BOOKS Angela's Ashes Frank McCourt (Flamingo) A book this good deserves all the publicity in the world, even late publicity. Angela's Ashes took the 1997 Pulitzer Prize and I decided I should read it. Pulitzer winners are a sometimes less than riveting read, the result of writers pandering to intellectual snobbery of judges. This book, however, was almost impossible to put down. I rattled through it in a couple of days and was deeply moved by its portrait of Ireland and its poverty in the middle of this century. The state in which the Irish poor were forced to live makes one think of the 17th or 18th centuries. But then World War II is mentioned and you realise this happened only 60 years ago, in a province of Western Europe. The book is an autobiography and describes life through the eyes of Frank McCourt as a young boy and then youth. McCourt's great gift is to be able to transport himself into the mindset of each age he is describing. As a little boy, he blithely goes about misinterpreting the actions of adults and happily accepting the poverty and misery his drunken father brings upon his family. Fathers, in boyhood, seem marvellous, no matter how worthless they are. As McCourt grows up he learns to understand the ways of the world and uses a native cunning to stave off hunger and make up for the excesses of his increasingly emotionally unstable and wayward father. In heart-rendingly frank prose, McCourt describes the death of his baby sister and adorable twin brothers. His siblings are victims of ignorance, a lack of decent nutrition and Limerick's damp and miserable climate. He describes the hunger, the beatings, the harsh schooling, the guilt bestowed by the Church and the sorrows of his pitiful mother Angela. But at no stage does he appear self-pitying. McCourt is a survivor - a boy who can see humour in the world no matter how hard life is. This is perhaps the secret of McCourt's survival into adulthood and the reason he eventually became a successful and well-respected teacher in America. A marvellous tale of endurance and hope in the face of misery and one that is superbly told. VIDEO Murder At 1600 Wesley Snipes, a black belt in some martial-art or other, could easily have been channelled into some awful series of movies where his drop kick was considered more important than his acting skills. But Snipes seems a little brighter than the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal and as a result he has been careful to choose scripts that are a little more intelligent than the average Hollywood fare. Murder At 1600 is no exception. Snipes plays Washington homicide detective Harlan Regis, an honest cop who feels he has seen just about everything the criminal mind is capable of. But Regis has yet to come up against the corrupt elements in high government. When he is called in to investigate a suspicious murder at the White House, he is initially played for a fool. The White House special agents muddy the waters of his investigation. They confiscate vital evidence and assign him an assistant, Nina Chance (played by Diane Lane), who initially serves only to report his findings back to her superiors. But as Regis digs deeper into the case, Chance realises a cover-up is taking place, a plot that might see an innocent man jailed. Regis persuades her to risk her career and come over to his side. While marred by some pointless action sequences, Murder At 1600 has at its heart a complex plot full of turnarounds and cleverly concealed red herrings. A good night's viewing for lovers of murder mysteries. MUSIC Saturnz Return Goldie (London Records) I cannot remember the last time I listened to an album that lasted as long as a Martin Scorsese film. Goldie, of the metallic choppers, serves up two and a half hours of delightfully over-the-top excess. The opening track, Mother, which lasts a full hour, is reminiscent of the enormous pretensions of prog-rock bands like Yes and early Pink Floyd. Breakbeats wrestle with sweeping strings and haunting synthetic washes for attention in what amounts to an extremely brave and genuinely alternative piece of music. Give this disc a spin, allow yourself to be transported by its admittedly pompous intentions, and I guarantee you will not resent having forked out for this whopper of an album.