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Paperback reviews

Laura by Vera Caspary (Vintage Classics, £7.99)

Otto Preminger's 1944 film did an excellent job of relaying the noir-ish effects and perhaps surprising moral complexity of Caspary's tale of Svengali-type newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker, whose muse, the beautiful Laura, is found shot in the face one morning. Twists and turns give the plot its pace, and hard-bitten cop Mark McPherson its hero.

Philip Larkin: Poems Selected by Martin Amis (Faber, £12.99)

Larkin was the "novelist's poet", argues Amis, a poet who liked constructing stories. Perhaps this is why schoolteachers are keen on him – there is a lack of obscurity about his poetry, a strong narrative to hold on to. And perhaps that's why some of us never took to the poems, preferring the witty, revealing, clever letters instead.

Dial M for Murdoch by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman (Penguin, £8.99)

This account of events and individuals that led to the Leveson enquiry and the demise of the News of the World is an astonishing trail of lies, deceit, threats and corruption, all at the highest – and lowest – levels, but it's also shot through with a tingling sense of being on to one of the biggest stories of them all.

Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor by Simon Callow (Vintage, £10.99)

The brilliance – and occasional overexcitement – of Callow's biography lies in his being an actor and understanding an actor's needs. But his study also shows the impact of his homosexuality on Laughton as a person as well as on his acting technique, arguing to great effect that to understand the art, one must also understand the life.

Lesley McDowell

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Arts and Entertainment

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