The Alternative Hero, By Tim Thornton

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The Independent Culture

Clive Beresford is a music fan. And how. In his thirties, he is still in the grip of the obsession that ruled him in his teens – an obsession with alternative music in general and the Thieving Magpies in particular. (The Magpies are a fictional band but slot in so neatly beside the Stone Roses, Violent Femmes, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and all the other bands name-checked here, that one almost believes in them.) When Clive discovers that Lance Webster, the former frontman of the now-disbanded Magpies, lives just around the corner, he starts plotting to befriend him and solve the tormenting question once and for all: why did the Magpies break up?

It's the usual lad-lit comic romp, with lots of drinking and swearing and rueful jokes about how the narrator hasn't grown up. But it's fresher, funnier and more amiable than most. There are some excellent comic moments, from Clive impersonating a vet to get to know Webster, who has a terminally ill cat, to Webster's short story (he has literary pretensions) about a fly trapped in a supermarket, which is so ludicrously bad it had me spluttering with laughter.