Tickle the Public by Matthew Engel (Indigo, pounds 8.99) Delighting in his rackety source material, Engel stuffs his history of the popular press with quotes. Vivid prose came early - an 1825 boxing report describes "gravy distilling from damaged squinters" - but Harmsworth's 1895 Daily Mail was the first successful pop news "package". Engel profiles successive market leaders up to the Sun under Kelvin MacKenzie, whose innovation was "to change the facts to suit his idea of what was required". Not that Engel is censorius: "MacKenzie is a genius. No other word will do." Unlike most studies of the media, this work is as pithy and entertaining as its subject.
Learning to Drive by William Norwich (Review, pounds 6.99) It's summer in 1980s New York. "Papa don't Preach" is playing on the radio, Soho is booming and Julian Orr, a 37-year-old gossip columnist, is en route to his driving test. Two hours later he's navigating round Queens with a corpse on his bonnet and a revolver at his head. Journo William Norwich's first novel takes a few chapters to get going, but this particular bonfire of the calamities is well worth the wait.
Running the Amazon by Joe Kane (Pan, pounds 7.99) The 1986 expedition which aimed to navigate the Amazon from its Andean source to the Atlantic encountered a plethora of obstacles. At impassable corkscrew gorges, the kayaks had to be lugged over mountain ridges. Later, the canoeists were all but drowned by titanic white waters. Nor were they safe on land, being forced at gun- point to make a contribution (five cans of tuna) to the Shining Path. But the main problem faced by the multinational team was internal, a simmering antagonism which eventually exploded in turbulent break-up.
Dickie edited by Brian Scovell (Corgi, pounds 6.99) These tributes to the twittery, but much-loved ex-umpire Harold Bird range from John Major to Dickie's pharmacist in Barnsley ("he used to take garlic pills and now takes cod-liver oil tablets"). Most contributions are a mite predictable: "One of the game's great characters" (M Gatting). But Mike "Bonko" Brearley cites Aristotle, Martin Johnson of the Telegraph quotes Dickie on his dream life: "Aye, woke up at four. Terrible dream. It were those boogers Wasim and Waqar appealing for lbws again." A fine selection of photos reveals Dickie "like a tree bent and moulded by the prevailing wind" (M Parkinson).
My Silver Shoes by Nell Dunn (Bloomsbury, pounds 5.99) Next time Joy goes out with someone she's going to tell them the truth - about her mum, Glad, (going senile), her son (an army deserter) and her council flat (drab). This sequel to Nell Dunn's classic novel Poor Cow catches up with Joy and Glad 30 years on as they cadge fags and lose boyfriends on an estate in South London.
Eight German Novellas new translations by Michael Fleming (Oxford, pounds 6.99) This collection of fantastic and eccentric tales by Ludwig Tieck, Georg Buchner, Theodor Storm et al features as much bad weather as Wuthering Heights, though 19th-century Germans were more excited by jewel-laying birds and witches than brooding farmhands and fallen women. Particularly windy is Storm's "The White Horse Rider" , a ghost story set in the fenlands of Schleswig Holstein.Reuse content