Falling up

25 02 2017

The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise by Brix Smith Start

51siewcnvtl-_sx324_bo1204203200_

The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise is the extraordinary story, in her own words, of Brix Smith Start. Best known for her work in The Fall at the time when they were perhaps the most powerful and influential anti-authoritarian postpunk band in the world — This Nation’s Saving Grace, The Wonderful and Frightening World Of … — Brix spent ten years in the band before a violent disintegration led to her exit and the end of her marriage with Mark E Smith.

But Brix’s story is much more than rock ‘n’ roll highs and lows in one of the most radically dysfunctional bands around. Growing up in the Hollywood Hills in the ’60s in a dilapidated pink mansion her life has taken her from luxury to destitution, from the cover of the NME to waitressing in California, via the industrial wasteland of Manchester in the 1980s. What emerges is a story of constant reinvention, jubilant highs and depressive ebbs; a singular journey of a teenage American girl on a collision course with English radicalism on her way to mid-life success on TV and in fashion.

Too bizarre, extreme and unlikely to exist in the pages of fiction, The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise could only exist in the pages of a memoir.

 

I do love a rock autobiography and couldn’t resist this extraordinary combination of the girl from the rich troubled Californian background and the wonderful and frightening world of Mark E Smith. From her messy but celebrity-peppered childhood (Cher was almost her babysitter) to her marriage to Smith and subsequent stint with Nigel Kennedy before further fame, fortune and happiness in the fashion world this really is a rollercoaster of a memoir.

It’s genuine and heartfelt and despite the privileged background Brix is someone who has been through a lot of pain but still come through successfully. It’s a really good read therefore (particularly so for Fall fans) with much to enjoy across the span of an eventful life.

 

And I do like this account of her early experience of British TV:

brix-1

(Note – a slightly different version of this brief review appeared recently in the Times Higher ‘What are you reading?’ section.)

stars-3-5.





It’s all Greek Fire to me

18 02 2017

Dark Fire by C J Sansom

 

61caaz2ipnl

Second in the Shardlake series…

It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the sixteenth century. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . .

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother horribly murdered – the formula has disappeared.

Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems . . .

It’s a bit Wolf Hall meets Inspector Morse but with extra death. An enjoyable tale with plenty of twists and turns this does keep your interest right to the end. Good historical fun with Greek Fire.

3 star





Walk of shame

11 02 2017

Dead Girl Walking by Christopher Brookmyre

51y59tazuil

Famous, beautiful and talented, Heike Gunn has the world at her feet. Then, one day, she simply vanishes.

Jack Parlabane has lost everything: his journalism career, his marriage, his self-respect. A call for help from an old friend offers a chance for redemption – but only if he can find out what happened to Heike.

Pursued by those who would punish him for past crimes, Parlabane enters the world of Heike’s band, Savage Earth Heart, a group at breaking point. Each of its members seems to be hiding something, not least its newest recruit Monica Halcrow, whose possible relationship with Heike has become a public obsession.

Monica’s own story, however, reveals a far darker truth. Fixated on Heike from day one, she has been engulfed by paranoia, jealousy and fear, as she discovers the hidden price of fame.

From Berlin to Barcelona, from the streets of Milan to remote Scottish islands, Parlabane must find out what happened before it’s too late, all while the walls are closing in on him…

It’s a good yarn featuring the ever-entertaining Jack Parlabane at his lowest ebb and yet still able to sort everything out. Many a twist and turn as we expect from Brookmyre and therefore never a dull moment but perhaps not one of the best.

3 star





No rest for the wicked

4 02 2017

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

41a8m9vyq9l

 

Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood’s two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA’s seedy backstreets, Marlowe’s got his work cut out – and that’s before he stumbles over the first corpse . . .

One of those I can’t believe I’d never read it before books. It’s stylish, intelligent and really rather dark. A genre-defining classic and cited by just about every crime writer ever as a source of inspiration. Feel really rather guilty therefore that I just didn’t enjoy it that much. I will have to let the dust settle on this LA noir and try again at some point.

 

3 star








%d bloggers like this: