he is fluent in blues and Yankee folklore and is shagging the boss’ wife into the bargain. Despite his smiling manipulation of all around - Lenahan included - he is an enviable and compelling ‘dude’ and an underused focus for the narrative. The love interest is cute and provides a welcome, more personal, redirection but arrives so late that it feels a little too much like an after thought.

Tishomingo Blues reads as a prelude to another story but Leonard’s rolling episodic storytelling means this isn’t a problem; still, this is less than you might expect from such a battle-scarred veteran.

(Mark Robertson)

SPORE s AU r'r'3t3‘<>ea;.r>rrv JOHN McENROE

Serious 'Lrttle. Brown $717.99: .0

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More faults than aces

110 THE LIST .1 l. .

John McEnroe was at the epicentre of some of the greatest showdowns in Wimbledon history. For anyone who grew up \.'/atchrng those stormy late 70s early 80s collisions with rivals such as the ice-cool Swede BJOl'll Borg and his ‘trash-talking' compatriot Jimmy Connors. or with poor ball girls and boys who incurred his wrath for coughing at the wrong moment. or the umpires who riled him for making honest decisions. the prospect of Superbrat spilling the beans on what he really thought about those balmy days is as moirth-waterrng as a gig ss of lemon barley water.

Unfortunately. Serious is the template of an autobiography going wilzlly wrong. Just because Mcl—irree played his part in some classic tennis encountersdoesn't mean that he can write about them very well. And. believe me. McEnroe doesn't write about them very well. Indeed. he makes unforgettable matches like hrs two men's singles finals against Borg

seem completely unremarkable rather than the sporting landmarks that they were. His sense of building tens:on is as about as acute as the diplomacy he displayed at the height of hrs on-court neurosis.

Perhaps the book's main fault is that its creator appears utterly self- ol_)sessed. OK. so this is autobiography, but some sense of life beyond hrs own troubled. yet often bland mind would have been welcome: can we really care that much about how he cuts and de-seeds the fruit for hrs krds' breakfast?

And while the book co-credits one James Kaplan. hrs description of the moment he finally gets rt on with Tatum O'Neal is pure Jackie Collins: ‘The conspiracy was sexy. the whispering was sexy. and the way she smelled when she leaned close was sexy. too.‘

Serious is a classic example of a legend whc should have let the old footage of hrs volatile skrlls do the talking. (Brian Donaldson)


Class/c novels revisited. This issue: Moll Flanders Published 280 years ago. What’s the story? The eponymous heroine of Daniel Defoe's novel rs born in Newgate prison where hm mother is under sentence. Moll is adopted by the mayor of Colciiester. but is seduced by his son and exentuaily turned out. Descending into the underworld. lvloll enjoy s a busy sex life and becomes an expert thief. before being convicted and transported to the New \"Jor!d where she eventually pr'ospei's.

What the critics said Though Defoe is now cited as father of the novel in anlish. he was ’ooked down upon by his (I()lllOllll)()l'Eil'lCS. Jonathan Swift. in 1709. called him ‘the lellow that ‘~.'.'as Pilloryed. l have forgotten his name.' referring to the time when one of Defoe's inflammatory ant:- establrshment satires led to “Nil being exoosed in the prllory.


Damn Duo: Mou Fun on u

Key moment Having survrved numerous sexual exploits and ill fated rrtarriages. lvloll aprxears to find happiness With the husband whom she accompanies on a visit to Vir'gima. Rmrnrted With her mother. a transported felon. in a scene reminiscent of a Jerry Springer style revelation, lvloll discovers that her beloved husband is in fact her brother. Postscript Writing at a time when editorial restraint was not deemed necessary, the original title of Defoe's novel contained some 70 words.

First line test ‘lvly true name is so well known in the lit-words. or li()gisters at Newgate. and in the Old- Qailey. and there are some things of such Consequence still depending there, relating to my particular Conduct. that it is not expected I should set my Name or the Account of my l-ainily to this Work . . .'

(Allan Radcliffe)