Fiction: e- and audiobook reviews by James Kidd

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 September, 2013, 8:52am

Red or Dead

by David Peace

Faber & Faber


David Peace's "Red Riding" quartet is as close an approximation of James Ellroy's genre-busting fiction as Britain has produced; his Tokyo novels mix politics, history and wonderful plots. Yet he is arguably best known for The Damned Utd, a visionary imagining of English football manager Brian Clough's ill-fated spell with Leeds United. Peace has now bagged a brace by doing the same for Liverpool FC's manager, Bill Shankly. The terse but witty Scot is responsible for turning the club into the sporting superpower they are today, and for his way with a phrase: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death … I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." Like The Damned United, Red or Dead is propelled by its narrative voice as much as any plot. Peace's Clough is an eloquent, lyrical demi-poet. His Shankley is almost Beckettian in his cyclical matter-of-factness. The resulting style focuses relentlessly on the small pictures of life without losing sight of the big: age, ambition, life and, of course, death.

Children of the Revolution

by Peter Robinson

(read by Simon Slater)

Hodder & Stoughton



Peter Robinson is probably the world's most underrated crime writer - this, despite sales most authors would kill for. Hopefully a recent television adaptation of his DCI Alan Banks mysteries should boost his profile. In some ways, Children of the Revolution is Banks' campus caper, albeit with more murder than laughs. Gavin Miller, fired from his teaching post after accusations of sexual misconduct, withdraws to an old signalman's cottage besides a disused Yorkshire railway line. One evening his emaciated body is found by a retired teacher out walking her dogs. Miller turned out to have had quite a past, stretching from his last job to his time at university in Essex 40 years before. Banks quickly finds there are several people who might have wanted him dead. Simon Slater handles the Yorkshire tones of Banks and his colleagues with aplomb. My only reservation is the oddly plummy voice that he affects for Robinson's laser-sighted prose. Otherwise, another impeccable twister from Peter Robinson.

The Shining

by Stephen King

(read by Campbell Scott)

Hodder & Stoughton



Next month sees the publication of Dr Sleep, Stephen King's follow-up to his classic The Shining. A tale of an alcoholic writer's madness - which Stanley Kubrick made into a film in 1980 - the novel centres on the seemingly happy Torrance family: Jack, Wendy and their young son Danny. We quickly learn the trio have skeletons in the closet. Jack loses his teaching job after an alcohol binge so the family moves into the deserted Overlook hotel so Jack can write his oft-delayed novel and sort out his life. This being Stephen King, everything goes wrong as Jack's demons manifest themselves with terrifying force. Hollywood actor Campbell Scott narrates with verve and commitment, relishing King's doom-laden atmosphere, Jack's gradual breakdown and Danny's odd intimacy with the Overlook itself. Most importantly, Scott captures King's voice that can convince you that hotel walls really might have ears, and that one boy's nightmares really might be coming true. Perfection.