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those left. panic-stricken: the old. the juvenile. and the women. whose thoughts now centre entirely on survival.

At the heart ofthe community are two fierce. conflicting figures: Mungo. the ageing and ascerbic

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priest. who struggles with the pagan tendencies of his flock. and Finella. ancient witch-woman. whose ministrations are more congenial to the villagers. and less charged with hell-fire. In an unlikely alliance these two conjure a protector out of bark and earth. a ten-foot empty-eyed Soldier. a tool for good. who is to obey no-one‘s voice but Mungo's. But when unforeseen catastrophe threatens the village. Soldier is summoned to help. and gradually. becoming more and more a part of the community. he grows increasingly human and unmanageable. In his own way he poses a greater threat than the riders.

Evoking the brooding pall of darkness and superstition that dominated the lives of these primitive strath-folk. Mackay takes you deep into the recesses ofan alien. half-imaginary age. Likewise. he leads you deep into the forest, with its animal back-chat and

iird-talk. From the hee-ti- weeM-weem ofthe blackcap t0 the 'sod-off!‘ of the grasshopper. forest life comes to the fore. and the

storyline is often waylaid. lost among

the minutiae ofseasonal beauty and change.

There is a strong fable quality to this tale. a couthiness blended with vivid imagery and description. its grimness shot through with broad. occasionally marvellous. humour. Mackay has taken an era when folklore was born and brought it startlingly alive. at the same time giving. with distinctive Scottish lyricism. an elegiac celebration ofan unravished paradise. These are. however. awkward themes to marry. or so it seems. this work remaining rather disjointed. His blending of modern and traditional is not always successful. and each element seems to vie for attention and greater virtuosity. From simple but unusual


elements Mackay has created an original and fascinating novel which unfortunately holds cleverly. but uneasily. together.

(Rosemary Goring)


(.‘atch an egghead on the beach this summer and he’s bound to have his nose into something hardboiled. For the Brit en vacance likes nothing better than to turn to crime. But before setting off. Agatha Christie‘s grandson recommends a visit to Thins in Edinburgh where it’s positively rife. There he opened a new ‘('rime (‘orner‘ overleaded with his grandmother's titles which allow him to live in the style to which she taught him to be accustomed. The Murder of R oger A ck royd. 4 . 5 0 from Paddington (one of the last novels which could rely on a train timetable for its denouement). Death on the Nile. Ten Little Niggers and some sixty more still have their readers. as does the work ofother Thirties' cover girls. Ngaio Marsh. Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. But the trend is now away from the library the traditional haunt of killers crime has come into the open. making space for a new

breed ofsleutb.

The hard-boiled detective was born in the US where he needed a skull as thick as a dictionary to withstand the numerous slugs he got from walking into rooms with his eyes closed and his hands in his pocket. He was a tough cookie with a heart ofgold and his name was Philip Marlowe. He drank more than was good for him. got mixed up with mixed-up women. was careless with

his clothes and his tongue. He was created by Raymond Chandler.



< f'm‘, Chandler wasn‘t interested i libraries or plots. which were often unfathomable and as suspect as the suspects. Murder. to him was a nasty business and not for little old ladies doddering about English seaside resorts. Chandler. and in his wake. Hammett (The Thin Man. The Maltese Falcon). James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) and Ross Macdonald demarcated a tough. sleazy no-go area. where crime


became as stylised as it had been in the pages of Dame Agatha. The imitators have been legion and can be found dog-cared and coffee-stained at any church jumble sale. Some look like surviving more respectably. Take Robert B. Parker whose 'tec Spenser is into the Faerie Queene. lager. slacks. weight lifting and a woman who ought to know better. Sue Silverman. He does a nice line in dialogue. "This is a sensitive job. It is not a matter of guns. It involves a child.‘ ‘Maybe you should get hold of Dr Spock.‘ Promised Land. Mortal Stakes. Valediction and Early Autumn are all worth a dekko. Then there's (‘hes‘ter Himes’s Harlem thrillers many of which are being reissued. One ofthe few black writers to dabble in crime. Himes‘s The Heat's 0n (Allison and Busby £2.95). featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones

combines elements ofShaft. Chandler and Dirty Harry. and is as Streetwise and tough as in the earlier A Rage in Harlem. The Crazy Kill. (‘otton Comes to Harlem and The Real Cool Killers (all Allison and Busby £2.95 each).

Mostly the crime novel features obstinate individualism. rarely does it have any political significance. Pluto. however. has published several crime novels with a political bent. the first four ofwhich Morbid Symptoms by Gillian Slovo (£6.95 ). Nancy Milton's The ('hina ()ption (£8.95) Murder in the ( 'entral Committee by Manuel Vasquez Montalban (£7.95) and Gordon Demarco's ()ctober Heat (£7.95) comfortably integrate political intrigue within the conventions of sleuth fiction. in locations as diverse as Spain. China. London and where else San Francisco. Bon Voyage! (Clive Yellowjohn)

'.‘- Arx L R ROW

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