Reviewed by Emma Hagestadt and Christopher Hirst

Trash by Dorothy Allison (Flamingo, pounds 5.99)

The chances of survival aren't good in a Dorothy Allison story. Run- away trucks, botched abortions, and suicide pose the biggest threats - though schoolgirl Shannon Pearl takes the biscuit by igniting herself at a local barbecue. Allison's short stories and poems (many of which formed the basis of her much lauded first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina) speak knowingly of the grubby pain of wanting what you cannot have.

The Constant Mistress by Angela Lambert (Penguin, pounds 5.99)

Diagnosed with a fatal illness at the age of 44, Laura decides to spend her last few months in the company of men. Powerful, sophisticated men; men who run banks and law firms; men with names like Bruno, Edouard and Jurgen. A practised storyteller with a soft spot for Eurotrash, Lambert examines what happens to a woman who rejects the lure of domesticity for a more cosmopolitan state of affairs.

The Ottomans by Andrew Wheatcroft (Penguin, pounds 8.99)

Ever since Constantinople fell, Europeans have regarded the Ottomans with horror and fascination. The first sultan to pitch tent within the city's walls was said to have reminded people of "a parrot about to eat ripe cherries", and from this history you can understand why. Pictures of jewel-encrusted palaces and cloistered harems glitter from the pages, and any attempt by the author to disentangle myth from reality falls a little flat.

In Cold Domain by Anne Fine (Penguin, pounds 5.99)

When Barbara announces to her assembled family that she has met the love of her life - Miguel-Angel Gippini Alargon Lopez de Rego, a waiter from the pub next door - they go into overdrive, not least her blue-rinsed mother. Set in the garden of the family estate, Cold Domain, Fine's farce involves a hearty dose of camp innuendo and bare bottoms, all told with a gusto that should make writers of BBC sitcoms hang their heads in shame.

Lud Heat and Suicide Bridge by Iain Sinclair (Vintage, pounds 5.99)

These fragments from the Seventies begin with a dark speculation about Hawksmoor's churches (which also inspired Peter Ackroyd). From this high point, the book declines into allusive rambling in a style which owes something to the Beat poets, but there's no denying Sinclair's acuity. Two decades ago, he was quoting from The Large Scale Structure of Space Time by one S. W. Hawking.

Footsteps by Richard Holmes (Flamingo, pounds 7.99)

Looking at a photograph of Shelley's house near Lucca, Holmes feels "a faint tingling sensation" when he detects a child on the picture's edge: "I felt I was looking at little William, Shelley's dead son". The gulf of a century or two all but disappears as the biographer pursues his subjects. These exciting explorations of literary figures - others include R. L. Stevenson and Wordsworth - come close to time travel.

The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer (Minerva, pounds 6.99)

As a bank robber, Dr Eddie Coffin has several things going against him. He is alcoholic, overweight, accident-prone and a failed philosopher obsessed by words beginning with the letter "Z". With his maimed sidekick Hubert, he muses on metaphysics during messy heists. The gang wear Nietzsche masks - "they're easy to make because of the bog-brush moustache". Of course. Hilarious, fast-moving stuff.

Conflict of Loyalty by Geoffrey Howe (Pan, pounds 8.99)

Despite its title, most of this book is devoted to ovine service in the great offices of state under Margaret Thatcher. Suddenly, after 550 pages, the story takes on an epic momentum as Howe, scorned and excluded, prepares to slay the dragon. No, he says, it was unconnected with his demotion, nor had the formidable Elspeth Howe anything to do with it. Of course not. It was purely policy, purely Europe.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food