::<>‘.'.t: \:,i\.‘§. TED HELLER Funnymen Arxiccs s\‘-IZ.:;'\;). 0....



’Wonderlul' MEL BROOKS

A coruscating knockout

From the simultaneous demise of a heartbroken vaudevillian midget duo to the closing showbiz musing on the relationship between tragedy and comedy, son-of-Joseph’s second novel is as funny as copulation. Funny. Unputdownable. Coruscating. Knockout.

Characters? Funnymen boasts 160-odd and not one can be dismissed as minor, from the Italian-American matriarch Violetta Fontana, who eats a piano to ensure her son has singing lessons, to the deep-as-a-puddle rabbi-to-the- stars Gershon Susskind. Then there’s polydactyl guitar player Pip Grundy (sample line: ‘The Pipster didn’t always hit the right note but he could hit more wrong ones at one time than any other guitarist‘).

Key protagonists are the perfectly ill-matched comedy pairing of Ziggy Bliss and Vic Fountain. Ziggy is a comic—freak ball of neuroses, whereas Vic is a blue-haired lothario and comatose crooner who scores eight toes out of ten (that’s a sordid tale, incidentally, but the pinkie palava saved him from Vietnam).

If you’re even half-familiar with the histories and hysterics of the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Elvis, Brando, Sinatra et al, you will love this. Written in the style of George Plimpton’s book on Truman Capote, with a narrative woven from the myriad memories of family, friends, lovers and enemies, it‘s enormously ambitious but it pays off.

Why? Probably the detail, the killer anecdotes and a heightened sense of the absurd. And because Heller must have absorbed every showbiz biog going, both the scuzz-rakers and the hagiography-makers and from the butt-end of vaudeville to the career-sunset of Vegas, in order to furnish this epic tale of ‘table tennis on a comet’. (Rodger Evans)

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together again in the city of their birth after a failed suicide atterr‘pt by the latter. Erich .s forced to reevaluate everything he thought he knew, from his brother who was (lt‘.'.'£ly8 better and more successlii to the city that is leaning lllll‘ behind as he reaches for the past.

Bailey captures the story like a series of tl'tt)t()tli'ttl)ltf; ‘\.'.'rth a'r‘a/ing (l(35;(i'll)tl‘.(3 prose. buslding an industrial landscape as a sett'ng for art e'r‘otional reunion, focasrrtg on the 'nihtrtiae ot o‘irser'yationa. lite and (t"£l‘.'.’ll‘tl you into a story of lite. love and c.i|tii."ar til)lt(}£l‘.£li. throughout this. a crrmai‘t l‘..l't‘,<)u-' is evident. especall‘, in the


exchanges l:-et.'.< ( b ex .'.:‘.es. artists and the t‘.'.o t:l'()t."(3."i§. Ar, [Shit [NA ANDREW HOLMES

Sleb 'Sceptre S‘lt’lfi‘ttt ..

It's a (ll‘.’(}lt that the ‘.'./orl<ls ol 'l‘(}(l|£l and

ceielnzty are ‘.aciiotis. sl‘al ow, rr‘orohrc cesspoots of banal:t‘,'. So pitching your debut novel as a ‘brirliant

s2 tire of these worlds is the '.'.'riting equivalent of shooting flSl‘ in a barrel. Still. freelance iour'naéist Andrew t’lfi-l‘YES 3s there a ltklll‘f) oat there ‘.'."".() trees"? "are ‘ir‘lior‘. .'."it|lltl arr‘lntiohs'? i;las’.s h s {tfttltllitlflt‘y

t'appea ‘.<:'ft:i>i;ife::i .'.th

occasional style and t‘.llll‘.()ill' in Slob.

Chris Senaell is a borderline alcoholic who looks like pop star lelrx Carter iessentially Robbie \"i/lltlélll‘S ‘.'.’|tll a lllll‘ careeri and who happens to kill hrn‘. As the reasons unravel. lloln‘es' depletion of 21st century ll‘.|llg is accurate bat uninteresting. More arresting is the way he acutely portrays Seuzrell's descent into alcoholic despair while still nicely iudgr lg the black humour of events. This book is so ()f-ltS'tlll‘e it will be unreadable in a year. A bit like n‘Odern jOLlrllElliSl“ then. eh? tDoug Johnstoher

URBAN ll llllt 1 LR KEVIN SAMPSON Clubland «Jonathan Cape S‘liii O...

