A Pig's Ear

Tony McLean

Crane Hill, £7.99

“Paisley was a town on its knees begging for mercy,” is McLean’s opening salvo, and it’s certainly a busy old place. A notorious divorce lawyer is found murdered in a car, with attempts made to cut out her tongue. A drug addict is found stabbed later the same day. If anything connects them, it’s likely to be a shady Paisley sex club called The Renfrewshire Rope & Twine Co, and DI Rob Steele has to work out how. A gruff, old-school copper with a drink problem, the jaded and hungover Steele is a strong lead character who holds together a story featuring such disparate characters as drug dealers, swingers, a driving instructor with a shoe fetish and a tireless but inept protester with a cause so weak Fathers4Justice would have nothing to do with him. And, of course, a murderer. It’s an engaging thriller with a seam of humour that balances out some dark themes.


Tim Etchells

And Other Stories, £11.99

Jarvis Cocker remembers Tim Etchells from Sheffield in the 1980s, when Etchells used to rehearse with the Forced Entertainment theatre group downstairs from him in an old factory. He’s been pursuing his artistic vision ever since, through performance, visual art and the short stories that make up this collection. They revel in an off-kilter sensibility which somehow remains rooted in real life while exploring the recesses of a surreal imagination. Each of these stories is like an absurdist collage of Northern psychedelia, in which ghosts, and gods with names like Spatula, Aldi and Trumpton, can and often do interfere randomly in the lives of mortals. As they work according to some variety of dream logic, inconsistencies abound, along with anachronisms, geographical impossiblities and deliberate misspellings. Scratch the surface, though, and a grittier, more recognisable world can be glimpsed underneath. Etchells’ is an innovative and singular vision, taking a sidelong look at Britain and highlighting its horrors and absurdities, often both at once.

10,000 Ways To Die

Alex Cox

Kamera, £16.99

As a graduate student at UCLA in the 1970s, film director Alex Cox wrote a scholarly dissection of the Spaghetti Western genre which was never published. Since then, of course, he’s become an established film director himself, and this rewrite has stripped away the “half-assed semiotics” and “attenuated academic nonsense” of the original and backed up Cox’s early musings with the fruits of 40 years’ of experience and insight into the business of making movies. He’s produced a chronological overview, with synopses and cast and crew credits, of how the genre developed, from straight copies of Hollywood films to a thriving genre in itself before decaying into self-parody. It’s an honest and opinionated book, written very much according to Cox’s taste. He’s not shy about emptying both barrels into substandard films. But his fanboy appreciation shines through, and he finishes it off with an illuminating final thought on the parallels between the Spaghetti Western and the Jacobean revenge tragedy.