**** Designer Magazine's Book Selections For The Month ****
February 2003

The Long Suit by Philip Davies

The Long Suit is the third novel about M15 British Secret Service Agent Harry Fielding, following on from The Crooked Man and McKenzie's Friend. The dust jacket is awash with superlatives from Roddy Doyle and Bob Geldof.

There is not a great plot in The Long Suit, but that isn't important because Philip Davies has created such a wonderful character in Harry Fielding and as the narrator he draws us into his world with ease. We learn about his many different relationships with his frail and sickly father, his boss who is having an affair with his ex-wife and his thuggish but oafishly likeable sidekick Johnny Weeks. This is a real slow burner of a story with well drawn characters meticulously described with a healthy does of laconic humour. The world Harry inhabits is full of the mundanity of any menial job, but his experience in the field marks him out for excellence.

There nothing far fetched or fanciful about The Long Suit as it's firmly rooted in reality. A murder on a golf course in New York, secret service protocol, loneliness, double crosses and the banality of surveillance all feature with an explosive finale which is well worth the wait. While not exactly a fast moving thriller, The Long Suit is an enthralling satisfying read and as far removed from James Bond as you could possibly imagine.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

"The Long Suit" is out now. For more info  www.randomhouse.co.uk

Talk Of The Devil by Riccardo Orizio

Orizio has achieved what all journalists aspire to - reaching above and beyond the daily drudgery of achingly boring news stories written to appease the masses. In Talk Of The Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, Orizio takes the leap from staring at old and discoloured newspaper cuttings to actually tracking down seven fallen tyrants and revising how they feel about the misery they caused in their younger days.

Rather than just simply write up the encounters as interview style features were actually privy to the whole journey. From the moment he touches down at the airport were given a glimpse into investigative journalism with all it's false leads and fruitless contacts. When he does eventually track each of the dictators down what we actually find are men and women in complete denial. In Idi Amin's case a feeling of superiority mixed with a warped sense of humour combine to a dangerous effect. In Jaruzelski it's just plain denial, but out of all the dictators investigated in the book he at least tries to offer plausible explanations for the past and at present is in the centre of a legal battle in Warsaw.

"Talk Of The Devil" is an extremely readable and interesting book although before reading it may be of benefit to skim read individual cases of the dictators mentioned as there is little explanation of the crimes committed for the casual reader. What will be interesting is that in 25 years will there be a similar publication questioning Tony Blair and George W Bush's motives on the so called War Against Terrorism. They certainly may not be cannibals like Amin or Bokassa, but there's no denial from the general public that these leaders are running a dictatorship of the highest order.

Alex McCann

"Talk Of The Devil" is out now. For more info  www.randomhouse.co.uk

This Is Craig Brown - The Very Best Of Humorist Craig Brown

Looking back to when I was growing up it seemed that you couldn't escape the weekly ritual of Spitting Image. Aged about 8 or 9 at the time it was all that was discussed the next day at School whether it was Michael Jackson or Neil Kinnock or Thatcher that they took the p**s out of that week - nowadays the nearest we have to satirical comedy on TV is 2DTV, which no one seems to watch because it always clashes with the televisual nadir that is reality TV, or Rory Bremner, which basically no one watches full stop regardless of the fact it clashes with lame Sunday Night ITV.

This Is Craig Brown is a wake up call and takes in 25 years of his unique outlook on British Life. Equally as diverse as Spitting Image it takes in celebrity culture from Anthea Turner and Victoria Beckham through to political figures such as Tony Blair, John Prescott and Paddy Ashdown. The opening "Against Dinner Parties" article just has to be read to be believed and the pace doesn't slow down until the closing "The Night Train".

With a hundred separate articles featured it's a mammoth read, yet at the same time it's the sort of book you can pick up for five minutes providing you have another hour after to stop the fits of laughter. At the present time I'm still only 50% of the way through the book and yet I'm still drawn to re-read that very first page again and again. If there is one essential book you buy this year - make it this one!!!

