IAN RANKIN Beggars Banquet (OriOn $716.99) .0. QUINTIN JARDINE

Head Shot (Headline €18.99 ht): 5:10.99 p bl .0

There’s a great scene in Pushing Tin, an uneven John Cusack flick about air traffic controllers. Cusack is driving home, past row upon row of identical suburban houses. He parks his car in his drive and turns off the engine before realising he’s pulled up at his neighbour’s house, reversing and going into the right drive. Billy Idol’s paean to masturbation, ‘Dancing with Myself’, plays in the background.

Such mundanity weighs heavily upon the protagonists of Ian Rankin’s new collection of short stories. These are individuals living dead end lives who see crime or murder as a means of escape, like the frustrated teacher who, tired of his couch potato wife and bored of translating hardcore porn films for his best friend, ends up killing one and framing the other. Some are embroiled in murder rather than guilty of it, but all have blood on their hands, such as the writer who, having delivered the backing whoops on ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, finds himself on a downhill spiral.

Beggars Banquet sees Rankin using the everyday as a route to the exotic and, by and large, succeeding. Several tales, like ‘Natural Selection’, which sees a group of men blame each other for their friend’s incarceration, are stunningly effective, subtle, open- ended and menacing. Others rely rather too much on sudden, tenuous plot twists that leave you wondering if they remained as short stories because Rankin realised they weren’t quite good enough to weave into his Rebus novels. While it’s easy to overdose on the dour detective, here he features in just under half the stories, and his wry pragmatism comes as welcome relief from the dark deeds that surround him.

Head Shot is Quintin Jardine’s twelfth Bob Skinner

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Terry S()tll"~t-?"'l was .inooubteozy one of the great A'l‘t?"'(:£tf‘ satr sts of the .... seccnti hat 0" the 20th century His novels Candy Etf‘fl The Magic Christian created |fli(}l‘ll<'t'.’()".{t‘ sensations for their pornogranl‘vc Obscenity out few realised his unspeakable writings were a corrosive dark g..err'::a form of satire.

His scripts for Dr Strange/ova. Easy Rider and The Loved One were sparking monuments to elegant screenwriting and his ,Ournalism (or as he used to cal: it ‘the duality lit game') far outreached the rhalority of his centemporaries' talent bOundares. His passionate essays on his fav0urite writers (Miller and Burroughs. baSically) still outstrip the media spin of today's established lit Critters.

ln shon the man was gifted. some We“ would say even above and beyond the company he kept ‘.’.’l‘!Ch 'nCILlOBd Lenny Bruce. William Burroughs. Sartre. A Camus. Rolling Stones and the Beatles iwho put lllll‘. on the cover of Sgt

Utilising Edinburgh’s atmosphere with varying success

novel, and while Rankin is fascinated by the ordinary, and all it shapes and conceals, Jardine goes straight for grand thrills. Even his cops’ private lives overflow with melodrama; Mario is sleeping with his statuesque Scots-Italian cousin, his wife Maggie has discovered that her paedophile father is back in town, and Bob’s American parents-in-law have been garrotted in a log cabin because they know who killed JFK.

So Bob heads Stateside to show the FBI how to work a crime investigation, leaving his department to wrestle with a mysterious corpse and the aforementioned paedophile who are, as you might expect, not entirely unconnected. Jardine is so desperate to keep his readers hooked he even ends his novel, soapstyle, with a cliffhanger.

Head Shot is certainly readable, but it could do with a lot more subtlety. And while Jardine is a big fan of Edinburgh locations, they are often all too hastily sketched, used as props for the speedy plot rather than as ends in themselves. For Rankin the same city has a brooding presence steeped in history that is reminiscent of Stevenson’s fin de siecle take on London in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It’s an instructive difference: while Jardine views crime writing as something that is exciting and worthwhile in itself, for Rankin it is a way of exploring deeper, darker themes. (Peter Stubbs)

Pepper. the only figure to wear shadesl.

New Dig This is a very fine collection of the great man's short stories. letters. film and neck synopses. lOurnalism and interviews. It doesn't take long to realise JLISI how shocking SOuthern must have been in his day: his 1972 letter to the editor of Nationa/ Lampoon detailing a speCial repOrt he wanted to write on the secret army of Stiff Gook Rimmers sweeping through Vietnam Still pushes the envelope by today's standards.

Originally from Texas. 80uthern's assertive, slightly arrogant COunter- Cultural drawl seeps through on every page. If you really want to read Southern at his best yOu're probably better investing in his preVious collection of shOrt stories and JOUTt‘lallsm. Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Stories. But this remains a good entry pomt into the works 0‘ a key American writer. File next to Lenny Bruce's How to Ta/k Dirty and Irritate People. iPau! Dalei

Shelf life

Classic novels rev/sited. This issue: Casrno Roya/e

Published 50 years ago. What’s the story The first of Ian Fleming's thrillers starring agent James Bond is a Surprise to anyone familiar with 007 from the film adaptations. The sparse plot concerns Bond's attempts to discredit COrrupt Soviet double-agent “Le Chiffre' (The Number') by bankrupting him at baccarat. thus forcing the RuSSian's SMERSH bosses into executing him. Unlike the suave Superman of the Silver screen, Fleming's Bond is a complex figure. cold. unscrupuIOuS and misogynist on the Surface. though at times ruminative and sentimental.

What the critics said 'A Superb gambling scene. a tonure scene which still haunts me and. of c0urse. a beautiful girl.' enthused Fleming's contemporary Raymond Chandler.

Key moment The slightly kinky tonure scene results from Bond's attempts to reSCue beautiful agent Vesper Lynd from Le Chiffre's henchmen. Stripped naked and oound to a seat-less chair, ()0? then suffers the indignity of having a red-hot carpet beater inserted into his nether regions. Ouch. Still. difficult to feel pity for a man on the verge of haying his sex foreiny changed. when he has preViOLisly waxed excitedly of the ‘sweet tang of rapefi

Postscript Due to issues of cepyright. Casmo Roya/e was the only one of Ian Fleming's 1/; Bond l‘iO\'€IS not to be filmed by Eon productions. ltS title was given to the outrageous spy spoof starring Peter Sellers and Woody Allen.

First line test “The scent and smoke and sweat of a caSino are nauseating at three in the morning' (Allan Radcliffe)