www.list.co.uk/books COMIC DENISE MINA & ANTONIO FUSO A Sickness in the Family (Vertigo Crime) ●●●●●
After a successful run on Hellblazer in 2006, Scottish crime novelist Denise Mina returns to the ninth art, with this her first graphic novel. While there are hints of the supernatural here, A Sickness in the Family is essentially a murder mystery confined to a terraced house in Glasgow’s Hillhead, as the dysfunctional Usher family are torn apart by untimely death and homicide. Removing the action from the grand country piles favoured by the likes of Agatha Christie, Mina creates a concise and claustrophobic take on the genre. This is a home where the family is falling apart along with the bricks and mortar as affairs, resentment and drugs all rear their head in a tale rife with suspicion and guilt. Antonio Fuso’s black and white art perfectly matches the tone of the narrative, and while you might guess the perpetrator before the final panel, it’s still a suitably bitter denouement. (Henry Northmore)
POETRY COLLECTION CRAIG RAINE How Snow Falls (Atlantic) ●●●●●
How Snow Falls is an amusingly varied work, appealing in language and imaginative in its scenarios. Not too
much has changed, but Craig Raine’s first poetry collection in over a decade is still worth the wait. The title poem offers a stark, meditative prelude to four longer pieces and more song- like, informal works collected from over the years. His metaphors are characteristically fresh and those generated from experience are his strongest, in particular the passionate elegy, ‘I Remember My Mother Dying’. Some of Raine’s less personal accounts lack ‘the nod we give exactitude’ (‘Ars Poetica’) and his poem about 51 ways to lose a balloon might be a quirky and colourful exercise but it eventually lags. Overall, his uncompromisingly academic style has been exchanged for poetry that comes with a refreshing, resolute message of what we can appreciate as poetic. And, like the fir cone being compared to faeces in ‘Ars Poetica’, it strikes you straight away. (Mary Murray Brown)
ESSAY COLLECTION JOHN WATERS Role Models (Beautiful Books) ●●●●●
5 SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS David Means The Spot An author previously published in Harper’s and The New Yorker, his set includes tales of a botched bank raid, a body floating in Niagara Falls and noisy neighbours in Manhattan. Faber.
Polly Samson Perfect Lives Characters intertwine in stories of love, loss and memory. Virago. EC Osundo Voice of America Debut from US-based Nigerian writer with tales set in both countries featuring young boys fighting for food in a refugee camp and a young married woman seeking a cure for her childlessness. Granta.
Anthony Doerr Memory Wall Stories set on four continents about memory. Dave Eggers loves his work. Fourth Estate. Joyce Carol Oates Give Me Your Heart Ten tales which deal with the powerful, obsessive and self-destructive need for love involving a husband discovering his wife’s lies and a teenage girl turning the tables on some nasty chaps. Corvus.
MUSIC BIOGRAPHY ALLAN BROWN Nileism: The Strange Course of the Blue Nile (Polygon) ●●●●●
The peculiar bubble which enigmatic Glaswegian soul-pop perfectionists the Blue Nile inhabited during their 26 years together burst circa 2004, leaving the three members bitterly estranged ever since. Even if the famously glacial pace they worked at produced just 33 songs in that time, their music – chiefly the first two LPs A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats – inspired incredible devotion in a particular generation of listeners. Journalist Allan Brown is one such Nileite, but his biography will
appeal to more than just mawkish men of a certain age. It’s a comprehensive and compelling read which sagely lets fans do a lot of the eulogising, while weaving in a fascinating subtext about the Blue Nile’s role in the 1980s cultural awakening of Glasgow, the very bricks and mortar of which vocalist Paul Buchanan romanticised so evocatively. Brown uncovers a curious pathology of stubbornness, shyness and naivety in business matters that left the band managerless for long spells and exposed to a string of doomed record deals. Yet he stops short of attempting to fully answer the burning question of what specifically precipitated deep rifts between members, not least Buchanan and keyboardist PJ Moore.
It’s equally frustrating that the only part of the band’s ‘hive mind’, as Brown calls it, with a voice in the book is Buchanan (via archive interviews). The Blue Nile’s break-up smacks more of an intense love affair gone sour than the simple disbanding of a failed pop group. The very personal grudges and regrets the members hold are left to be silently nurtured or resolved. (Malcolm Jack)
It’s been almost 30 years since outsider American filmmaker, writer and artist John Waters’ remarkable autobiography Shock Value cemented his perverse worldview and artistic transgressions with an all too rare honesty. Role Models is a selection of fine essays and articles, brought together to pay homage to the eccentrics, the mad, the fools and the classy icons to whom Waters feels a debt of gratitude.
Fantastic interviews with Johnny Mathis, Little Richard, the
daughter of lesbian stripper Zorro, danger- seeking pornographers Bobby Garcia and David Hurles and painter Cy Twombly among others form a platform of dissection and distraction upon which our host traces an alternative history of gay America. Waters is a passionate, occasionally brilliant interviewer and a warm and direct memoirist, though a little editorial control and judicious cutting here and there wouldn’t have gone amiss. Still, these Waters certainly run deep into an underworld of profane geniuses. (Paul Dale)
CRIME DRAMA STEFANIE PINTOFF In the Shadow of Gotham (Penguin) ●●●●● A turn of the 20th century crime drama, In the Shadow of Gotham is deeply flawed. A damaged detective in a quiet town north of Manhattan is dragged back into New York’s seedy underbelly by a brutal murder, partnering with an eccentric criminologist to unmask the killer using psychological profiling and other nascent investigative techniques. There’s a restless indefatigability
Stefanie Pintoff affords Ziele’s first-person narration a dry humorlessness that bogs the story down in unnecessary clarification. For example, he explains that when a Broadway chorus girl supplements her income with ‘private shows’, that means she’s a prostitute. Further unnecessary detail comes with references to advances like fingerprinting and the Model T Ford, carrying little relevance beyond being glorified period wallpaper. (Jay Richardson)
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to Simon Ziele that ought to make for a real page-turner, but unfortunately this troubled cop is also something of a tight-ass and markedly less interesting than his mercurial Scots