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7:00am Saturday 28th April 2012 in Books
A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.
By Kate Whiting.
The Humorist by Russell Kane is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, priced £12.99. Available April 26.
Edinburgh Comedy Award winner and television presenter Russell Kane brings his dark, daring stand-up style to debut novel The Humorist.
In keeping with his most-acclaimed material, Kane has chosen a subject close to his heart - in this case, the world of stand-up comedians and critics.
Narrator Benjamin White is a man who can't laugh or smile but is blessed with a genius ability to dissect and understand humour.
He is a feared and revered comedy critic who sees an escape from his humourless life when he comes across a formula to kill people using comedy.
It's a bold concept and when the story reaches its inevitable denouement, it is genuinely shocking.
But Kane's showy writing and the ironic, and perhaps intentional, lack of humour make this an ultimately unenjoyable read.
5/10 (Review by Lisa Williams) Skagboys by Irvine Welsh is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £12.99. Available April 19.
Skagboys sounds like the title of an Irvine Welsh parody but it is the real thing, in which he revisits his Leith muses: Renton, Sick Boy, Begbie and Spud.
This prequel to Trainspotting traces how each of the quartet - and many more besides - fell from grace as jobs, education and optimism gave way to unemployment, Thatcher and heroin.
Welsh has hinted that this, along with the Trainspotting sequel Porno, is material he had written for the book which made his name, and some passages do suggest an author refining a raw voice.
However, there is enough of what Welsh does well - needle-sharp dialogue, vivid characters and a certainty of place - to make Skagboys his best work in many years.
Although it lacks the pace of Trainspotting, at three times the length, and aims for but falls short of Glue's Dickens-like scope, this is still an essential read.
8/10 (Review by Scott Dougal) Stonemouth by Iain Banks is published in hardback by Little, Brown, priced £18.99. Available now.
Admired as much for his galaxy-spanning space operas as for his gritty fiction, Iain Banks is the critically acclaimed author of 24 previous novels, and his next work of fiction, Stonemouth, is worth the wait.
Like in many of his works, the book is centred around a coming-of-age story, this time set in the fictional town of Stonemouth.
Stewart is revisiting the area after being run out by a local crime family five years earlier, and his return sees him reunited with some old friends, his former fiancee and some troubling memories.
But as his dubious past comes to light along with the reason for his banishment, his current standing in the town becomes more and more dangerous.
The work marks a return to Banks at his best, but much of the writing is flat and uninspiring, unlike the town, which writhes with corruption, drugs and thugs.
7/10 (Review by Ben Major) Pure by Timothy Mo is published in hardback by Turnaround Books, priced £16.99. Available now.
Award-winning writer Timothy Mo, who has penned such Anglo-Chinese greats as Sour Sweet and The Redundancy Of Courage, has returned after a 12-year break with his seventh novel, Pure.
Set in Thailand, we meet film critic, ladyboy and narrator of the novel Snooky, who manages to get herself into a precarious situation when she's involved in a drug bust.
While questioned by police, she meets MI6 veteran Victor Veridian, who gives her a get out of jail free card - literally.
To avoid 20 years in a Bangkok jail, she will have to spy on her old school friends, who have since become radical Muslims, in the south of Thailand.
Snooky accepts the offer and proceeds to immerse herself into the group as a man called Ahmed. While initially struggling to forget about her Bangkok past, she begins to accept her transition into Ahmed and becomes to love the Muslim faith.
The group begins its terrorist attacks, including a bomb planted at a Phuket disco, which leaves 203 casualties. These horrifying events leave us wondering if our narrator has forgotten her mission and who she really is...
This is a difficult read to begin with. However, once Snooky's story gets going, it's fascinating.
9/10 (Review by Emma Everingham) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is published in paperback by Orion, priced £12.99. Available now.
Hot on the heels of Attachments, Rainbow Rowell's second novel, Eleanor & Park, hits the bookshelves.
Described as an East Omaha Romeo & Juliet, Eleanor & Park is the tension-packed love story of two 16-year-old school friends set in 1986.
Eleanor moves back in with her mother after spending a year apart. Her new stepfather is, at best, controlling; at worst, abusive. Family life isn't as safe as what it should be.
On her first bus ride to school she meets Park. Sitting behind him, she starts to read his comics over his shoulder and they soon strike up conversations over X-Men and Joy Division.
Soon the disaffected Eleanor begins to trust and rely on half-Korean Park, who is soon head over heels in love with her.
Will the path of first love run smoothly for this well-matched couple while facing being different to everybody else and rebelling against the system?
8/10 (Review by Rachel Howdle) Non-fiction The Sex Myth: Why Everything We're Told Is Wrong by Brooke Magnanti is published in paperback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £14.99. Available April 19.
Better known as call girl blogger Belle de Jour, Dr Brooke Magnanti is also a former statistician with degrees in genetic epidemiology and forensic science.
Combined, such experience suits her perfectly to deliver this Ben Goldacre-style demolition of the nonsense commonly talked about sex in modern society.
Headlines holler that sexualisation of the young is on the rise; that pornography corrupts both viewers and participants; and that most prostitutes are trafficked women hooked on drugs.
Magnanti asks: "Are we being given evidence and social policy, or assumptions, agendas and sloppy analysis?"
The answer is usually the latter. She anatomises the flaws in bad research, driven by ideology or profit, then further magnified by lazy reporting and publicity-craving politicians.
She unpicks, too, the unlikely alliance of far-right evangelists and exclusionary feminists who push repressive policies which can be shown to increase the risks to the very women they supposedly protect.
This is essential reading.
9/10 (Review by Alex Sarll)