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Great comedy and psychological problems normally go together like Bill Hicks and nicotine. Nice guy Steve Martin's ‘funny but weird‘ schtick means he’s pulled off the near impossible by delivering original, occasionally brilliant material, without ever turning into an out and out nut. His look back at his career from a first job selling guidebooks at Disneyland via self-taught magic tricks, banjo playing, then stand-up comedy and international fame - resists the temptation of riding the ego rollercoaster. Instead, his calm, self- effacing delivery skilfully downplays the excitement and surrealism of the life

he‘s led, making for a rich, very entertaining memoir.

It took 20 years for the fuse on Martin's comedy firework to burn, and when it eventually exploded, he walked away at the height of his fame. Rather than dwelling on the ennui and isolation that made him quit, he glosses over it in a couple of pages, acknowledging that a foray into ‘the loneliest period of my life' is a boring celebrity cliche. His candid self-portrait reveals a man hungry for intelligence, desperate to perform and drawn to the avant-garde. Watching him earnestly - but hopelessly - try and shake off his conservative Baptist roots and dabble in pot, hippie fashion and free love is as riveting and funny as seeing his comic style evolve. As an insight into the world of comedy, this winds a witty timeline between the death of vaudeville and the birth of stand-up. Holding back plenty, but revealing just enough, his polite, sometimes silly story is a pleasure to read. (Claire Sawers)

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Otto Penzler (ed) Dead Man's Hand A collection of new, Written poker-based tales from crime

write s Such as Jeffrey [)eaver. Michael Connelly and Walter Mosley CuerCt/s. James Lee Burke The 7m Roof B/owo’o'.‘.'n A main; of stolen diamonds has floated to the surface after Hurricane Katrina subsides. V/itli Dave Robicheaux investigating a Crew of motley felons. Orion. Jonathan Nasaw When She Was Bad FBI Agent Pender comes up against Ulysses Maxwell. a psychopalh with a multiple personality disorder. Simon 8 Schusler.

Karen Robards Obsesaon A woman is Suffering from amneSia after burglars shot her best friend but needs to get it together long enOiign to escape the Violent foes who are coming back for her. Hodder a Stoughton.

David Baldacci Stone Cold Characters Oliver Stone and Jerr/ Bagger return as a casino king tries to hunt down the crook who ripped him off to tne tune of many millions. Macmillan.