Books: Paperbacks

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The Independent Culture
Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933 by Henry Ashby Turner, Bloomsbury pounds 8.99. On 1 January 1933, after the general election, the Frankfurter Zeitung announced: "The Mighty Nazi assault has been repulsed." It appeared that Hitler's ragtag party of radicals and reactionaries, intellectuals and thugs had lost its attraction for the voters. In fact, no one took them seriously - Chancellor Schleicher dismissed Hitler as a man "who gets easily carried away". But in this thrilling account of Hitler's rise to power, Professor Turner shows how, 30 days later, the power-struggle that was raging within the government brought Schleicher down and manoeuvred Hitler into his place. Initially promoted as a compromise candidate by Schleicher's enemies, it was a moment of glorious vindication for Hitler. Despite staggering electoral setbacks for the National Socialists, and factions developing among his followers, he barely had to lift a finger to reach his objective. Contingency and the disastrous miscalculations of his contemporaries emboldened "the man of destiny", as he now saw himself, to enforce his grandiose plans. In his detailed analysis of this almost farcical turn of events, Turner reveals that it was not impersonal forces that gave rise to Hitler's ascent but the vanity and blind ambition of a handful of powerful men.

The God Child by Paul Sayer, Bloomsbury pounds 6.99. 19-year-old Maisie was a miracle baby, born in the aftermath of a car-crash which left her mother in a coma. Her uncle Harold, charged with her care, is recovering from a bankruptcy and estrangement from his faithless wife in the seaside retreat of his mother's hotel. But one night, Maisie phones Harold asking for his help. She wants to call the police to get rid of the dead boy in her kitchen, but Harold's had enough scandal in his life. Soon the gentle tremors of a mid-life crisis subside as quicklime, alibis, and bloodstains become the focus of his moral dilemma. Harold enters into an uneasy pact with volatile Maisie and is forced to assume the role of head of his family. Paul Sayer's engrossing thriller twists and turns through the byways of the mind of a man in extremis, leaving no doubt of his own subtle morality and the power of his clinically descriptive prose.

Sex Lives of the Hollywood Idols by Nigel Cawthorne, Prion pounds 7.99. According to Cawthorne (chronicler of who's had whom in every sphere of public life), Charlie Chaplin erected a high-powered telescope in his study to observe the goings on in John Barrymore's bedroom. Strictly for the prurient, this checklist of Hollywood philanderers, paedophiles and sex addicts will also tell you that whereas Clark "Less-than-able" Gable was known as "the worst lay in town", Gary Cooper could, according to Clara Bow, "go all night". And while Rudolph Valentino stalked the jazz jungle of New York earning a fortune as a tango-dancing gigolo, the young Archie Leach fared less well given his reputation as "Camp Mother". But in bed as well as on the screen, it's the swordsmen, Flynn and Fairbanks, who are the real heroes.

Three Stories and a Reflection by Patrick Suskind, Bloomsbury pounds 5.99 The deceptively slight form of the fable as employed by Patrick Suskind allows him to locate extremes of psychological unease with unassailable poise. Each intricately wrought piece traces the routes of obsessive behaviour and exposes catastrophic self-deception. Suskind has an exquisite sense of irony and the authority of an accomplished storyteller.

Sons and Mothers, eds Matthew and Victoria Glendinning, Virago pounds 7.99. If "the unexamined life is not worth living" then the Glendinnings are doing their contributors a great favour in allowing them to explore their mother-son relationships from a safe distance. But they are also making them vulnerable to unwelcome attention. When Sons and Mothers first came out, Jon Snow's revelations of maternal coldness caused a family rift and uproar in the papers. This can only prove the emotive nature of the book's subject. On the whole, it is dealt with responsibly. Spike Milligan displays a deftness not usually found in his poetry, and Sophie Parkin confesses her fear of overbearing maternal love. But what is most surprising is the recurrence of long car journeys in the enactment of family dramas.

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