Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Although this is a biography of Andy Warhol, it only covers a 12 - 13 year period. This period was the time that the author worked for Warhol at INTERVIEW Magazine.

The author started working there in his late teens until he resigned in his early thirties. You do get the inside story though, Colacello was an intimate of Warhol's, travelling the world doing business with him and for him.

The main problem is the book is linear, month by month ,year by year and because of this it drags. Much better I would have thought to have lumped the chapters together on a single subject, even if each chapter was to cover an entire decade.

It was still interesting to me as I have long been fascinated by how Warhol ended up with the following he did, he was majorly controlling, manipulative and could be very cruel. But people stayed with him for years and put up with all this behaviour. It certainly wasn't for money , he was seriously miserable when it came to spending on staff and friends.

We get a good look at the rich and famous of the 70's, the Jaggers, the Elizabeth Taylors, Studio 54 etc, so its quite gossipy. But if you really want the gossip on these people read, The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett, Warhol himself was very bitchy.

So, this doesn't shed any new light on the subject,drags some what because of the way it is put together and could be a bit more salacious I think ( probably isn't because the author is still working amongst many of the people named in this book. It was published in 1990)

A book for the absolute fan or art historian perhaps, I wouldn't recommend it for the general biography reader.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


It is well known that there is no justice on plant Earth, but one of the greatest literary injustices is that James Crumley is not one of the best known crime writers in history. The equal of Hammett,Chandler and MacDonald.

His hero in this story is the alcoholic Private Investigator, C W Sughrue, who is not only ultra violent when the need arises but he is very human as well with lots of emotions, the strongest being loyalty. Sughrue smokes dope, snorts cocaine, smokes crack and drinks like a fish, but he gets the job done.

In this tale he sets out to help his best friend locate some files that have been stolen. And to say things get a bit out of hand is an understatement of quite large proportions, but they do, my,my.

Along the way we meet sundry psychopaths, wives, girlfriends and bent cops, all the usual for a "noir".

As stated it is very violent and you could never accuse Crumley of writing for laughs. In fact I felt exhausted at the end - its dark but mighty entertaining.

James Crumley passed away in 2008 without the following that was his due, but he's that good he'll stay in print and one day people will realise what they missed out on.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

THE BLAZE OF OBSCURITY: The TV Years - Clive James

This is volume six of autobiography from Clive James, and what an interesting man he is.

This volume concentrates on his years fronting TV shows, twenty years of them. From the start even though he is a severely intelligent man I often thought how can this guy be on TV ,he was bald and his head looks like its been in several hundred heavyweight fights and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

What comes through is his intelligence and his drive to succeed with a good product. He was never satisfied to just put anything into the market place , he wanted it to be quality.

He talks a lot about all his TV shows but I gathered he was most proud of his "Postcard From...." series. These programmes gave him the scope to be very funny and tell a decent story about his subject at the same time.

Along the way he has mixed with the rich and famous like very few others have: he had a serious crush on Princess Diana and his telling of how Pavarotti pronounced Clive is hilarious

One thing I didn't know was that with all the talking head interview shows the guests are asked the questions prior to going on live, where they can all sound very witty and sophisticated without any embarrassing silences, makes sense really.

Highly recommended, lots of quality gossip from a very hard working man with a streak of humanity a mile wide. The type who gives conservative political views a good name.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


If you like your travel writing funny, loaded with sarcasm, with many wry observations and an obvious love of the subject then this is for you.

Written 15 years ago after living in the UK for 20 years this is a memoir come travelogue of a farewell trip about Britain prior to returning to the US for a while.

I first read it 15 years ago and having just re-read it is still as funny and enlightening as the first time.

Bryson covers everything from grand palaces and stately homes to dealing with fascist " Bed and Breakfast" operators. The run ins with petty authority are a highlight throughout. Having the remnants of a bowel movement pointed out to you by your landlady is something that most travellers could have done without.

There are lots of facts and figures ( 30,000 place names in Britain ), but its never boring.

