A cracking yarn, soon to be a dreary film

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The Independent Culture
YESTERDAY I brought you some of the best bargain Christmas books around, the sort of books that you can safely give to other people in the knowledge that nobody will read them. Today I bring you another selection of this season's hottest offerings.

The NatWest Story by James Cameron, Disaster Press pounds 29.99, reduced already to pounds 19.99.

When it was launched, The NatWest was probably the biggest bank afloat. Nobody thought it would ever sink. Maybe overconfidence was the problem. They held parties on the poop deck. They lent money to people they really shouldn't have lent money to. They thought they could do everything. And all the time, through the mist ahead, a Scottish iceberg was coming closer and closer.... A cracking yarn, soon to be a long, dreary film.

No, I Tell A Lie by Jeffrey Archer, from HarpicCollins, pounds 25.25.

The new novel from Jeffrey Archer, apparently written in the long empty days after he resigned from the Mayoral race. It tells the story of a politician who gets involved in a libel suit and tells lies in his defence. When, afterwards, he tries to explain to himself why he did it, and finally comes to the conclusion that it must be somebody else, not him. Or that he told the truth, and they misheard him. Or something. Then, in a surprise twist... but we won't give the end away, especially as you may have read it already in the book from which Archer took it.

Turn That Unwanted Bank Into An Unwanted Pub! by Jocasta Hermeseal, Makeover Press, pounds 18.

Jocasta Hermeseal has already published some classics in the transformation field, such as Turn That Grotty Old Polytechnic Into a Gleaming New University, Turn That Nice Old Power Station Into An Absolutely Useless Modern Art Gallery! and How To Put Fish Into Old Telephone Boxes, After Making Sure They're Waterproof, Of Course! This is a worthy addition.

The World In AD 1001 by Robert Lacey & Team, Majesty Press, pounds 19.99.

This comes from the same gang that produced AD 1000, a book that showed us how everyday England was a thousand years ago, and it looks as if the authors intend to produce a new book every year, updating the previous one as they go. It has to be said that everyday life in Britain in 1001 doesn't seem to have been much different from life in 1000.

Twenty Woodland Walks in Sunningdale by General Agosto Pinochet, Exile Press, pounds 30.

It's good to know that General Pinochet has not been wasting his time while living in England, and fans of his will enjoy this successor to previous volumes like his The Sunningdale Nobody Knows, Twenty Pub Walks in Sunningdale, Nooks and Crannies in Old Sunningdale, and How to make Latin American Pub Food Look Authentic.

The Eclipse 1999: What Went Wrong? by John Prescott, Inquiry Press, pounds 19.99.

The Deputy Prime Minister has taken personal responsibility in the wake of last August's eclipse disaster, when over a million cream teas and Cornish pasties had to be destroyed because nobody turned up, kept away by the crowds (which never turned up). "This must never happen again," declares Prescott in his ringing introduction, which is quite true, as we are not due another eclipse in this country for many years.

He seeks to pin the blame on the correct quarters, but chooses instead to blame Ken Livingstone for the whole debacle.

Talk English With Melvyn Bragg by Melvyn Bragg, Greg Dyke Press, pounds 32.

Melvyn Bragg combines his love of debate with his deep knowledge of the English language in this book and CD package. Basically, Bragg sets out the kind of question you might expect to have to face if having a light chat with Melvyn ("Yes, but what do you MEAN by mimesis?" or "Yes, but where did consciousness come from, was God involved and can we get a separate programme out of it?") and sketches out the sort of answer you might give. The CD actually gives you a chance to hear Bragg asking you questions, to answer him back, and to hear him say: "What a load of tosh." Don't forget to call him Your Lordship.

More Christmas books soon!