In brief: The Good Drinker; The Blue Flames; Exit Stage Left – reviews

Adrian Chiles gives entertaining advice on moderation, AM Burrage’s spooky short stories get their dues and Nick Duerden tells of the tolls of pop stardom

The Good Drinker

Adrian Chiles
Profile, £14.99, pp251

Books telling us to give up drinking are 10 a penny, but how about something for those of us who like a social drink but are occasionally worried that two turn into four rather too easily? That’s where Adrian Chiles’s likable and highly readable memoir of his relationship with booze comes in. He writes that “the vast majority of drinkers like me believe they are not problem drinkers”. He details his experiences in cutting down, to comic and insightful effect, and skilfully but never preachingly, offers suggestions for others, too.

The Little Blue Flames

AM Burrage
British Library, £14.99, pp248

By rights, the supernatural writer AM Burrage – or “Ex-Private X” as he styled himself – should be as well known and beloved as his near-contemporary MR James, but he has fallen into obscurity since his death in 1956. This new collection of his best supernatural tales, sensitively edited by Nick Freeman, should restore his reputation. At his best, as in The Sweeper and Smee, Burrage had a rare gift for summoning up giddy terror from the apparently mundane and his finely detailed stories remain chilling, even today.

Exit Stage Left

Nick Duerden
Headline, £10.99, pp384 (paperback)

Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. This bleak statement is especially true for many pop and rock stars, who find themselves catapulted from fame into obscurity virtually overnight, given the unforgiving vagaries of the music industry. In his penetrating examination of this glamorous but transitory world, Nick Duerden sympathetically chronicles a range of performers’ experiences with fleeting success and subsequent struggles with mental health issues and addiction. Yet some have escaped the trap and their stories, as told here, feel redemptive and cathartic.


Alexander Larman

The GuardianTramp

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