Rocky Horror Show

Book Reviews Feb-March 2012

17 February 12 words: James Walker
Featuring Scott Taylor, Duncan Pile, Tarn Young, Jonathan Wilson and Five Leaves

Born in Mid-Air
Scott Taylor
Lulu, £5

Love it or loathe it, self-publishing is on the increase, giving writers the freedom to express their own ideas without editorial constraint (or help?). Scott Taylor uses this freedom to write his debut novel about twenty-something Dom returning to his hometown of Notts after the loss of his mum. Set in the 90s and admittedly semi-autobiographical, Born in Mid-Air is dotted with nods to the bars, clubs and music and provides a nice element of nostalgia that will put a smile on the faces of those who grew up back then. Rather than simply taking a trip down memory lane, Taylor plumbs his own experiences for an exploration of the fallout from losing a parent - paying particular attention to grief, anger and a sense of belonging. Taylor shows us the darker consequences of grief that might not make easy reading but there are some good flourishes to keep you turning the pages. Pete Lamb

Available as a Kindle download.
Lulu website


Nature Mage
Duncan Pile
New Generation Publishing, £7.99

Gaspi is an orphan living with his guardian in the remote village of Aemon’s Reach. He seems an unremarkable boy until one fateful night the local bullies push him too far. In a fit of rage his dormant powers awake and summon a terrifying swarm of birds. But Gaspi is no mere wizard; he is a nature mage, that very rare breed who can command the elements. En route to magical college he narrowly escapes from murderous demons, stumbling across a nefarious plot. Someone is out to suck the life from every mage in the land. Will Gaspi control his dangerous talents while defeating this unspeakable evil?  Nature Mage is the first in a trilogy of adventures for young Gaspi. The author knows his genre and is clearly at home with heroic fantasy. The book is already Love Reading’s debut of the month and a New Generation prizewinner. Think The Wizard of Earthsea meets Harry Potter. The book is rich with detail and there is enough horror to keep young teenagers spellbound. Ian Douglas     

New Generation website


Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You
Jonathan Wilson
Orion Books, £20

To set out to write a truly critical biography of Nottingham’s lay saint is no easy task given the sheer volume of Clough-related books that have appeared latterly. However, Wilson manages to synthesise the best of the existing corpus with much original research (including over 200 interviews) to produce a compelling and insightful portrait of man and myth – the latter as much a creation of the former, he argues, as of dewy-eyed supporters. Refusing to indulge Clough’s occasionally cruel and capricious behaviour, yet also even-handed about his monumental managerial achievements and famously barmy methods, Wilson steers clear of simplistic explanations or ‘verdicts’. Instead, there’s an intriguing, detailed map of the various forces and events that shaped his life and that persona, from motherly influence and career-ending injury to relationships with nemesis Don Revie and former sidekick Peter Taylor, via booze, bung scandals, and bravado. Essential – if at times painful – reading. Scott Oliver

Orion Books website


Ross Bradshaw (Ed.)
Five Leaves, £7.99

The first in a series of annual journals from Five Leaves, Maps collects essays, articles, poetry and the occasional photo-essay and binds them loosely together around the theme of cartography. Graham Greene’s brief and apparently unpleasant stay in an annoyingly hard to locate house in Nottingham, the obituaries of extinct cricket grounds, poetry inspired by the ludicrously beautiful Moscow underground system, clay hangings inspired by the heat-baked Moroccan landscape and the unexpected delights of Hull (home to the best street name in the world) are among the many subjects nestled snugly inside this slim book. The accumulated dirt and rubble of history that lays, many-levels deep, under the surface of every map is excavated and sifted for nuggets of interest with enthusiasm and insight. Iain Sinclair, David Belbin and John Lucas are among the contributors. Robin Lewis

Five Leaves website


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This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You
Jon McGregor
Bloomsbury, £14.99

McGregor is officially the UK’s second-best short story writer, having been awarded silver two years on the trot from the prestigious BBC competition. Ha! But as his debut collection shows, this isn’t something that should happen to a writer of his calibre. The book consists of thirty stories, some of which were previously published as far back as 2002, yet this isn’t a ‘scrapbook’ or best of. The stories are all geographically linked around the hinterlands of Lincolnshire, offering glimpses into relationships and lives that are disturbing, frightening and occasionally funny. Things that we wouldn’t expect to happen to ourselves include marrying a psycho, accidentally killing someone, developing a phobia of eggs, being bullied, put under surveillance, reduced to footnotes, or, – as in the story the book takes the title from - realising you may have swam too far out from shore; ‘you’re a good swimmer, you’re young, you’re healthy.’ McGregor may not know his own fate but his beautiful words make ours easier to bear.  James Walker       

Jon McGregor website

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