Lots of fun to read. Recommended.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

KILLER IN THE RAIN - Raymond Chandler

This a collection of eight stories published in 1930's pulp magazines by Chandler.

These eight stories, actually they are all novella's, were the basis for his famous books. That's why this collection was never published while he was alive.

These stories sometimes have a few paragraphs, sometines entire chapters that went into his novels. Chandler himself called the process , cannibalization.

All of the stories are genuinely exciting and true Raymond Chandler. My favourite being "No Crime in the Mountains".

There is an excellent introduction to this edition by Peter Robinson. In this introduction he says that Chandler's was first edited by Cap Shaw in the pulp magazines and he was the man who could pare-to-the -bone anything written and still make it exciting.

There is no Philip Marlowe in any of these stories but it can be seen how the detectives here morphed into Marlowe. I just felt sorry for their livers, my god, do they put the booze away.

This collections gives you 583 pages of really ,really excellent detective yarns and its worth every cent you pay.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


We have a group of young people holidaying over summer at a Italian Castle.

The group concerned are all in their twenties and sex is on their mind.

That's it basically, they do what twenty year olds do, have sex and try and get as much of it as they can, all with their own conditions attached.

Keith Nearing the central character's purpose in life is to score not just sex, but 'hysterical' sex, as he describes it. i.e stuff a bit off the beaten track that he only gets from one of the girls. This leads to all his problems, thirty years down the track.

The whole thing is very funny and at times sad as things can be when you are twenty and things go pear shaped, when you think you are ruling the world and at the centre of the universe.

Once again we have Mr. Amis's fascination with topless sunbathing! He just goes on and on about it. Considering he's well travelled and now in his early sixties I would have thought he might have started to take it for granted. Then again Keith Nearing our hero never gets over it either.

My only complaint is a female character called, Scheherazade, this is bloody unpronouncible and appears about every second sentence, it drove me mad . There is no connection to One Thousand and One Nights so it would have made not one iota of difference if she had been called Bill or George, anything but Scheherazade.

A good read, not a brilliant read and not as good as his best, (Money?), but Amis doesn't try too hard to be too clever here which is good, because he can be so clever sometimes I can't understand him.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I was a bit worried when I started to read this and found that the author is " a bell bottom lefty" and a " Godless Commie" (his descriptions of himself). I thought I was going to have to wade through 270 pages of lefty whinging.

It was a nice surprise to find that only about a third of it is lefty whinging.

The author returned to his home town of Winchester ,Virginia after an absence of thirty years. He writes about the town ,its industry , people he knows as well as family members still living there.

I got the impression that this place was about of the size of Petticoat Junction, but a bit a research informed me that there are in fact 23,000 souls resident in Winchester, so I found Bageant's assertion that he knows everybody in town and their antecedents a bit of an exaggeration.

The premise of most of these essays is that with universal health care and education all will be rectified in Winchester and it follows the whole U S of A. This is a familiar call from the left, but as always there are plenty of reasons why, but never any solutions as to how or who is going to finance all this.

He uses as examples of the working poor a number of people that he knows from childhood. The disturbing thing here is that most of these people spend a lot of time at the local bar. Now from experience if you spend a lot of time at the local bar smoking and drinking you will have health issues and get very little done. But local bars are great places for people to moan about their lot in life ,.... as they have another beer and cigarette and get just a bit unhealthier..............

What redeems this whole book for me is the best, most balanced essay, on gun control that I have ever read. Even though he is from the far left Bageant understands the use and necessity of firearms, particuarly in the rural setting of his home town. If all gun control advocates (nuts?) read this and opened their minds there would be no debate.Very good writing indeed.

One more thing that makes this different from normal socialist writing is that Bageant has a sense of humour and can be very funny. Normally people from the left are so busy telling everyone how to live their lives that they have their humour bone amputated. e.g a million battered women out there and I've been eating mine plain.

Recommended more for the left leaning but certainly not a waste of time.