0 Edinburgh: A Traveller’s Companion Selected and Edited by David Daiches (Constable £6.95) ‘By all the canons of romance, the place demands to be half-deserted and leaning towards decay; . . .‘was Stevenson‘s verdict. ‘Princes Street is a sort ofschizophrenia in stone.’ decided Eric Linklater. but no one quite catches the flavour of the Athens of the North like Sammy Johnson. Assailed by the ‘evening effluvia of Edinburgh‘ he remarked to Boswell, ‘I can smell you in the dark’. Said Boswell, ‘A zealous Scotsman would have wished Mr Johnson to be without one ofhis five senses upon this occasion.‘ All these and many more are included in Daiches’ Companion though there‘s

little post 1960.

Phyllis James, PO. to title pages, was holding court in the North British. The new ‘Oueen of Crime’, an appellation she has as much time for as literary snobs who denigrate the detective novel, was on a whistle-stop, two-day tour to Scotland to promote A Taste for Death, which has had the impertinence to leapfrog the likes of Le Carre, Ludlum and Herbert to top the Sunday Times best-seller list.

Succes for her has come late. She is now 66, though I’d need to see her birth certificate to believe it, her first novel Cover Her Face was published in 1962. Faber, a publisher not normally associated with sleuths was looking for a new crime writer to replace Cyril Hare (‘A terribly fine writer. Have you read him?’) and she was in the right place at

the right time. Cover Her Face introduced Adam Dalgliesh,

. poet-policeman, played by Roy Marsden in the several television serialisation of her novels.

She is clearly fond of Dalgliesh who returns in A Taste for Death, now Commander of a new unit ‘to investigate serious crimes that, for political or other reasons, needed particularly sensitive handling.’ A devotee of ‘cold-blooded indoor stufl'

. Phyllis James has set Dalgliesh the task of finding the killer of an MP and a

2 tramp, both of whom have had their

I throats cut in a church vestry. For

: someone so at ease with the world I

wondered what sparked her off. ‘You

get an idea. A situation or place interests you. In this case it was the church, in another of my novels, Death of an Expert Witness, it was a forensic lab, and then you bring the murderer


36 The List 27 June 10 July



0 Ulysses James Joyce (Penguin £7.50) Over 5000 corrections have been made to old editions and though most are insignificant. ‘quiet rather than earthshaking‘. others serve to make sense of nonsense. Most catacylsmic is the reinstatement ofthe final dot at the end of the penultimate chapter. This. says Richard Ellmann 'was assumed to be a flyspeck‘ and dropped when in fact ‘it was the obscure yet indispensable answer to the precise and final question. “Where?” Joyce gave specific instructions to the printer to enlarge the dot rather than drop it.‘ Puncuhouschap.

0 Living on Yesterday Edith Templeton (Hogarth £3.95) Barbed social comedy which comes with an encomium from Anita Brookner. she of Booker fame, of whose


local literati suggested consignment to the bottom of the lac rather than receipt ofa cheque for£ 1 7.500.

O Mailer Peter Manso (Penguin £7.95) Cacophonous oral biog. a sprawling scissors and tape job as compelling as a trial transcript.

0 Ask: The Chatter of Pop Paul Morley

(Faber £6.95) ’I accidentally saw a pop programme on television the

: other day.‘ says Sir Michael Tippett

to young Morley at a Channel 4 review ofthe arts' year. 'Luckily the

; television set was turned over for me

- Cagney and Lacy. I much prefer

: that.‘ And little wonder when one

reads the pearls offered in these reprinted interviews with some of rock‘s greatest minds. The Simple ones are not included but their peers make up for them. Gary Glitter seems a nice chap.

0 Reading Myself and Others Philip Roth (Penguin £3.95) Roth contemplates his navel. The Breast

and fellow scribes in this new expanded edition. All the pieces are

: worth a dekko but best are the

various interviews in which he is asked to bare his soul. None of his interrogators make Morley‘s

f mistake ofassuming they‘re more prize-winning novel a member ofthe limportant than their subject and.

* the cuff aphorism. Asked what it

means to be a celebrity in the LIS he replies: ‘to become a celebrity is to become a brand name. There is Ivory Soap. Rice (‘rispies. and Philip Roth. Ivory is the soap that floats;

Rice (‘rispies the breakfast cereal that goes snap-crackle-pop: Philip

Roth the Jew who masturbates with a piece ofliver. And makes a million out ofit.‘ You've got to make a living somehow.


0 The Song of the Forest (‘olln Mackay((‘anongate £9.95) Fora writer who was ten before he saw a wild tree. and thought Princes Street Gardens was a huge forest. this is a remarkable novel. Mackay sets his story. a simple yet powerful tale of a magical gift used and abused. in the time ‘when trolls and worse still lurked‘. when man or dzu‘ne as he calls us. had made few inroads on nature. and the forest reigned supreme. ()ut ofthis forest and down the

' strath come a band of riders.

: murderous and merry. hellbent on

l pillage and massacre. 'I’he village's

{ menfolk ride out to face them. and

' only one returns. This story is about

into the middle.’ She works backwards, planning the plot carefully but paying particular attention to style and character, taking ‘no notice‘ of the invidious demands of television. A murder, she feels, offers



an open invitation to investigate peoples’ lives and in the course of A Taste for Death, skeletons emerge

from cupboards and cans of worms are

exposed as Dalgliesh and his young female assistant, Kate Miskin, niggle

; and probe. Not only do we learn much about the Sir Paul Berowne, the MP, and histamily, butthere are fascinating insights to the lives of the detectives, giving the book a pleasing roundness not always apparent in genre fiction.

By any standards A Taste for Death is a literary triumph not least because of Adam Dalgliesh’s interest in poetry. We are never allowed a glimpse of his work so I asked Phyllis what his stand was among the literati. ’Dh, quite high. He hasn’t published much lately.‘ Is he good enough to be published by Faber? ‘l'd rather like to think so,’ she says with a mischievous smile and I began mentally to run down Faber‘s list. Not l-iughes. Atouch of Eliot, perhaps. But Dalgliesh’s surely no modernist. Larkin? Getting warmer. As inspector Clouseau says, ‘I suspect everyone, and i suspect no one.’

Suspicion is the name of the game in the detective novel but in the hands of PD. James it affords an opportunity to dissect lives, indulge in psychological story-telling. That’s why there are murmurings of Booker Prizes. ‘lt would be nice just to be on the shortlist,’ says Phyllis, but I couldn’t help feeling it didn’tmatter much to her.

What does matter are little incidents like the one at Waterstone’s later the same day. Admiring the generous window display of A Taste for Death she was nudged bya local similarly , interested. ‘That book's had really

good reviews’, he said. ‘l'm just going , in to buy a copy.’ ‘Actually,’ said ' Joanna Mackle from Faber, ‘this is the i author.'(A|an Taylor)