www.list.co.uk/books POLITICAL CARTOONS STEVE BELL If . . . Bursts Out (Jonathan Cape) ●●●●●

When Ed Miliband was elected leader of the Labour Party, the Guardian website ran footage of cartoonist Steve Bell turning his observations of the new man at the podium into a mocking cartoon. As Bell takes up his spot near the front, a young delegate grabs him by the arm to declare nervously at his hero: ‘Your work’s really good.’ It’s a more than mildly creepy moment, but you have to imagine that some of the subjects of Bell’s scribblings down the years would like to grab him closer to the trachea.

If . . . Bursts Out is a colourful collection of his vibrantly satiric strips from February 2006 with the toad- like Brown still plotting to take No 10 from the mad-eyed Blair all the way through to the ConDemNation featuring a condom- headed Cameron and Vince Cable as a small elephant. Hilarious and hurtful, it doesn’t get any better than Clarkson envisaged as a ‘big pink pile of poo’. (Brian Donaldson)

CULTURAL HISTORY ADRIAN JOHNS Death of a Pirate (WW Norton) ●●●●●

The groovy aspect of 1960s British pirate radio has already been dramatised in Richard Curtis’ film The Boat That Rocked. University of Chicago professor Adrian Johns charts the story’s more serious

side: how rogue broadcasters were undone by their involvement with seedy underground elements, and how their ideological quest against the status quo is paralleled today in the controversy surrounding file-sharing websites such as Pirate Bay.

After painstakingly tracking the genesis of British broadcasting from the 1920s, Johns builds up towards the killing of Reg Calvert in 1966, a pirate operator who was shot dead by a rival, Oliver Smedley, in an incident that hastened the outlawing of pirate stations and the formation of Radio 1. He gets a little too tied up in intricacies for this to be recommended as a piece of popular history, but it remains engaging enough throughout thanks to cameos by a smattering of very British eccentrics and villains, from Screaming Lord Sutch to the Kray twins. (Malcolm Jack)

CRIME DRAMA EOIN MCNAMEE Orchid Blue (Faber) ●●●●●

Having picked on a true crime for his latest novel, Eoin McNamee has had comparisons with David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet thrust upon Orchid Blue. The County Down writer’s loose follow-up to his 2001 Booker-longlisted story, The Blue Tango, recalls the 1961 murder of a teenage girl in Newry and the subsequent death sentence for a lad who proclaimed his innocence all the way to the gallows. The fact that the trial judge’s own daughter was murdered a decade earlier was somehow deemed just fine by the


POLITICAL ANALYSIS PJ O’ROURKE Don’t Vote! It Just Encourages the Bastards (Grove Press) ●●●●●

They say that the natural tendency is to get more right-wing with age. Few American political commentators embody this ethical shift more than PJ O’Rourke. A former ‘hippie’ turned Republican Party Reptile, it would be easy to loathe the Ohio-born Gonzo graduate were it not for the fact he is so eloquently humorous; even when you’re shaking your head in disgust, your funny bone is quivering thanks to his locker-room savviness.

With Don’t Vote!: It Just Encourages the Bastards, he describes his

worldview volte-face and his belief in the failure of government through chapters with titles such as ‘Why I’m Right’, ‘Taxes’ and ‘Gun Control’. Needless to say, O’Rourke’s caustic witticisms are deliberately not for everyone. A particularly nasty crack about the Zeebrugge ferry disaster from his 1989 travelogue Holidays in Hell still has the ability to make the most hardened cynics recoil while his section here about the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl is tough reading even if the butt of his gag is the perpetrator, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. O’Rourke’s strengths lie in his undoubted intellectual capacity and a

gratifying propensity to drip his satirical scorn around equally: naturally, the likes of Obama and Clinton get in the neck, but so do his fellow conservative travellers Richard Nixon and Newt Gingrich. But just when you start to properly warm to him, PJ comes out with a gem such as: ‘guns don’t kill people, votes do’. Maybe he’s not quite so clever after all. (Brian Donaldson)


5 PAPERBACK MEMOIRS Lisa St Aubin de Terán Mozambique Mysteries Having written books about her time in Venezuela and Italy, the well-travelled author recalls how she set up a school to promote sustainable development in southern Africa. Virago.

George Carlin Last Words The late great US comic is given the posthumous treatment with a book which spares few details on a long and colourful life. Free Press.

Beverley Callard Unbroken The Corrie lady has gone through marriage break-ups, bankruptcy and breakdowns, which will no doubt make for a page-flicking read for her many, many admirers. Hodder.

Nicky Haslam Redeeming Features Designer, author and contributing editor of Vogue and Tatler recalls the glittering social circles he’s swirled around since the late 60s. Vintage. Carol McGiffin Oh, Carol! She was married to Chris Evans and is one of the regular panellists on Loose Women. If that sounds like your bag, then dig in. Hodder.

legal system and it led to the final hanging on Northern Irish soil. While he creates a

strong sense of location and a vivid portrayal of injustice and conspiracy, the novel never quite shoots off the page. While Peace goes way deep into the tortured psychology and justifiable paranoia of his Yorkshire anti- heroes, McNamee is content to let his scalpel glide across the page, making Orchid Blue an unsettling but flawed read. (Brian Donaldson)

SUPERHERO COMIC VARIOUS The Atomic Society of Justice (Small Press) ●●●●● In comic geek speak, the ‘Golden Age’ means the 1940s, and the advent of the superhero era from DC and Marvel. Set in 1942, this episodic one-off tribute comes from prolific Scots small press creator John Miller. As is typical of his work, it appears made up as it goes along with its burst of frantic invention, involving nuclear-

logic to the wind, and his readers will either appreciate that or not. Miller’s own intensely stylised pages certainly look good, containing more painstakingly rendered lettering than actual image and at one point manage to cram in 13 panels in an almost avant-garde approach to comics composition. Meanwhile, Rob Miller’s art is more traditional, but the words lend a strange, psychedelic, distinctly Scottish air to the whole strip. (David Pollock) powered superheroes and atomic ‘Commie super-agents’. And yes, we know the atom bomb wasn’t invented until 1945: Miller’s stories throw internal

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