Paperbacks

Reviewed by Emma Hagestadt and Christopher Hirst
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The Independent Culture
Clapton by Christopher Sandford (Gollancz, pounds 5.99)

A revealing biography of the adept businessman who has built up a vast middle-of-the-road audience. Clapton emerges as unpleasant until forswearing drink in 1987. He has since shown staying power in the face of tragedy, but remains elusive. A lasting relationship seems beyond him - though he's not short of high-glam pals: Pfeiffer, Helvin, Kensit and, inevitably, Princess Di.

The Golden Warrior by Lawrence James (Abacus, pounds 9.99)

This lucid portrait of T.E. Lawrence probes the shimmering myth which he and others fabricated. Obsessed by chivalry since childhood, he was a brave, if ruthless, soldier. More conventional (and eight inches shorter) than his filmic image, he remains profoundly odd. James dismisses his allegations of sexual abuse by the Turks as an invention of his "Uranian muse".

Kairos by Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz, pounds 5.99)

This early work by a now established sci-fi writer recalls Michael Moorcock and Angela Carter. Set in a freezing August in the near future (the book predates global warming), Otto (female) and Luci (male) roam a nightmare landscape, pursued by killer angels. "Don't touch me, I'm made of plutonium," one character remarks, which is hard to beat as a conversation stopper.

Being Human by Mary and John Gribben (Phoenix, pounds 6.99)

In the middle of the Oligocene, when beavers were as big as bears and stags as tall as houses, human beings were no more than a sparkle in a hairy primate's eye. Mary and John Gribben's sociobiological explanation of life on earth decodes such mysteries as why humans cry salty tears, glaciers melt and six per cent of us are born with tails.

The Penguin Book of Infidelities ed. Stephen Brook (pounds 8.99)

" `My God, I'm doing it with Madame Bovary!' Kuglemass whispered to himself. `Me, who failed freshman English.' " Projected into his favourite novel, the hero of Woody Allen's most famous short story gets to meet literature's best known adulteress face to face. This exuberant anthology offers little to comfort the cuckold.

A River Town by Thomas Keneally (Sceptre, pounds 5.99)

The author of Schindler's Ark has a nose for the primitive. His latest novel tells the story of small-town Australia at the turn of the century: a place where little girls have "hardened hands", pigs feed off corpses, and murder-victims' heads are pickled in jars. A beautifully written novel about an Irish immigrant who learns that the new world isn't much better than the old.

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