Books: Paperbacks

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Lords of the Horizons

by Jason Goodwin,

Vintage, pounds 7.99, 352pp

THIS HISTORY of the Ottoman Empire glitters with exotic detail. Sultan Ibrahim (1640-48) rode the girls of his harem like horses through fur-lined rooms. Sounds fun, but then he had them all sewn in sacks and thrown in the Bosphorus. Enemies often ran into the "regiment of loons" who acted as human battering rams. But in 1703, Ahmet III groaned at his 40 pages: "I'm not comfortable changing my trousers." The great days were over.

The Page Turner

by David Leavitt,

Abacus, pounds 6.99, 244pp

DAVID LEAVITT's novel about a young musician's first romantic encounter is a reader's treat. Set against the stirring backdrops of New York and Rome, it tells the story of Peter Poterfield, an 18-year-old pianist who lands a job as page-turner to one of America's best known concert-hall stars, and ends up surrendering his Brooks Bros shorts in an Italian hotel room. Shrewd dialogue and succinct emotional commentary make this a most relaxed affair.

Solar Eclipse

by Thomas Crump,

Constable, pounds 9.99, 256pp

CRUMP'S PREVIEW of the darkness at noon due to shroud Cornwall on 11 August is so scientific that many readers will find their own understanding of the event somewhat eclipsed. But amid his discussion of Fraunhofer lines, sidereal time etc, Crump explores changing views of the eclipse in history. Reassuringly, he points out that Milton's "disasterous twilight" is "the traditional as opposed to the modern interpretation."

Riven Rock

by T C Boyle,

Bloomsbury, pounds 6.99, 468pp

TC BOYLE likes to satirise his fellow Californians, especially those in search of a cure. Set at the turn of the century, this brilliant, rambunctuous novel tells the story of Stanley McCormick - a rich recluse whose crippling psycho-sexual mania results in a self-imposed exile from the company of women. During his 20 year absence in a San Simeon-like fortress above the sea, his wife re-invents herself as a suffragette and champion of Planned Parenthood.

Counterfeit Spies

by Nigel West,

Warner, pounds 7.99, 308pp

WEST'S PROSE is as dreary as a Whitehall memo, but his book will cause readers to gape like goldfish as he takes apart their favourite works of WW2 espionage. West points out that William Stevenson's A Man Called Intrepid is "almost entirely fiction" and Leonard Mosley's The Druid ("a sensation in 1981") is "valueless as non-fiction." Churchill's Secret Agent by Josephine Butler reappeared, text unchanged, as Cyanide in My Shoe.

Even the Stars Look Lonesome

by Maya Angelou,

Virago, pounds 5.99, 145pp

JUST THE thing for a progressive school assembly, Angelou's essays provide inspiration in bite-sized chunks. Exhortations to make the most of life - big earrings, sex, music - are mixed in with reflections on African culture, poverty and an idiosyncratic piece ("A House Can Hurt, A Home Can Heal") in which she describes how the architecture of a postmodernist house was responsible for the break-up of her marriage to Germaine Greer's ex.

Waterloo Story

by Peter Prince,

Bloomsbury, pounds 6.99, 216pp

MUCH OF mid-Sixties Britain is encapsulated in this tasty tale set in a decaying warehouse. A realistic allegory, it centres around a feud between Brian, who performs his duties with "the robustness of a great athlete", and Kenny, a foul-mouthed mod, determined to unionise the antique enterprise. Against a swirl of political and sexual undercurrents, their violent confrontations resonate far beyond a dusty corner of London.

Maddy Goes to Hollywood

by Maureen Martella,

Arrow, pounds 5.99, 391pp

MADDY'S SISTER has a cook called Dong, a housekeeper called Mrs Danvers and lives in Beverly Hills. Maddy has a bad perm, drooling twins and lives on a farm in Ireland. The two sisters couldn't be more different, until Maddy takes a short break to LA and ends up staying. Escapist nonsense at its most readable, this romantic comedy relates what happens when Maddy comes face to butt with her favourite soap star, Carlos Garcia. known in the book's accompanying press material, Carlos Fuentes.

Bring Home the Revolution

by Jonathan Freedland,

Fourth Estate, pounds 6.99, 246pp

AN ART-lover's request to see a Hockney snaffled from the Tate to adorn No 10 during the Major era was turned down as "unrealistic". This, says Freedland, is exactly what's wrong with Britain. In America, by contrast, "power flows from the bottom up." Freedland cites many examples typifying the "can-do" and "can't-do" societies divided by the Atlantic. This rousing work concludes with a 10-step plan for a republic. Have we the guts?