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Books Editorial

raymond-chandler.jpg October 12 Book Reviews
 

Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light Tom Williams, Aurum Press, £20

Raymond Chandler found fame as the author of the Philip Marlowe series of novels, the private detective who, while not himself mean, wasn’t averse to travelling down the odd mean street in the pursuit of justice. Chandler himself was born in Chicago, but schooled in England, and eventually settled in Los Angeles (where he set the Marlowe novels). He lived here with the great love of his life, his wife, Cissy Pascal (a woman 18 years his senior), and it’s where he launched his career as a pulp writer. His subsequent success brought Hollywood calling which lead to prickly encounters with directors such as Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. These dealings are related in this fascinating and well-researched new biography which gives us Chandler, warts and all, including his descent into alcoholism. Williams is also excellent on how Chandler really honed his brittle style. Chandler himself would say: ‘If there isn’t a little meat on each page, something is wrong’ and Williams seems to have heeded this maxim giving fans of literary biographies plenty to get their teeth into here. RM

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Michael Sandel, Allen Lane, £20

If we pay schoolchildren to read, is this a good way of getting them interested in books and attaining decent grades, or does this debase the act of reading, making it a chore which must be completed in order to raise funds for a new pair of trainers? Michael Sandel examines this quandary and the many other ways in which the market has spread its tentacles into our lives through a huge range of areas such as education, sport, art, health, family life and even war. Given the failure of the market over recent years it seems incredible that we have managed to shift from a market economy to a market society - with zealots still seeing little wrong in running around slapping price tags on anything that moves - making this a particularly timely read. I’ve seen criticism of the book which suggests that Sandel doesn’t really stick the boot in, but this is a clear-eyed, and very readable, dissection of why the market should play no part in certain sections of our society, and you shouldn’t need any kind of payment to give it a whirl. RM

Outside The Revolution; Everything: A redefinition of left-wing identity in contemporary Cuban music making

Tom Astley, Zero Books, £9.99

Castro’s Cuba, despite offering world-class education and healthcare, still maintains anti-dissident policies, regularly imprisoning journalists and anti-government activists. And you could probably place the Cuban punk band, Porno Para Ricardo, under the anti-Castro banner (thanks to their anti-Castro lyrics) with their lead singer ending up in jail for four years under a spurious charge. The band are among the artists highlighted by author Tom Astley (who lives in Newcastle) who are not only challenging the notion of what Cuban music can be, but are also seeking to advance discourse pertaining to what being “left wing” in Cuba really means today. It’s been over 50 years since the seismic events of 1959, but whole swathes of Cuban society are questioning how the on-going revolution has left them scrabbling round for an identity which relates to their experience. Astley succinctly details a recalcitrant music scene in this fascinating book which examines their quest for a new alternative. RM

Kraftwerk: Publikation

David Buckley, Omnibus Press, £19.95

Addiction often befalls bands when they’re at the very top of their game, and so it proved with the ground breaking German band, Kraftwerk. But it wasn’t drugs or even Hofmeister that stretched the band to breaking point, but cycling. Yep, band members would often spend hours racing round Germany before heading back to their studio where, more often than not, they were too knackered to produce anything. This is just one of the tales that Buckley relates in this fabulous new biography of the electronic pioneers, who are surely right up there with The Beatles when it comes to how influential they were. The author paints an evocative picture of the late 60s/early 70s music scene in Germany, from which Kraftwerk sprung, and their subsequent, and increasing, adherence to electronics. He also adroitly dissects their truly rug-pulling releases (from the 20-minute paean to motorways “Autobahn”, to number one smash “The Model”) and how they would go on to spark everything from techno to ambient to hip-hop. Band head honchos, Hütter and Schneider, remain as elusive as ever, but the author still does a sterling job in tracing their path to greatness. RM

Halcyon & Tenderfoot #2

Daniel Clifford & Lee Robinson, Art Heroes, £3 (£1.75 digital)

I always think that you can tell the quality of the art in superhero comics, not by the way that some super villain rips the roof off the top of a bus (as does happen here), but how people are depicted just sitting in a chair. And Lee Robinson certainly does good sitting-in-a-chair, with every frame here packed with plenty of dynamism; the characters really sparking into life in a way which I’m sure younger readers – whom the comic is aimed at – will lap up. The story follows on from the first issue that saw the untimely “death” of Halcyon (very untimely since his name’s on the cover) and how his son and sidekick, Tenderfoot, must come to terms with that and rouse himself into action… Daniel Clifford keeps the story moving with a well-judged deftness of tone, and readers are sure to be clamouring for issue 3 to see how the story unfurls. More: artheroes.co.uk RM