PAPERBACKS: Reviews

Congo Journey by Redmond O'Hanlon (Penguin, pounds 6.99) Sprawling, Dickensian in scale and almost entirely in dialogue, O'Hanlon's third travel yarn is a hellishly uncomfortable hack through the equatorial swamp forest. His large canvas permits numerous detours: marijuana, madness, a memoir of Chatwin and a magical bonding with a baby gorilla. Well spiced with O'Hanlon's patented line in nightmarish terrors (like the 4ft pike "notorious for biting testicles from swimming men"), this is an instant classic of travel literature.

War Minus the Shooting by Mike Marqusee (Mandarin, pounds 7.99) A political journalist obsessed by cricket, Marqusee provides a sharp-eyed, if po- faced, account of the 1996 cricket World Cup. England's graceless approach was characterised by Atherton's boorish response to a Pakistani reporter: "Somebody remove this buffoon." Though the contest was marred by "vulgar profiteering and ugly zealotry", Marqusee admits to "a kind of post-coital buzz" after the final. However, his hope that "an essential oneness" will emerge among fans is optimistic.

The Cast Iron Shore by Linda Grant (Picador, pounds 6.99) Brought up in provincial comfort by her Jewish furrier father and immaculately-turned-out mother, Sybil Ross has all the makings of an Anita Brookner heroine. But an affair with a bisexual merchant seaman soon puts an end to that. Following her boyfriend to the Big Apple, Sybil says goodbye to post-war Britain and begins life afresh as a Lord and Taylor shop assistant. Particularly good on Fifties New York, Grant's first novel hums with self-assurance and New World optimism.

Living with the Dead by Rock Scully with David Dalton (Abacus, pounds 8.99) Amid the preening verbosity by the road manager of the Grateful Dead, you come across an occasional gem, such as the group's encounter with Dali ("I do not take drugs. I am drugs!") or Jerry Garcia occupying Concorde's solitary lavatory for an entire flight. Constantly getting his zonked employers out of scrapes, Scully gives the odd impression of a Jeeves on heroin. Despite the astonishing clarity of these memoirs by a has-been hanger-on, the overall effect is depressing.

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