Alex McCann

"This Is Craig Brown" is out now For more info  www.randomhouse.co.uk

Practical Astrology By Numbers - Simon G Brown

When you open up a tabloid paper how often do you think that is so blindingly obvious you didn't even need to tell us. So yes, a personal of average intelligence knows that this time next years the likes of Will Young and One True Voice are simply going to struggling to get airtime on Channel 5. But what about those uncertainties like will Roy Keane still be one of United's best players or will Michael Jackson be banged up or pay his way out of it?

Practical Astrology By Numbers looks at his Nine Ki Astrology to predict the future and how this affects your relationships at home, at work and in love. A load of pie in the sky nonsense I hear you say? Well that's the way I normally look at this type of thing but by using the various easy to read charts in this book I found out the someone born on my birthday is likely to be involved in the media and is extremely sensitive which probably accounts for why I love the Smiths and the Manics so much. I also looked at the Applying Feng Shui Astrology section on relationships and used the advantage and disadvantage charts to dissect two relationships I have in my life - that between myself and my best friend and that between myself and what I can only describe as a former associate - and safe to say the descriptions fitted the situations perfectly.

For myself personally I looked at this book with the idea of it simply being a bit of fun, but if you wish to look at it in more depth you can obviously read it from cover to cover, assessing how your Nine Ki numbers affect your life. I would say that deep down you know how to interact with people on a day to day basis and also your closest relations, but if you're looking for guidance you'll be reassured to know that Simon Brown also offers practical advice to British Airways, The Body Shop and Boy George just to name a few.

Alex McCann

Sound Recording Advice by John J Volanski

How many of you can deny they've never jumped up and down on their beds playing air guitar to Aerosmith or sung in front of the mirror pretending to be the latest Pop Idol? As I predicted a resounding silence. What would you then do if I told you that you can actually achieve a simple home recording set up in your own bedroom for a minimum cost if you simply took the time out to look for cheap second hand instruments and a budget range home studio? Why you'd run right up to me and shout tell me how to be the next Badly Drawn Boy and Daniel Bedingfield god dammit!!!

Sound Recording Advice by John J Volanski takes you through every stage of setting up a home studio from whether you want a 4 track Cassette Studio, Digital Set Ups such as mini-disk or a Midi system on your home computer. It then takes you to the technical aspects of recording your vocals and instruments and how to get the best sounds out of them. For instance how would you attempt to get the raw blues sound of  a band like the White Stripes in a home studio and what would change if you wanted to get polished sounds ala Garbage or U2.

This book really aims to give a complete overview on Home Studios for beginners as much as those who already have a background in sound recording. For example, I know the ins and outs of recording on my 4 track cassette studio so in that respect this book taught me nothing new in that specific area. However if I was looking to change my set-up to digital format or Midi then this book would be a god send and would give me a grounding in how to achieve the best set-up and quality recording. If your looking to change dreams into reality and live the rock & roll dream you could certainly do with reading this book to help you on your way.

Alex McCann

"Sound Recording Advice" is out now. For more info  www.soundrecordingadvice.com

…Also recommended…

Friedrich Nietzsche by Curtis Cate– www.randomhouse.co.uk
Wrongly charged with the fact that his ideas fuelled Hitler and the Nazi's, Curties Cate looks at the ideas and life of one of the Twentieth Century's most influential philosophers

War, Baby The Glamour of Violence by Kevin Mitchell– www.randomhouse.co.uk
On 25th Feb 1995 Nigel Benn and Gerald Mclennan fought each other in a boxing ring. The latter ended up blind, half death and paralysed. What makes us attracted so much to the glamourous aspects of violence?

Primo Levi: A Biography by Ian Thomson– www.randomhouse.co.uk
A biography of the author behind "If This Is Man", his account of Auschwitz and the Nazi Genocide

Window-Box Allotment by Penelope Bennett – www.randomhouse.co.uk
Kurt Cobain once said he'd rather grow potatoes than be a rock star. This book shows you how to grow potatoes alonsgide other vegatables and plants a window box or small gardern

All books featured in Designer Magazine's Book Club are available at Waterstones
You can also make purchases online from the web sites listed above


January 2003
* Gangs Of New York by Herbert Asbury
* Revolution – The Making Of The Beatles White Album by David Quantick
* Adult Entertainment by Chloe Poems
* Where Did It All Go Right? by Andrew Collins
* Hip Hop Immortals – Vol 1