CULTURAL HISTORY HARRY SHAPIRO Shooting Stars (Serpent's Tail 5314.99) 0”.

Drugs. Hollywood and the movies. An unholy trinity that will no doubt last as long as optimistic fools carry on flooding through the arrival gates at LAX. Harry Shapiro has been here before. having penned a fine history of drugs and the music business. Waiting for the Man, in 1988, and he believes that the three are inseparable and inevitable.

Shapiro employs the fairly common device of using cinema‘s changing attitude to hedonism as a barometer of what was really going on. So from Broken Blossoms (1919) to Traffic (2000). the trail reveals itself as little more than footprints in the sand. A lot of the stuff about marijuana is pretty old hat (especially if you have seen Ron Mann’s excellent 1999 film documentary Grass). but the author expounds some surprisingly interesting ideas on early Hollywood's opium fixation and the truly suicidal nature of the 80s coke epidemic. Fascinating stuff, but read it too long and it may leave you snow- blind. (Paul Dale)


Coalescent (Gollancz £12.99)


Despite being billed as Destiny ‘3 Children Book

One there is no sign in Coalescent of an army of bootylicious Beyonce robots terrorising the galaxy. Instead there is a novel full of big ideas. page-turning plot shoogles and more bamboozling science than the late Magnus Pike could've shaken a test tube at. The st0ry toggles between the modern day. in which George Poole searches for his long lost sister. and ancient Britain towards the end of the Roman occupation in the fifth century. Stephen Baxter handles both stories

. beautifully, especially the

historical part. and ties the two together in a spine-tingling climax

which takes Darwinian theOry and twists it into

horrifically bizarre shapes. yet does so with aplomb and a strongly believable edge. Throw

in a jaw-dropping Allen-

style taster of the next

book at the finale. and you've got an

; accomplished. assured and mature sci-fl writer I very much at the top of i his game.

(Doug Johnstone)


Stevenson's Scotland

(Mercat Press £9.99) 0... It's no wonder that Robert Louis Stevenson

went travelling so much.

He bloody hated the

Scottish weather. And

most particularly the

localised peculiarities of : Edinburgh's climes. on

which he so bitterly and eloquently wrote: ‘The

weather is raw and boisterous in winter. shifty and ungenial in summer. and a downright meteorological purgatOry in the spring.’ The great Victorian explorer and chronicler still wrote a great deal about

5 Scotland and such diary extracts, letters and

observations are collected here.

The quality of the writing speaks for itself, shrewdly observing Scotland with the passion and knowledge of a local and the distance and perspective of a traveller. Shame the cover and printing has a feel of


it Styveti;-stiifs :;:~' béxit'land-r i (,3' mum! my“

j being from the subject's era while lacking his sophistication. But the

material is all well

chosen and arranged.

i and makes a highly

entertaining read for

i anyone interested in

i seeing Scotland through I the eyes of a canny wee I literary adventurer.

. (Ruth Hedges)



Negotiating with the


(Virago £7.99) on

Margaret Atwood 's strengths lie in the

concentration on

~ minutiae. She's a great

observer of everyday life. What she isn't so

hot on is ideas. and this . book by ‘a writer on

writing' attempts to be full of them. So she tackles the writer and

her double. the author and a notion of

, readership. and the

problems of social


I” A. 9! thXM ‘3.“Elw‘r':

responsibility and artistic integrity.


Atwood is clearly erudite literary quotes

. and examples litter every

page but there‘s a

flaccidity to the thinking

that leaves us with lists

of names rather than the f sharply focused thinking i we find in other books

f by writers on writing. For better examples of the

form, go to great works

like Virginia Woolf's A

Room of One '3 Own and

Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel. Kundera himself once said of Dostoevsky: “He's a

great thinker only as a novelist.‘ Something of the same applies to Atwood. (Tony McKibbin)


GUTERSON Our Lady of the Forest

(Bloomsbury £16.99) 000

Ann is a sickly, teenage runaway. living in a trailer park in North Fork. a former logging town brought to its knees by environmental legislation. Then one day Ann has a vision of the Virgin Mary that could spell the end of hard times. The vision promises to appear six more times and within



birth. had lived with Ann's grandfather. a man with complicated gambling debts. in a series of rental homes”. Predictable and cosy. this is a spoon-fed theological mystery. (Anna Shipman)

the week. there are hundreds of pilgrims flocking to NOrth Fork in order to petition Our Ann.

Occasionally amusing and sometimes compelling. Our Lady of the Forest is more often Clumsy and David Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson's self- consciously detached style can be irritating. The characters (the unsure priest. the hard- as-nails friend. the traumatised ex-logger) are shallow. and Guterson Invites us to stereotype them in a few strokes: 'Ann and her mother. 15 at Ann's




it‘ix'l \;


(Sanctuary Cl 1.99) 0.00

When the FBI comes for you, there’s no place to hide


The killers of JFK, RFK and John Lennon had several things in common. Each of them made statements after the assassinations which indicated that they had no personal vendetta against their victims, they simply had to die. The shooters were all left largely helpless at the scene of their crimes, hands practically in the air, just waiting to be arrested. And rumours have abounded that they were all dubbed ‘lone nuts’ to deflect attention away from those who were really behind these shocking crimes. What does all that say about Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan and Mark David Chapman? Could it actually mean that they were brainwashed to commit such clinical murders that their limited talents with a gun would have deemed unlikely? Were they programmed to hang around so they could take the rap while never fully revealing who administered the jab?

Yes, it sounds far-fetched but the evidence presented by journalists Phil Strongman and Alan Parker, based largely on hints and clues from the FBI’s own official documents, is powerful stuff. For one thing, the Kennedys both died at highly sensitive times with both re-evaluating the whole Vietnam project.

Astor Lennon, he was quite literally ‘starting over’, preparing to relaunch his solo career and raise merry liberal hell in Reagan’s USA, leaving the authorities terrified of the impact he could have on a politicised American youth. 80, why would a crank with a weapon suddenly pick such a perfect moment for carrying out their act of violence? This is deeply disturbing, highly convincing conspiracy theorising of the finest order. (Brian Donaldson)

‘45 77 No. 90:13 THE LIST 105