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LILLEY & CHASE by Tim Waterstone, Headline, pounds 15.99 Bookseller turned author writes novel about publisher. Sounds incestuous?

Well, write about what you know, and Tom Waterwell (yes, the author makes a fictitious guest appearance) knows plenty. But only in a few bleak recesses of publisher Sam Lilley's private life does Tim / Tom address living humanity. Mainly he gives us background details about his vast gallery of characters: educational history, career record, taste in clothes and furnishings, and above all (it is that sort of novel) their ranking in the media hierarchy. And he reaches too often for lacklustre verbal tools. It looks like a launch pad, but where are the rockets?

THE TOTAL ZONE by Martina Navratilova & Liz Nickles, Hodder & Stoughton pounds 14.99 Former tennis star Jordan Myles is pursuing a missing prodigy, 16 year-old Audrey Armat, and colourful horrors just keep on happening. Is Audrey a victim of burn-out, or of ruthlessly ambitious parents? In the course of her somewhat leisurely investigations our sleuth consults coaching gurus, racket stringers, diet planners, serving thereby a feast for tennis junkies, but thinnish gruel for the action-hungry. Once the body count starts, things perk up a little. But while Martina provides plenty of off-court tennis detail, Liz Nickles, her literary doubles partner, mis-hits many of the big points. Not a Grand Slam final of a novel, but just knocking-up with a superstar is good fun. 'This was Wimbledon. Green, white and purple, now red with blood.'

SLEEPWALKING by Julie Myerson, Picador, pounds 9.99 Susan's father, a suicide, an emotionally stunted cripple, haunts his unhappy daughter. Unless she can wake from her somnambulist trance, Susan will in turn cripple not just her own life, but the lives of all who profess to love her. It is a damaging journey towards the light, the discovery of pity. Julie Myerson, in her first novel, tackles murky themes with grace and clarity. Her prose is nimble and springy. Her short scenes, flicking between past and present, flash before us like a deck of cards shuffled by a top-class conjurer. Yes, few of the characters are notably sympathetic; yes, Susan behaves abominably; and yes, she is dealt with too indulgently. But Myerson is the genuine article.

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