Raymond Chandler:

A Life by Tom Williams (Aurum Press, £9.99)

A lovely biography, written by an enthusiast for the fiction with sympathy for the life, without being misty-eyed. Williams avoids easy psychological interpretations for Chandler's marriage to the much older Cissy and sees more complexity instead in the failed poet-turned-crime-writer, born in Chicago, raised and educated in London, who found his home in Los Angeles.

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One Night In Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Arrow, £7.99)

The acclaimed historian turns his hand to a second novel, with less satisfactory results. Montefiore's knowledge of immediate post-war Stalinist Moscow is not in doubt, but there are few surprises here. His prose lacks fire and his characterisation of his central protagonist, young Serafima, daughter of a film star and film director, is strangely colourless.

The Great Charles Dickens Scandal by Michael Slater (Yale University Press, £9.99)

Dickens scholar Slater has some fun with the affair that only came to light long after it took place, and with its history which includes a version by his daughter, Kate. That even today we cannot be sure how far Dickens went with young actress Nelly Ternan, for whom he abandoned his wife, simply ensures continued speculation.

Man Or Mango? by Lucy Ellmann (Bloomsbury, £7.99)

In the wake of the success of Ellmann's superb black comedy Mimi, Bloomsbury are reissuing her books, and this 1998 novel shows some early hints of what occurs later in Mimi: a questioning of women's power, a dissatisfaction with the world as it is and need for change. This she does, as always, with a spiky and delicious humour.

Lesley McDowell