Paperback reviews

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Jeffrey Archer: Stranger than Fiction

by Michael Crick

Fourth Estate pounds 8.99

"I have always hoped my good points outweighed my bad." Jeffrey Archer, November 1999. Sadly not. As Archer's career implodes yet again, he is plastered across the front page of every newspaper and Fourth Estate have seen fit to reissue this. In it, Crick takes the great fantasist's claims, examines them minutely and corrects the, ahem, inaccuracies. Of most interest is the episode involving the one person to feel sorry for in this sordid tale: Monica Coghlan - the woman who was hounded off her patch for Archer's sins, or, if you like, the prostitute he paid not to have sex with. "I hate this book," said Archer. Let's hope no one was tactless enough to send William Hague a copy for Christmas.


by Antonia Logue

Bloomsbury pounds 6.99

A first novel that basks in the classic cover-copy terms, "ambitious" and "complex". Logue's main achievement here is to meld historical fact with fictional hypotheses without showing the cracks. In so doing, she recreates the lives of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, Arthur Cravan, wannabe Dadaist provocateur, and Myna Loy the English modernist poet whom Cravan marries and then abandons. Of most interest is Jack, who, after reading an article about Myna 28 years after having last seen her decides to write to her about his "ghosts and wives and situations". Logue tells how he punched his way out of the dockyards and was ultimately brought down by racism.

What Do Women Want? Power Sex Bread Roses

by Erica Jong

Bloomsbury pounds 7.99

Articles rounded up from previous publication do not usually make good, cohesive reading, but Erica Jong, the Grande Dame of femmes lettres, is always good for a polemical laugh. Especially when she gets all hot and bothered about sex (she's been married four times so she should know). If she wants to dictate what makes the perfect man, that's fine by me. But she is at her most insightful when discussing literature - her essays on Jane Eyre and Lolita are both original in conception and considered in her approach. Whereas her reading of the Louise Woodward trial is subjective in its defence of the dead baby's mother, and off the wall in her arguments thereon.


by Jonathan Buckley

Fourth Estate pounds 6.99

Set in Munich in the 1820s, Jonathan Buckley's second novel excels at setting the reader's nerves on edge. In it, he traces the career of an aspiring young architect, August Ettlinger, who joins a salon of aristocrats and intellectuals who meet at the house of the manipulative von Wolgast. It soon becomes clear that Wolgast's magnificent house is closer to an anteroom in hell - so sinister are the doings that go on there - than the imagined paradise of Xerxes that Ettlinger spends his time dreaming about. When he isn't ruminating on Paradise Ettlinger drools over the lovely Helene - but she has a dark secret ... Very mannered and rather precious, but not a bad page-turner for all that.

Frost on My Moustache by Tim Moore

Abacus pounds 7.99

Tim Moore is so self-deprecating it's a miracle he ever got into print. But here he is, and what a delightfully frail suburbanite he is. Unlike the Victorian diplomat Lord Dufferin who was fearless, statesmanlike, fine and dandy, and who, in 1856, sailed his yacht from Scotland to Iceland to Norway to the Arctic archipelago of Spitzbergen and back again. Then he wrote a book about it. Moore follows in his footsteps and there the similarity ends: "Dufferin seems the personification of Kipling's `If'. I'm more of a `But' man." He also gets seasick, and loves to regale us with schoolboy-ish trivia. But he's funnier than Bryson and more winning than Michael Palin.