FAMILY DRAMA ANA MENENDEZ Loving Che
(Review £14.99) 00
Lat/i rig L’rAl’
Smuggled out of Cuba as a baby by an uncommunicative grandfather. Ana Menendez grows up with no idea of her roots. Now an adult, the attempts to find her mother are initially fruitless. until one day a box of letters arrives in the post. The mother‘s story is told in a series of vignettes which evoke the heady. chaotic days after Castro's revolution and describe. in the kind of detail you frankly don‘t want from your mother. a passionate affair with Che Guevara that allegedly led to our heroine‘s conception. So off she goes to ascertain the veracity of this audacious claim.
While Loving Che portrays both Cuba and the life of exiled Cubans in Miami. Menendez lacks personality and direction. and the Ianguorous prose. initially rich. becomes rambling and repetitive. It seems to be an attempt at magic realism but without any actual supernatural events. this is contrived and uninspiring.
BILL BASS a. JON JEFFERSON
Death’s Acre (Time Warner $16.99) .0.
An eager anthropological student who slipped under the police cordon, Dr William
Bass founded the Anthropology Research Facility at the University of Tennessee in 1981. The facility's first assignment was to solve a case that was over 50 years old: he had to determine whether Bruno Hauptmann had murdered the Lindbergh baby in 1932 or whether the wrong man had been fried at the
bequest of the New
Jersey State Police four years later. By 2002 Bass and his team were
? identifying hundreds of
" human bodies dumped : in the woodlands of
? Georgia by the Tri State ; Cemetery; that's some
In between these terrible tales, Bass and
co-writer Jon Jefferson
sketched out the creation of the Body
i Farm, an impressive field research unit and
Death ’3 Acre tells its fascinating if macabre history. detailing the rise in significance of DNA studies. The retrospective truths here can. however. be as
depressing as they are
impressive. (Paul Dale)
SOCIAL DRAMA HEIDI JON SCHMIDT
The Bride of Catastrophe f (Flamingo 5312.99)
E How can you escape
yourself when your mother‘s neuroses swallow everything in their path? Throw
; yourself into sexual ! conquestandthen
become a lesbian. that's how. Or at least that's the way Beatrice Wolfe tries to cope. torn as most of us are. between living up to parental expectations and confounding them. With love as the holy grail, she seeks to find the redeeming force through a series of male lovers at college while repOrting all to vicarious lesbian
‘ tutor Philippa.
Sex by proxy becomes sex proper but the shining light
ain't between those
sheets either. Heidi Jon Schmidt writes with a sharpness that is by
turns astute. cruel,
funny and sensitive but always insightful. Amid chaos, Beatrice navigates her course. switching tack with deft control until slowly and quietly that elusive ‘yes' sneaks up on her. This is a smart book whose dysfunctional world draws you right in with
. its double-edged
humanity. (Ruth Hedges)
Ultimate Punishment (Picador £12.99) 0..
“if III I Ix’Jl“.
In January 2000. the Governor of Illinois
declared a moratorium
on the death penalty and set up a commission to review its
use. which ultimately
resulted in 164 inmates being taken off Death Row. Scott Turow, a lawyer and successful author, was part of that committee and his experiences form the basis for this book. Ultimate Punishment examines shifting attitudes towards capital punishment in America and focuses on a few horrific cases. in which strong feeling and human error led to innocent people being sentenced to death. While the details may be a little hard to follow. Turow‘s message is clear: the system is often unreliable, particularly when dealing with highly emotive situations. The
book gives a thought-
highlighting the frequent
geographical and racial bias of capital
sentences. Yet the
advances. One weekend they depart from the routine to visit a swankier nightspot. and meet two men who they each think could
It be ‘the one'. but
: somewhat predictably the path of true love doesn‘t run smooth.
A likeable initial earthy quality to Craig‘s characters soon disappears as Natasha and Anna become little more than Mills 8. Boon heroines with mobiles and alcopops. Additionally. the clumsy dialogue. slow pace and negligible plot development make this a modern romance to avoid. (Doug Johnstone)
discussion is by no
means exhaustive and
has a rather irksome air ; of self-promotion, i particularly when the g author connects this debate to his own
novels. (Rachael Street)
RELATIONSHIP DRAMA ROBERT CRAIG More Like Wrestling v than Dancing (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £9.99) .0
spend their days ' working in a Bradford shoe shop, live in a crappy flat together and ' wait for the weekend to
This is Bradford postie Robert Craig's second novel and it deals with similar anti-Bridget Jones territory as his debut. Cover to Cover. The stOry deals with two best friends. Natasha and Anna. who
~ come when they'll spend their Saturday night tanked up at local dive the Apollo. rebuffing idiotic men’s
FICTIONALISED BIOGRAPHY CANDACE ALLEN Valaida
(Virago £14.99) 0000
Allen‘s novel is a stately and unsentimental account
You can forget your Harry Potters and Lords of the Rings: no fantasy epic, 3 however painstaking, can compare to the amazing-ness of an extraordinary
life. From Edith Piaf to Billie Holliday and Judy Garland, the tragic lives and
; sordid deaths of the great female musical superstars have been the
inspiration for many an intricate fiction. Yet Candace Allen’s tremendous Valaida is based upon the life of the black, female jazz trumpeter, Valaida
5 Snow, a trailblazing musician whose inﬂuence has faded.
We first encounter Allen’s Valaida, still plain ol’ Valada, as one of a handful of musically gifted children borne to the God-fearing Etta Mae and hard- drinking, gambling John Snow. Having witnessed her elder brother ﬂee north, a fugitive from a harshly racist justice system, and her mostly absentee father ﬁnally disappear from Chattanooga, it’s not long before the teenager has taken to the road herself, as part of the all-performing ‘Jimtown’ company.
Allen’s stately, unsentimental account of her heroine’s rise to near-big time is interwoven with scenes leading up to Valaida’s final performance at the Palace Theatre, New York in 1956. By the time of her ironic swansong, ‘Sentimental Journey’ - signature anthem of wholesome Doris Day - Valaida has taken a terrifying voyage throughout America, China and Europe. And
j she has done so in incredible company, traversing numerous groups and
troupes which took her to the verge of jazz age stardom before the inevitable descent into drugs, incarceration and illness. With her debut novel, Candace Allen gives us a richly lyrical, vivid evocation of Valaida’s world, and her gritty, tenacious heroine is stunningly realised. (Allan Radcliffe)
5—19 Feb 2004 THE LIST 105