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Indy Lifestyle Online
Kate Summerscale's The Queen of Whale Cay (HarperCollins, 3hrs, pounds 8.99), a life of "Joe" Carstairs, heiress to the Standard Oil fortune, makes jaw-dropping listening. Born in 1900, Joe claimed she "came out of the womb queer". She stole - and enjoyed - her stepfather's cigars aged eight, went to France at 16 to drive ambulances in the First World War, and boasted Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead among her lovers. In the 1920s, she raced motorboats for Britain, and in 1934 bought the Bahamian island of Whale Cay. She lived there, its unchallenged queen, before she moved to Florida and died in 1993.

Racing Pigs and Giant Marrows (HarperCollins, 3hrs, pounds 8.99) explores a very different world: that of North Country shows and fairs, full of strange and ancient customs, blotto blokes and giggling lassies. Harry Pearson's quirky and quintessentially English travelogue is affectionate, perceptive and very funny.

Christina Hardyment

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