Merseyside ‘.'.Ir‘:ter Kevin Sair‘psoh likes to .vrite about the bg tabloid

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exah‘ined cocaine and

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a iohg (Z()l( look at the Balearic holiday boorh. (Lenora/To. a tale of urban regeneration. scallies and council politics is by far his best to (late.

the l out is a proposed area in l i‘.’erpool's docklarros where progressrc drug use ‘.‘.'|lt be allo‘.'.'e-:l. Unfortunately for councillor Shelagh (Ior‘rnack. the 'rtoney rs coh‘ing from Brussels so the steering co'rvr‘rttee has to he led by a meal. Enter Ged Brennan. sew-retired gangster who l'lt't‘CClléliely' places hrs sex addict cousin lvloby l.". a local lap dancing club.

This is a ‘.'.'on(lerful read. told .n fir'stperson (irar‘, or’rrt. and very

difficult to put down. Santpsc'i :tertaihry has an (l.'.'(.‘f;()ll‘~(? ear for

dialogue. and an ability

to give hrs nastiest characters the srrtear‘ of passrng humanity. A thriller with a brain and a n‘unicipal heart. la'. iPaul Daler


JON STEELE War Junkie «Bantam S\l(>.99l ....

‘Ever waikeo n on starring. :ite‘eric ch.f:iren and hought: "Christ. .'.’l‘.£lt p ctures. What ‘..(:kr" ;: ct..res"?' Jon Steele has been working as a." ITN cameraman for 21) years. seert some of the uncrst the world nas to of‘er. and been able to do nothing besides reCOrd rt.

This account takes in a year of hrs life in \.-.rhich he was sent from RussIa to Georgia. Sarajevo. Zaire and Rwanda before suffering a l)l'(3£tl\(l()‘~.'.‘ll at l-leathrov.’ lll llltll It's a contradictory account that paints Steele as hurr‘anrst and cynic. )uxtaposes banter and lltlilttOt‘. and burns with en‘otrenai honesty despite relying heavily on dialogue that's surely been recons ructed to the point of fiction.

lite carr‘erarnan is a lil“i°.(3(t ‘-.‘.'l"t(}l' and hrs gang ho storytel.‘:ng occasionally grates. but ‘.'.'1'ir'Ji;nAie is a pou'xc-rt'ul. disturbing '.'.'ork. that raises Lllll)i(}£lS£lllt ()thSthllS about a society happy to see the tragrc flipside of life through a lens. and unlikely to do much about it. dairies Srnartr


SHAUN HUTSON Hybrid {l llll(}‘.'.’£tlll(}l'

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lhere are very fez‘. horror ‘.'.’ll'.(?lf3 who actually wake the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. So. good old Shaun Hutson dispenses ‘.‘.’lttl all that suspense and (illl‘()53l)ll(}l'l(IS ntalarkey and just hits us with buckets of gore. plain and sih‘ple gust check the carnage-packed S/ugs or Spawn).

This time he's gone for something a bit smarter: one of those books- withrn-a-book affairs. \‘v’ashedout author Chris Ward is having trouble writing his latest blockbuster and strange things happeri whenever he approaches h s

keyboard: manuscripts seerr‘. to appear out of nowhere and something nasty is lurking in the garden.

Now this would be all well and good if the tome Ward's working on was any cop rather than a plodding tale of vengeance in Northern Ireland. The bridging story is far more interesting. but Hutsons obsession with short chapters some at only a paragraph longi becomes tiresome and. let's face it. his writing style is as blunt as a baseball bat.

(Henry NorthmOrel


HO CHE ANDERSON King (Fantagraphics price tth .000

Volume two of Ho Che Anderson's excellent series begins as the Reverend Martin Luther King recovers from a brutal knife attack. and runs through to the first crin rights marches on Washington in 1963. This is a remarkable achievement. a comic book biography about a great man that never accepts the easy option of sign-posting the achievements everyone already knows about.

Anderson must have done some sort of l>iack-Armerrcan history course for her research because her rec<>nstruction of the key meetings of this period of the (:l‘.“ rights movement is second to none. The visual style is part photo montage and part nOir stylisation, a method that SLiits the challenging material.

If you have even a passing interest in a man whose ideas fOr change and progression for the lives Of American blacks were every bit as revolutionary as his Muslim counterparts. then this is essential reading. iPaal Dale: