Terence Blacker: Prepare for the launch of Ground Forces (the book)

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The Independent Online

There have recently been murmurings that those on the literary wing of the great struggle in which we are now engaged have not been pulling their weight. In the early days, it is said, novelists were falling over one another to deliver moody thousand-word essays charged with emotion, metaphor and beautifully turned phrases, but since then it has all gone rather quiet. Just when true grit is needed, they have scurried back to their studies to work on their own little projects.

There have recently been murmurings that those on the literary wing of the great struggle in which we are now engaged have not been pulling their weight. In the early days, it is said, novelists were falling over one another to deliver moody thousand-word essays charged with emotion, metaphor and beautifully turned phrases, but since then it has all gone rather quiet. Just when true grit is needed, they have scurried back to their studies to work on their own little projects.

These accusations are profoundly unfair. Anyone who writes or publishes books is intensely aware of the current situation. They look to New York and see that something significant is occurring; 10 of the top 15 paperbacks in the New York Times bestseller list are about terror, the Taliban or patriotism. They know what happens there will soon be happening here.

Here is the reason for their writerly silence. Across Britain, our greatest and most sensitive authors, under the urgings of their agents, managers, publishers and ghostwriters, are responding to the world situation by putting all their energies into their own post-terror blockbusters. Already, next year's bestsellers are taking shape...

Charlie Dimmock: Ground Forces. The nation's favourite pin-up reveals how the smallest gardens can become a riot of patriotic red, white and blue and shows how, using simple materials, water features can be built to represent in suburban miniature the caves and foxholes from which our enemy will soon be flushed.

Julian Barnes: War, Etc. Gabriel's marriage to Hilary seems secure. They are seen at dinner parties attended by cabinet ministers, Booker prize winners and titled playwrights. But when Miles, Gabriel's schoolfriend and Hilary's former lover, becomes famous as a BBC war correspondent, both are forced to re-evaluate at length their assumptions about war, fidelity, art and adult relationships in a sophisticated urban culture.

Kathy Lette: No Drama, Osama. In the Australian punster's most hilarious novel to date, Dixie Fry, a free-wheeling civil rights lawyer, embarks on a tempestuous affair with a bearded, green-eyed refugee. When her lover turns out to be the world's most wanted terrorist, Dixie opts for a coition coalition, deploys her own special forces and goes smoulder-to-smoulder!

Martin Amis: Caliban. In The Tempest, Caliban represented all that was earthbound, oafish, thrummingly physical, while Ariel was an emblem of freedom, elusiveness, elemental spirituality. Now Britain's greatest contemporary novelist finds a harsh 21st-century echo to that drama in the confluence of the Taliban and its opposition, aerial bombardment from the skies above. From Shakespeare to stealth bombers, Amis's soaring narrative leads him to contemplate how the current conflict is essentially a metaphor for the terror and struggle that take place within the soul of a modern novelist such as himself.

Sarah Kennedy: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Stars. Not every celebrity has been lucky enough to participate in a benefit concert. Now many of those who have been unable to participate, including Carol Smillie, Betty Boothroyd, Jamie Theakston and Cilla Black, have shared their feelings with Radio 2's wittiest presenter. In this great celebration of contemporary Blitz spirit, some of the country's best-known personalities reveal what recent events have meant to them, to their family and to their fans.

Rachel Cusk: One Last Push. What does the war on terror mean to a modern mum who already has a couple of terrors of her own? How can one shop at Mothercare when there is so much pain and conflict in the world? In this bold and uncompromising book, Cusk explores her own private Operation Enduring Courage.

terblacker@aol.com

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