Paperbacks: Extreme Cuisine

Tales from the Torrid Zone

The Accidental American

The Voice of War

You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free

The Italian Boy

The Swallows of Kabul

Extreme Cuisine, by Jerry Hopkins (BLOOMSBURY £12.99 (320pp))

What do old Rolling Stone editors do when they tire of rock? In the case of Hopkins, they move to Bangkok and devote themselves to the pleasures of the table - though pleasure might not be the right word for dog (served as "a kind of tartar with dog's blood and bile"), jellyfish ("no taste. None"), stir-fried bat ("a somewhat pungent odour"), tarantulas ("resemblance to soft-shell crab") and creamed slugs on toast ("must be simmered with several changes of water"). Cat lovers will be pleased to learn felines have been off the menu in Hanoi since 1997. This delicacy was previously so popular that "the number of rats multiplied at an alarming rate". Such celebrated foodstuffs as fugu, durian, shark's fin and bird's nest soup are present, but Hopkins draws the line at human flesh. Well, almost. His recipe for placenta paté ("a couple of guests actually tried it") appears on page 113. Other surprising inclusions are Marmite and black pudding. Though the lack of an index to this cornucopia is near-criminal and the photographs are as off-putting as any I have seen in a mainstream publication, this is a remarkable work by a gastro-adventurer. As Anthony Bourdain notes in his introduction: "Compared to Cheez Whiz or pineapple pizza, a lot of this stuff is pretty damn good." CH

Tales from the Torrid Zone, by Alexander Frater (PICADOR £7.99 (380pp))

From the most engaging of all living travel writers, this evocative voyage is the fruit of a lifelong love affair with the tropics. Frater renews his acquaintance with South Sea islanders who worship Prince Philip. A Yemeni khat dealer expresses surprise ("Stone the crows!") at Frater's resemblance to a deceased scoutmaster: "He tickle our balls!" Chatting his way through the book, Frater describes a journey up the shallow Irrawaddy: "Our man, prodding the bottom with a cane, ordered the engines full astern". As tempting as the tootling of the Pied Piper. CH

The Accidental American, by James Naughtie (PAN £7.99 296p))

This book utilises an in-depth account of Blair's compulsive relationship with Bush to probe behind the façade. Unsurprisingly, we learn that the Blair smile is "a disguise". One of his "closest friends" says: "Tony always has been a loner and we all know it." That's why a "deliberately remote figure" ignored anti-war protests, including a letter from 52 former UK diplomats. "There was plenty of pain," in deciding on the war, writes Naughtie, but "in turning his leadership into a question of conviction, he found himself". The war may be Blair's Achilles' heel, but it is also his great strength. CH

The Voice of War, ed. James Owen & Guy Walters (PENGUIN £8.99 (628pp))

This revelatory anthology offers a vivid and multi-faceted account of the Second World War through the words of its participants. In September 1939, a Prussian aristocrat, later executed, says the Nazis speak "the German of the latrine wall and the pimp". In Naples, the 10-year-old Sophia Loren sees two German soldiers, "flames trailing from their hair and uniforms", trying to kill a "ragamuffin" boy who had blown up their tank with a Molotov cocktail. Liberating Belsen, Alan Moorehead discovers "the most terrible thing in the world is not destruction... but indifference". CH

You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free, by James Kelman (PENGUIN £7.99 (437pp))

This comic, sometimes sinister but deeply romantic novel sends a classic Kelman narrator across the Atlantic. Now 34, clever, feckless and lovelorn, Jeremiah Brown from Glasgow ponders his rocky past and muddled present from a small-town bar in the snowy Midwest. His virtuoso soliloquy (truly, more Robbie Burns than Rab C Nesbitt) showcases the skill of a writer capable of tremendous humour and tenderness, as well as a barbed satirist of US values. As our hero picks over his missed chances, Kelman crafts a political subplot about immigrant insecurity, and how "being an outlaw is a serious affair". BT

The Italian Boy, by Sarah Wise (PIMLICO £7.99 (347pp))

Wise plunges into the murky world of London's "resurrection men", engaged in the lucrative business of supplying corpses to medical schools in the 1830s. The source of their supply became a cause célèbre due to the "suspicious freshness" of a body who might have been an Italian beggar. Wise's brilliant exhumation of the case ranges from "sledge beggars" (amputees) to the Old Bailey, notorious for draughts and smells. A chapter on Smithfield meat market provides light relief. CH

The Swallows of Kabul, by Yasmina Khadra (VINTAGE £6.99 (195pp))

"Yasmina Khadra" is the pen-name of a French-based Algerian ex-officer who chose a female pseudonym to avoid army censorship. Brutal, lyrical, his novel unfolds in the Taliban-ruled Afghan capital as two couples struggle against a savage theocracy. They fight to stay sane in the "collective hysteria" of torture and fanaticism. The bleakness is offset by a rapturous style, well caught in John Cullen's translation, that soars and sings above all the pain and terror. BT

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?