Walking on the Moon - The Untold Story of The Police, Chris Campion (Aurum)
Few discerning readers will readily warm to the task of reading a book about The Police, one of (many) contributors to the decline and possible end of rock'n'roll. Don't be put off by the subject matter. Campion's tome is a study of the rise of the political right within mainstream music and the corporate rock industry. He is especially good on Miles Copeland, the talented scion of the ultra-right CIA Copeland family who managed The Police. He is equally firm and sharp on Sting, whose arrogance, parsimony, hypocrisy, and nastiness are celebrated in some detail. Best of all is the section dealing with the rise, post-Live Aid, of charity rock. The cheerleaders for this cynical amoral movement were ideological right-wingers like Bono and Bob Geldolf (Oh, Ireland, weep to have produced such wretches!) who, subsequently, provided ample fig leaves for war criminals like Blair and Bush. Sting, scheming to achieve status as a "serious artist", threw himself wholeheartedly into the Cult of Thirdworldism but, as Campion amusingly recalls, came somewhat unstuck.
Hold on to Your Veil, Fatima!, Sanna Negus, (Garnet)
Egypt is the most vital of all Arab countries. It owns, famously, a hugely complex and significant ancient past. Until Sadat did a divisive deal with Israel, a deal which the Mubarak administration holds to, it was at the centre of all Arab affairs. It possesses a very real contemporary cultural life unparalleled in either the Arab or the Islamic world. Negus looks deep inside Egyptian life and talks to ordinary Egyptians in order to capture the lively, chatty, mischievous nature of life on the banks of the Nile. I've always regarded the country as being the most attractive of places and Negus, who speaks Arabic and reports on the country for the international media, confirms my enthusiasm.
Wormwood Star - The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron, Spencer Kansa (Mandrake)
The gorgeous Marjorie Cameron (1922-1995) was a noteworthy occultist, an underground actress loved by Dennis Hopper, a visual artist whose work ended up in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and an utterly provocative mid-20th Century presence who was there when it happened. Kansa might as well have been there when it happened too, so authoritative is his knowledge and feel for the sometimes penniless world of the practicing magician. Jimmy Page once commented that practitioners of magic are often impoverished and, after the death of her top-ranking scientist husband Jack Parsons (he accidentally blew himself up) she often saw tough times.
She played an important part in Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and appeared in the films of Curtis Harrington, including his 1955 documentary, The Wormwood Star, which focuses on her artwork.
Kansa has a successful and easy style which bring to life the countless cabals and social occasions which Cameron enjoyed to the hilt.
Joe Ambrose has written 12 books, the most recent being Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. He is currently writing a book about the Spanish Civil War.
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or