Book reviews: Issue 44

18 December 11 words: James Walker
“Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.”


Ed. C.J. Allen
Nottingham Poetry Society (NPS) celebrates its seventieth anniversary with this anthology of writing from twenty-five current members including Derrick Buttress, Jeremy Duffield, Adrian Buckner, Cathy Grindrod, Pippa Hennessey, and Robin Vaughan-Williams. Many of the contributors have been widely published elsewhere and the diverse topics and styles contained inside make it a real treasure trove with something to please all tastes. An excellent Christmas gift for poetry lovers seeking a little inspiration, this beautifully produced anthology – edited by C.J. Allen - provides an opportunity to support a Society that has been nurturing local poets since 1941 and continues to offer a regular programme of literary events and competitions. NPS meets in The Mechanics on North Sherwood Street on the fourth Saturday of each month at 2.45pm – so bundle up your poems and get down there to support them. Now everybody, after three:Happy birthday to you, happy birthday… Aly Stoneman
The Moon’s Last Gasp
Pat Tobin
Chipmunka, £12.99
As far as ‘misery lit’ goes, this has enough mental and physical abuse to give Dave Pelzer a run for his money. However, the author isn’t after pity or one-upmanship and avoids titillating details. Instead he offers a biography of life growing up in St. Ann’s as an Irish immigrant and the challenging circumstances of his life that would see him become a violent alcoholic suffering from schizophrenia. Despite the awful facts, this is an intentionally funny book. Humour is his coping mechanism, which is useful when placed in mental institutions and psycho-dynamic therapy sessions that are pure Ken Kesey, with equally villainous Nurse Ratcheds. Tobin recounts an acupuncture session where his therapist was more interested in showing him photos of carp he’d caught and sharing details of his online dating conquests than performing his kwon do katas. In desperate need of an edit, it goes off on countless tangents;but with such a strong voice, this can be forgiven. James Walker
Children’s History of Nottinghamshire
Ian Douglas
‘Snottinghamshire!’ Lola says. ‘We could be living in Snot!’ Surely I’d told my nine-year-old this essential fact already? Apparently not, neglectful mother that I am. Help is at hand thanks to our very own Ian Douglas, whose non-fiction debut is packed with juicy titbits: ‘In the plague, they stuffed corpses under the castle,’ Lola says, then giggles, ‘Do you know what they did in the Theatre Royal when there weren’t any toilets?’ Ah, the auditorium will never be the same again! Readers are challenged to uncover clues in local landmarks through photographs and bright illustrations, while fictional diary entries offer the chance to compare lives with a Victorian mine worker. The excitement of Goose Fair, however, is revealed as little-changed (although somewhat lacking in dancing bears these days). Throughout, information is effectively delivered using a scrapbook format, suggesting a hands-on sense of really rummaging through history. Megan and Lola Taylor
Masters of Crime
Adam Nightingale
History Press, £18.99
Crime, violence, anti-heroes, literature, history, a fast-moving narrative: this book really has something for everyone to get stuck into. Adam Nightingale has broken away from his previous works of grisly local history to tell us about the dark and seedy side of London, and specifically the colourful and sinister figures who inspired some of the best known fictitious masters of crime. So Moriarty and Fagin both have their moments, alongside the wonderful tale of the on-going ‘great feud’ between real-life villains, Jack Sheppard and Jonathan Wild, and a whole cast of lesser-known, but equally fascinating, scoundrels from both fact and fiction. With an easy to read style reminiscent of the storytelling of oral history, as well as some striking illustrations and photographs, Nightingale traces surprising links between fact and fiction and keeps his readers unceasingly entertained. You almost don’t realise that you’re learning something too. Rebecca S Buck
Out Of Towners
Dan Tunstall
Five Leaves, £5.99
Sixteen-year-old Chris and his mates descend on a tacky seaside town, intent on a weekend of beer and girls. Sure enough, at the caravan park disco they meet some like-minded girls. Shedding that cumbersome virginity becomes a real likelihood, but the fun turns to mayhem when they fall foul of the local thugs. A night of rampage ensues as the murderous Kirkie and his gang chase Chris and the others through the drunken crowds. Blood is going to spill and change everyone forever...This is Tunstall’s second Young Adult novel - a follow-up to his shortlisted debut Big and Clever - and it confirms his earlier promise as an outstanding commentator on modern youth. Out of Towners is hard-hitting and gripping. The author captures that teen spirit, acne and all, with pithy, authentic dialogue meaning that the adolescent in all of us can identify with Chris and his dilemmas. In the background Tunstall paints a broken Britain where booze-bingeing and watching X Factor is as good as life gets. Ian Douglas
Ed. Z. Allak, J. Cooper,
A. Rigley & S. W. Roche
The product of a years worth of work from the MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, ORE sees short stories, poetry and extracts from longer works by fifteen writers from the 2011 class bought together in this slim volume. Alumni from previous years include Niki Monaghan, Chris Killen and Maria Allen. More recently, Mark Goodwin (the winner of the 2011 East Midlands Book Award) and Kerry Young (who wrote the foreword to this book, and whose first novel will be published this year). Highlights of this diverse and assured collection include a piece of verse by Lorna Poole rather fetchingly set to sheet music on the page, a disturbing perspective on sponsoring a child soldier in Sudan by Hannah Shelley and a jolly poem about death (after Roger McGough) and the best ways to meet it by Senga Wallace Roche. Robin Lewis

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