Knight Errant by Robert Stephens (Sceptre, pounds 6.99)
The culmination of a final, astonishing burst - a period which also saw Stephens' legendary Lear and Falstaff - this is the theatrical equivalent of Alan Clark's tell-all memoirs. Hugely entertaining, it is thick with juicy gobbets of gossip: Oliver, naked before a mirror, declaring: "What a tragedy that such a very great actor should have such a very small cock". Coward insisting that males in his pool should be naked while females had to wear swimsuits; the amorous author finding himself alone with Antonia Fraser "And that was that La-la-la." As exit lines go, they don't come much better than this book.
A Wild Herb Soup by Emilie Carles (Indigo, pounds 7.99) This lucid, unsentimental memoir of hard times in a sublime Alpine community was an international best-seller. Born into grinding poverty in 1900, Carles was clever and hard-working enough to get herself a good education. Though her life was marked by tragedy - her mother struck by lightning, her sister sent mad by an alcoholic, pyromaniac husband - Carles emerges as resilient and high principled. An ardent pacifist, she fought and won a fierce battle against the motorway planned for her isolated homeland. An incandescent life-story ill-served by an infinitesimal typeface.
In the Sixties ed by Ray Connolly (Pavilion, pounds 6.99)
Clever and assiduous, Connolly's cull of clippings ranges far beyond the usual Sixties hippy-druggy-pop Zeitgeist. Of course, this milieu does appear - an amusing piece about Ken Kesey in London, Lennon's infamous "We're more popular than Jesus" interview and Rees-Mogg's "butterfly-on- a-wheel" defence of Jagger. But there's also Khe Sanh, Profumo, Aberfan and Ulster, together with a pleasing assortment of oddities including profiles of Charles Atlas and Ivy Benson. Connolly's contention that "it was an excellent era for journalism" more than holds up.
Intimacy by Julian Rathbone (Indigo, pounds 5.99) Living alone in a sun-baked villa high in the Sierra Nevada, David Querubin, the world's last castrato, decides to share the final days of his life with a young female acolyte. A mutually satisfying arrangement as both singers (as they discover over several bottles of rose) turn out to have suffered more than their fair share of incest - the young woman with her father, the castrato with his mother. Practising their scales, they rehearse their pasts. If mutilated organs and silk pyjamas don't turn you on, Rathbone's high standards of interior decor just might. Sophisticated entertainment from an old pro.
Old Scores by Frederic Raphael (Phoenix, pounds 6.99) Raphael's latest novel of ''bright young things'' (not Oxbridge undergrads in long scarves, but Eighties yuppies) is worth reading just for his stabs at contemporary dialogue. ''Hairy hell! Sod it, honestly!'' exclaims a Daily Telegraph- like journalist when he finds his penis covered in white paint. To which his girlfriend replies, while contemplating the ''odd angle'' of his erection: ''You were jolly here-comes-Charlie, you know!'' It's not until the story moves from SW1 to the Dordogne - with an unlikely new plot-twist involving a French resistance hero - that the dialogue mercifully lapses into French.
The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick (HarperCollins, pounds 5.99) Science fiction writers don't come weirder than the late Philip K. Dick. This, the sequel to Valis, one of the author's best known books, is no less than the story of God, alias an ''autochthonic'' being named Yah who hangs out on a far-away planet. When Yah attempts to invade earth by immaculately conceiving himself in the womb of a human woman, he's pursued by abortion-promoting members of the ''new'' Catholic church. To save the earth, he must be reborn. Dick obviously never lacked for compelling ideas. And yes, he did do drugs.
Hearing Voices by A.N. Wilson (Mandarin, pounds 6.99) Set in Sixties New York, Birmingham and Norfolk, the fourth volume in A.N. Wilson's Lampitt Chronicles (the fifth in the series is out this month in hardback) finds the English Catholic intelligentsia ready to do battle with the Pill. Snobbish Jesuit priests, Friar Tucks with cheesy feet, and Fragrant Marys indulge in elegant doctrinal debates, comic sexual liaisons and infrequent trips to ''Marce''. The novel's plot is less memorable than its nightmarish depiction of smug fogeydom in Brummie. Wilson always writes impeccably about people you wouldn't cross the road for.Reuse content