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Books Editorial

August 12 Book Reviews

The Deadman’s Pedal

Alan Warner, Jonathan Cape, £12.99

Set in the early 1970s, Warner’s latest novel concerns Simon Crimmons, the son of a local trucking magnet who is 15 going on 16 and just about to leave school. His parents would have preferred him to go to university but he gets a job on the local railway and we follow his first tentative steps into the world of work, onto his first motorbike, and with his first girlfriend. It’s set in Warner’s fictionalised world of The Port on the west coast of Scotland (where previous novels such as Morvern Callar have taken place) and the 70s milieu is nicely drawn without obvious reference to Spangles or Space-Hoppers. Simon’s life is enlivened when he meets louche bohemian Alex and his sister Varie - who reside in a huge country pile on the outskirts of the town - and Warner deftly catches Simon betwixt the working class train drivers (who regard Simon as posh due to his dad’s business) and the genuinely upper-class Alex and Varie. One of the book’s chief strengths is its dialogue with everything from trade union meetings to adolescent discussions on Pink Floyd ringing true and the elegiac descriptions of the railways contain some of the author’s finest ever prose. RM

Fuckin’ Hell It’s Paul Cannell

Paul Cannell, Poodle Publishing, £11.99

If you’re not au fait with Newcastle players of the 1970s, then Paul Cannell was, in his own words, a “canny player”. Not a Malcolm Macdonald but a very decent forward. He spent the majority of the 70s at his hometown club before chancing his arm, switching Newcastle United for the United States during their “soccer” boom of the late 70s, early 80s. I say “chancing his arm” but it was his nose that he was really chancing with the amount of cocaine that was flying around at the time. And he certainly doesn’t shy away from detailing the recreational side of life, with salacious stories piled high, from getting arrested at a Who concert in Memphis, to grabbing a date with the President’s daughter (really), to three in a tub sex (in a chapter entitled ‘One Up The Bum, No Harm Done’), and oh – a bit of football. He’s written it entirely himself and while it’s never going to make the Booker shortlist, the effect is like sitting in a pub and hearing a former pro dish out the best anecdotes that you’ve ever heard in your life. RM

The Nine Henrys

Peter McAdam, Gonzo Media Group, £8.99

If you’re in need of a real leftfield treat (and let’s face it WHO ISN’T?) then grab a hold of Peter McAdam’s collection of cartoons which feature his bunch of cloned cartoon characters, The Nine Henrys. His line drawings are rudimentary at best (he makes David Shrigley’s efforts look like the work of Raphael) but it’s the whirrings of his fevered brain which are really being mapped out here. One Henry (they look like a potato crisp, with mouth and eyes) looses a leg and is captioned “The side effects of Nietzschian philosophy and Post-Hegelian dualism were taking their toll” while another sprouts battlements with the accompanying legend “Beginning with his arms, Henry was turning into a heritage site”. Elsewhere Henry goes to the movies for a wonky take on Blade Runner, Dirty Harry, The Elephant Man and more, but wherever they turn up, they’re underpinned by McAdam’s supremely surrealistic take on life. (Note: The book is having a launch at The Stand Comedy Club on Saturday August 18, 2-6pm, with Martin Stephenson, Gypsy Dave Smith and guests). RM

Kimberly’s Capital Punishment

Richard Milward, Faber and Faber, £14.99

In his third novel Richard Milward once more lays bare his uncanny knack for distilling the Teesside mindset, language and sense of humour into sentences which amuse, provoke and disgust in equal measure. Kimberly Clark has fled the north-east to live with her boyfriend in the Capital, on which she passes judgement as follows: “Living in the Capital was like being in a supercharged, but ultimately doomed relationship: you get your initial honeymoon period, when your partner does their best to impress you, then a slow, dismal downward descent into indifference and niggling frustration.” However, after she accidentally-on-purpose causes her athlete boyfriend Stevie to hang himself with his own sneaker shoelaces, it is the Reader who gets to pass judgement on Kimberly — deciding, choose-your-own-adventure style, whether she makes it to Heaven, Hell, or somewhere in between. As in Apples and Ten Story Love Song, Milward has produced a hilarious experimental novel which requires the reader to take a step back in order to appreciate the ultimately crushing poignancy of the world which he depicts. PM

Black Light Engine Room No. 4

Various writers/artists

The Black Light Engine Room is a bi-monthly poetry/performance night, held in Middlesbrough, which started in May 2010 to launch this publication of the same name; and over the past couple of years the magazine has featured many of the region’s best regarded poets including Keith Armstrong, Bob Beagrie, Pippa Little and Marilyn Longstaff. They’ve also featured international writers but this forth issue is themed around Middlesbrough and includes illuminating interviews, prose pieces, illustrations and poetry. I particularly enjoyed the articles on Middlesbrough’s history by Robert Nichols (of the sadly defunct fanzine ‘Fly Me To The Moon’), the interview with leading local poets Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby and the article by Mark Robinson about the small press scene. The next issue is due out in Autumn and if you’d like to find out more get in touch at:

theblacklightenginedriver@hotmail.co.uk or join their Facebook page. GM