This week’s book reviews include ghostly tales, comedic advice, adaption of medieval fiction, rock’n’roll memoir and rock’n’roll biography.
THE APPARITION PHASE
Will Maclean (Windmill)
Absolutely stinking of the 1970s, The Apparition Phase transports you back to a time where kids pored over the likes of Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 and childhood mischief was a rite of passage. Twins Tim and Abi are no different, and their fascination with sci-fi, the occult and the unexplained is taken a step too far, when they forge a photo of a ghost that supposedly resides in their attic to prank a girl in school.
All innocent hijinks, until they unwittingly invite an actual spirit into their home – cue Abi going missing and an unravelling of their entire lives. Part gothic horror, part history lesson, The Apparition Phase is an ode to that time period in every way and from a storytelling point of view can stand with any Hammer Horror tale.
TV writer and debut author Will Maclean’s attention to detail is second to none, which adds to the experience – bringing you in to a welcoming, comfortable, familiar place, before completely shredding your nerves. The suspense will leave you on the edge of your seat and the scares will send a shiver right down your spine and up again, as all good ghost stories should.
Price: £8.99. Info: here
words CHRIS ANDREWS
EVERYONE YOU HATE IS GOING TO DIE
Daniel Sloss (Hutchinson Heinemann)
I would not recommend buying this book for your dad as a Christmas present, unless you are 100% certain that your dad is going to be on board with swearing, crude jokes and a lot of discussion about sex. Sloss holds no punches with his sense of humour, which is brash to the point it’s almost slapstick.
Despite the sexual references and swear words, there is a genuine affection that runs through every chapter of this novel. Surprisingly, despite the book’s title, Sloss actually spends far more time discussing the people he loves rather than the people he hates. I found myself settling into the stories, appreciating the unique voice and humour delivering them.
This is not a self-help book, but there is certainly a lot of good advice buried between the lines. Sloss’s attitude to love, relationships and life is refreshing. While I don’t think I was the target audience for this book (it’s much more geared towards straight men than gay women), I think the comedy still worked. I know a few straight men in the UK who could benefit from reading what Sloss has to say, and I think they’d have a lot of fun whilst doing so.
Price: £16.99. Info: here
words SEREN MCKEEVER
Hammad Rind (Seren)
Reading this novel, I felt myself transported to a far-off land where you might hear stories around a campfire, the aroma of burnt wood permeating through every pore. It begins much like a Shakespearean tragedy, a monsoon setting the scene with pathetic fallacy where the four devised themselves find themselves.
The style of oral storytelling feels rounded: a rich tapestry of characters, full of colour, embody universal issues that are timeless to humanity. These characters seem like immovable forces of nature who root themselves into our consciousness. Four Dervishes’ narrative has parallels with Arabian Nights as well as the allegorical tales of its (presumed) more direct inspiration, Mir Amman’s Tales Of Four Dervishes, originally written in Urdu.
Hammad Rind’s story lures you in with depictions of inter-gender injustice, disparate yet relatable. His manner of social commentary helps underline that we – that is to say, contemporary global society – have not fixed the same mistakes in our supposed utopia. This ripples through our own understanding and leaves us with as many questions as we started with.
Price: £9.99. Info: here
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS
THE STORYTELLER: TALES OF LIFE AND MUSIC
Dave Grohl (Simon & Schuster)
Pull up a chair in front of the fire. Are you sitting comfortably? Then Uncle Dave will begin.
Not every tale in The Storyteller is suitable for a CBeebies audience: fascists attacking Amsterdam squats, smuggling hash across borders in your bandmate’s dreadlocks, trying and failing to visit Pantera’s strip bar. But neither is this memoir of sorts remotely on a par with the grim recollections of another grunge survivor, Mark Lanegan. Unlike the former Screaming Trees frontman, Grohl has largely bounded through life like an excitable puppy, lapping up new experiences, addicted to nothing stronger than coffee.
The book traces formative moments, his relationships with his mum and daughters, and a life spent in the studio, on the road and on stage with Scream, Foo Fighters and Nirvana. Perhaps inevitably, the chapters on the latter hold the most interest, giving some insight into what it was like to be part of a dysfunctional trio with very separate lives who found themselves caught up in a maelstrom, not of their own making.
Grohl was able to move on, though, and his eternally sunny disposition shines through the pages of The Storyteller. A goofball suburban punk who’s gone on to drum with Iggy Pop, have AC/DC round for dinner and perform a Beatles song in the White House to Paul McCartney and Barack Obama, it’s little surprise that he continually asks himself in disbelief “How did I get here?” – but he remains endearingly thankful for every minute of it.
Price: £20. Info: here
words BEN WOOLHEAD
THE WHO: MUCH TOO MUCH
Mike Evans (Palazzo)
There’s much to admire about this handsome new addition to The Who’s bibliography. Music writer Mike Evans has brought together a wealth of information about the band, including biography, reviews, interviews, and track-by-track analysis of each album. Accompanied by a blend of excellent photography and album art, the result is a convincingly realised picture of the music that captured the hearts of a generation, and the people who made it.
More than just an exercise in nostalgia, Much Too Much is an even-handed exploration of The Who’s career, from their earliest incarnation as The Detours, to rock stardom, to becoming elder statesmen. Along the way, Evans covers Pete Townshend’s rock operas, Roger Daltrey’s ventures into film and TV, the many lives and deaths of Keith Moon, and the passing of John Entwistle.
Much like Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four, a criticism of the book may be that it doesn’t provide fans with new information – the band’s devotees are unlikely to learn much they didn’t already know. But unlike Brown’s book, Evans takes a more linear approach, presenting a more insightful, music-focused narrative. This book has the answers for anyone who’s ever asked the question: who are The Who?
Price: £25. Info: here
words JOSHUA REES
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