The authors: Michael Freedland and J Randall Taraborrelli, rival showbiz tape-and-tell merchants; the first a Brit, the second a Yank. Now, a mighty battle of the snitches rages over the ailing form of Francis Albert Sinatra, 82 next month (if he endures).

The books: Freedland calls his biography All The Way (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 20); Taraborrelli's version is Frank Sinatra: the man behind the myth (Mainstream, pounds 15.99). Both expended miles of tape in search of a record- straightening account of Frank's relations with his four wives, his scores of extra-curricular squeezes, his fellow stars, his political cronies from Kennedy to Reagan, and, of course, with those muscular Italian gents in the real-estate and leisure business.

The deal: So now, the end is near, and as he faces the final curtain ... the vultures swoop, lured by their prey's inability to hit back. Sinatra's 55 years of fame-stroke-notoriety stir sex, power, glitz and (rumours of) crime into a cocktail that still opens wallets as wide now as in 1947 - when Frankie just happened to run across an underworld summit in Havana. This sort of tabloid publishing cosily coexists with tabloid journalism: the Daily Mail has just disgorged a near-record sum for their extracts from Taraborrelli's tome.

The goods: As the gloves come off, taloned claws deliver two portraits of a great singer who's still (just) alive as if he were a long-dead thug and stud who cut the odd disc. Both Freedland and Taraborrelli showcase molls and mobsters at the expense of music, but hail from opposite sides of the stylistic pond. The Brit has a suburban, Radio 2-ish blandness that blunts the edge of scandal; Mr T tears into his target with a ferocious lack of tact. He's fuller, denser, fiercer about hoods and stars alike. (For example, he says that in 1956 alone, Sinatra bedded Bacall, Garland and Novak.) Yet it's Freedland who comments that "the only person to whom he was faithful was named Jack Daniels".

The verdict: These tough guys of limelit prose still can't accept that it was a mere broad - Kitty Kelley, no less - who trumped them all with His Way in 1986. At the time, Kelley courted genuine danger; in contrast, this pair of scavengers risk nothing. Still, if you must hang out with hyenas, better pick the one with the keenest eye and sharpest fangs. That means terrifying Taraborrelli.

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