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a formerly mild- mannered teacher who was himself a victim of the system rather than merely an evil psycho. All of which is very admirable, but Lelic’s otherwise compelling tale is somewhat let down by some first- person testimony that doesn’t quite convince. (Miles Fielder) COMEDY DAVID O’DOHERTY, CLAUDIA O’DOHERTY & MIKE AHERN 100 Facts About Pandas (Square Peg) ●●●●●

Did you know that an administrative error resulted in the panda being classified not as a mammal but as a nut? Were you aware that the original Concorde had an in-flight panda called Mr Nougat who snuggled up to passengers having difficulty getting to sleep? And can you believe that the movie script for Runaway Bride was actually penned by a Chicago Zoo panda called Wen-Ya?

Through the quirky writing skills of the O’Dohertys (one half of which is the 2008 if.comedy winner David) and the photoshopping genius of Mike Ahern, 100 Facts About Pandas is transformed from a delightful idea which no doubt sprouted from too much caffeine and a flurry of emails into a published page-flicking hilarity- fest. The comedy world has always had a fixation with the animal kingdom (Eddie Izzard with his cats and dogs, Harry Hill and those badgers), but rarely has it resulted in such untrammelled joy. (Brian Donaldson)

COMIC/FILM EDWARD ROSS Filmish (Chiaroscuro) ●●●●●

Edinburgh-based cartoonist, comic writer and filmmaker Edward Ross releases this sharp and wryly amusing ‘wee

ALSO PUBLISHED 5 CRIME PAPERBACKS David Peace Occupied City This is the second instalment of the Yorkshire writer’s Tokyo Trilogy and delves deep into the sinister heart of a true crime in post- war Japan. Faber. Tony Black Gutted Gus Dury is back. The Edinburgh alcoholic ex-journo is on the hunt for the truth about his city’s underworld activities. Preface. Patrick Lennon Cut Out An international thriller featuring a chap being pursued by some nasty types who believe that he knows too much about the suicide of a TV man in Afghanistan. Hodder. SJ Bolton Awakening A rural gothic tale which hinges on a barbaric ancient ritual and is not to be read by anyone with a fear of snakes. Corgi. Elliott Hall The First Stone A traditional New York private eye noir story with the extra ingredient of being set in a future fundamentalist-run America. John Murray.

dragging the child he once bathed lovingly into a life of addiction. As Robert’s body is discovered, removed and cremated, his tale is told through many eyes in a blizzard of recollection which flits between vivid descriptions of injecting heroin to the dangers inherent in living such a life. Jon McGregor is now onto his third novel and has obvious technical abilities, but the problem here lies in the decision to go with multi narrators who appear to switch from page to page, sentence to sentence. It leaves the reader bewildered and losing sympathy for characters who are initially beautifully drawn but ultimately drowned out. (Brian Donaldson)

collection of comic book essays on film theory’. This isn’t hard academia (and doesn’t pretend to be) but an engaging look at the basics of film theory with the visual comic format making concepts even easier to understand. Reminiscent in style to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Ross guides us through ‘Monsters!’, ‘Point of View’ and ‘Food on Film’.

Instantly appealing, the simplicity of the black & white art keeps the flow of ideas clear and uncluttered. It’s a fantastic primer and would be nice to think that this 24-page initial release (currently available at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse and via http://edwardmaross.bl ogspot.com) might just be the start of a whole series dissecting film theory into easily digestible chunks in Ross’ own humorous style. (Henry Northmore)

SOCIAL DRAMA JON MCGREGOR Even the Dogs (Bloomsbury) ●●●●●

On a cold, miserable day between Christmas and New Year, a dead junkie’s body is found in the cold, miserable flat which used to be the warm loving home where Robert and his wife raised their daughter Laura. But one day they left and his life went down the tubes, eventually

21 Jan–4 Feb 2010 THE LIST 35

BLACK COMEDY DAN RHODES Little Hands Clapping (Canongate) ●●●●●

Dan Rhodes is a wonderful writer who seemed to spring from the ether a few years ago as a fully formed storyteller par excellence, a purveyor of the bleakest, funniest black comedy around, and an author with no obvious peers. Little Hands Clapping is the author’s sixth book and also his finest, delivering a strange, surreal gothic fable laced with humour and pathos, a novel with a heart-warming and all-too-rare humanity at the core of its inventive and more than a little strange plot. The story revolves around a small German town which houses a bizarre

museum dedicated to suicide. As well as a small smattering of regular visitors, the museum receives occasional visits from suicidal individuals, intent on ending it all on the premises. The old man who works there as curator tidies up these deaths without anyone else finding out, save for an assisting local doctor who disposes of the bodies in, shall we say, a rather unorthodox manner. Meanwhile, a beautiful Portuguese girl Madalena finds herself unlucky in love and heading towards despair, as well as a seemingly destined visit to the suicide museum. Throughout, Rhodes’ handling of pace, timing and tone are pitch-perfect,

somehow swinging from laugh-out-loud funny to tear-jerkingly poignant without blinking, and his characterisation is utterly original and highly perceptive. Combining heady romance, nihilism and despair, human failings, oh, and a fair amount of spider munching, this is a unique, sparkling story. Dan Rhodes is a writer to treasure. (Doug Johnstone)

CRIME DRAMA SIMON LELIC Rupture (Picador) ●●●●● Simon Lelic’s debut novel is certainly timely. His story about a massacre in a north London school would appear to symbolise our so-called ‘Broken Britain’. But the fact that the shooting of three students and a teacher during a morning assembly is carried out by a faculty member

(and not a teenage hoodie) suggests Lelic is aiming at something

more specific than David Cameron’s scattergun damnation of the nation.

Unfolding as a police investigation of the crime, the narrative flits between detective Lucia May (reminiscent of Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison) and various witnesses, pupils, teachers and other school staff. Although May’s superiors don’t want to hear it, what emerges is a picture of