A week in books
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 31 May 1997
Is there a sane way to write about such drivel? Jim Schnabel did just that in a fine book on the "alien abduction" cult, Dark White. That made the actual lives of "abductees" sound as weird as any almond-eyed, big- headed "Grey" who might whisk you up into a spacecraft. None of the flagships yet sighted from the new invasion come up to Schnabel's standards. Some, indeed, have spun way out of orbit. In Alien Agenda (HarperCollins, pounds 16.99), the aptly named Jim Marrs ploughs through every crackpot tale of ET contact with the reckless zeal of a man who knows that his readers have also lost both clutch and compass. I especially liked the theory that crop circles convey messages from spacemen in "a four-thousand-old Norse language called Tifinag". And what do they say? Nul points.
Nick Pope is an MoD official who also speculates that "the extraterrestrials are attempting to civilise us" by abductions. The cover of The Uninvited (Simon & Schuster, pounds 15.99) labels him "the government's UFO expert". From his keen bedside manner, I suspect that Whitehall saw him as a harmless social worker who could keep the fruitcakes out of the generals' in-tray. Like many true believers, Pope thinks the uncanny likeness between many publicised UFO reports acts as corroboration. Even Inspector Clouseau would twig that it means just the opposite.
With Tim Shawcross's The Roswell File (Bloomsbury, pounds 16.99), we cross from honest fantasy to a wilier approach. Shawcross directed the C4 film Incident at Roswell, with its alleged footage of an alien "autopsy". Here he piles up interview and archive transcripts, while taking care to step back from assenting to any UFO hypothesis. You might even call him a pander to unreason.
Yet Shawcross airs one notion that truly chills the blood. Not far from Roswell, in 1947, Nazi rocket ace Wernher von Braun - who was abducted by US forces - worked on the improvements to his V2 that underlay the later Apollo moonshots. He could have used animals, or even children, in his secret experiments. A hush-hush prototype could have crashed nearby, with small bodies on board. Faced with the all-too-human von Braun, I'd much rather believe in the Greys.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 2 Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- 3 Paul Scholes: Manchester City were so good against Liverpool I felt like turning the television off
- 4 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Great British Bake Off, episode 4, review: Heat gets turned up as Iain goes into meltdown
Doctor Who kiss sparks Ofcom complaints over 'weird lesbian-lizard perv trip'
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Emmys 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Steven Moffat win big awards for Sherlock
Homer Simpson takes the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he does
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
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