Review: American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light, By Iain Sinclair

Having for more than 50 years travelled mentally in Stateside realms of literary gold, Iain Sinclair trekked round North America in person in 2011 “hoping to reconnect with the heroes of my youth”. These included the Beats Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William Burroughs, among other mavericks and rebels whose artistic visions burgeoned, coast to coast, in avant-garde hothouses of the 1950s such as Black Mountain College in North Carolina where the new leading (albeit then underground) lights of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Ed Dorn, and their ilk were kindled.

The Testament of Mary, By Colm Tóibín

This fictional portrait of Jesus's mother breaks with tradition to deepen her humanity

Robin Scott-Elliot: 'Our Bob' delivers his winning formula for the crying game

View From The Sofa: Bobby Charlton, BBC2/Champions League, ITV

Forgotten Author No 57: Margery Allingham

I thought carefully about whether or not to include Margery Allingham in this column. She's hardly ever out of print, and many readers know her name, even if they haven't read her. However, very few of them have really got to grips with her books. The ones who have are passionate fans, and she has her own society which holds literary events throughout the year. For many years I had her wrongly pegged as an Agatha Christie knock-off, until I took time properly to read her prose.

Our Family Wedding (12A)

If you think that title sounds bland, wait till you see the movie.

On The Road: Maximón claimed his place - ahead of the Virgin Mary

Through the fug of spray, wisps of copal incense and blockade of human-sized candles, the band at the back of the church crept into life with the Pink Panther theme tune. I grinned widely. The locals clearly had a sense of humour on this, the most solemn day in the Catholic calendar.

Win a pair of tickets to the premiere of 'Where the Wild Things Are'

In cinemas 11 December

DVD: Fragments (15)

In a typical US diner, a waitress serves a cross-section of society.

The Mountaintop, Theatre 503, London

The strange last night of Dr King

DVD: The Shield

Glenn Close has come and gone. Forest Whitaker has come and gone. But this season – the last in this quite extraordinary series – has no need of guest stars to make it special. Vic Mackey, surely the most corrupt cop ever to take the lead in a TV show (murder of a fellow officer, abduction, torture, robbery, drug kingpin...) is about to get his comeuppance. And the end, when it comes, is not far off rivalling The Sopranos for sheer gob-smacking brilliance.

The B List, Edited by David Sterrit & John Anderson

Though some of its inclusions are odd – are Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation or Oliver Stone's Platoon really B movies? – this appreciation of 50-odd "low-budget beauties" will remind film buffs of such hard-core examples of the genre as Monte Hellman's laconic Two-Lane Blacktop (Warren Oates: "I go fast enough." James Taylor: "You can never go fast enough") and John Boorman's deep-noir Point Blank. It also whets our appetite for such obscurities as Budd Boetticher's Seven Men from Now, a 1957 cheapie described as "not just a terrific Western, it's a cinema masterpiece", and even The Rage: Carrie 2, "far richer and more absorbing" than the original.

The Air I Breathe (15)

"When a butterfly leaves the safety of its cocoon, does it realise how beautiful it has become?" And when a writer-director christens his main characters Love, Happiness, Pleasure and Sorrow, does he realise what a prat he looks?

Album: Tom Richards Orchestra, Smoke and Mirrors (Candid)

The big bands might not be coming back but the form won’t go away. This incredibly assured debut from composer/arranger/saxophonist Richards and a 20-piece aggregation of young, often Royal Academy-trained players with Gwilym Simcock on piano, adopts a Maria Schneider or Vince Mendoza method with more sighs and whispers than rasps and growls. It’s at its best on the opening track "Dropping Pennies", with a show-stopping duo for Simcock and vibes-man Jim Hart heard between ticking rhythms and subtle reeds and brass harmonies. This is truly thrilling stuff.

Platoon

Directed by Oliver Stone
Career Services

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
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