Paperbacks

<i>Marrow</i> by Tiffanie Darke | <i>Sex, Crimes and Misdemeanours</i> by James Morton | <i>Dylan Thomas in America </i>by John Malcolm Brinnin
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The Independent Culture

Marrow by Tiffanie Darke (Pocket Books, £5.99, 428pp) In comparison to Prue Leith's recent attempt at a foodie bonkbuster, Tiffanie Darke's roman à clef of the London restaurant scene is an airy soufflé of satiric wit and literary sophistication.

Marrow by Tiffanie Darke (Pocket Books, £5.99, 428pp) In comparison to Prue Leith's recent attempt at a foodie bonkbuster, Tiffanie Darke's roman à clef of the London restaurant scene is an airy soufflé of satiric wit and literary sophistication.

Said to be inspired by her "professional relationship" with Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay, Darke, former food editor of the Daily Telegraph, plumbs her insider's knowledge of cooks and their publicity machines. A steamy romp through the kitchens of the capital's more notorious eateries, her novel features a cameo cast of bully-boy chefs, ditsy "It" girls and egregious critics.

Largest among these larger than life figures is Seamus Bull, chef of London's most fashionable restaurant, the Marrow. A man with a fearsome temper, huge hands and something resembling a member of the gourd family dangling between his haunches, his success is compromised by cocaine and an appetite for Versace-clad bimbos. Then salvation arrives in the form of Genevieve, a beautiful French patissier.

Some marriages are made in heaven - Marmite and toast, tomato and basil - but theirs is not. On the verge of opening a food emporium in Knightbridge, Seamus blows it all in a drunken spree, losing both his fiancée and financial backers in the process.

Compared to the real world of restaurant chicanery, Darke's sizzling page-turner can hardly be accused of being over the top. Unlike real life, however, everyone gets their just desserts - some of them rather sweet. EH

Sex, Crimes and Misdemeanours by James Morton (Warner, £7.99, 476pp) Despite its titillating title, this book turns out to be a well-argued indictment of sex laws which, over the years, have proved to be anachronistic, unfair or brutal. The familiar sad suspects are here (Wilde, Ruth Ellis), but we also encounter a transvestite bullfighter, Chuck Berry, Bertrand Russell's brother (three months for bigamy) and John Bobbitt who, after organ re-attachment, entered showbiz as "Long Dong Silver".

Dylan Thomas in America by John Malcolm Brinnin (Prion, £10.00, 251pp) This revealing account dates from 1956. Brinnin, a lesser poet, watches in impotent alarm as the boozy bard cuts a swathe through New York in the Fifties: downing Scotch for breakfast, propositioning girls, swearing and collapsing. Brinnin over-rates his poetry in a broadcast: "The breadth and grandeur [of] Whitman." Dylan's reply was more accurate: "Randy-dandy, curly-girly Poet Leaps into Sea from Overdose of Praise."

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