Patrick Ward

Surface Detail

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Iain M Banks, Orbit, £18.99

Lededje Y'breq was murdered by the man who owned her as a slave - but the fact that she died isn't going to stop her getting revenge. Neither is the fact that Joiler Veppers, her assassin, is the richest and most powerful man on the planet.

Resistance across Europe

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Italy - Germany - Portugal - Spain

Italy: Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti's attempts to drive through £22 billion in cuts are facing an updraft of resistance. On 16 October up to a million students and workers took to the streets in Rome against the austerity measures in a protest called by the metal workers' Fiom union. Fiom leader Maurizio Landini told workers that the next step was to plan a general strike.

Rainbow Pie

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Joe Bageant, Portobello Books, £14.99

All too often the word "redneck" brings up connotations of slack-jawed yokels, wilfully uneducated in everything other than in how to aim a shotgun. This snobbish attitude can be applied similarly to the poorest working class communities around the world. Think "chavs" in Britain.

Pulp non-fiction

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When former US intelligence officer Anthony Shaffer wrote his account of fighting the Taliban he could expect a level of opposition from his old employer.

His new book, Operation Dark Heart, recounts his experiences in "black ops" attacking Taliban figures within Pakistan, and claims that tactical blunders prevented US victory in the conflict several years ago.

The Pentagon was less than happy about his revelations, which "could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security", but it was unable to stop publication. So instead it bought up the entire first print run of the book - some 10,000 copies - in order to pulp them.

Compulsive Bliar

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Tony Blair is known for stretching the truth, and last month managed to stretch it so thinly that it ran to 718 pages in his autobiography, A Journey.

Relating his first encounter as prime minister with the queen in 1997, Blair writes that she said, "You are my 10th prime minister... The first was Winston."

Now here is the same meeting, but taken from Peter Morgan's 2006 film, The Queen: "You are my 10th prime minister, Mr Blair," says Helen Mirren. "My first was Winston Churchill."

Morgan says that the dialogue came from his imagination, suggesting that Blair may have "confused the scene in the film with what actually happened".

Metropolis

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Director: Fritz Lang; Release date: 10 September

Metropolis, Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction masterpiece, has for the first time been restored to the film the director wanted us to see. It tells the story of a futuristic city, with magnificent skyscrapers traversed by biplanes and monorails, with beautiful gardens and sports stadiums.

But this paradise of glass and steel is not for everyone. Hidden in the bowels of the city we see an image of hell, where workers toil endlessly at the giant machines that run the world above.

Against the Wall

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William Parry, Pluto Press, £15

In December 2007 street artist Banksy and the Pictures on Walls organisation travelled to the West Bank in Palestine as a venue for their annual "squat art concept store", Santa's Grotto.

They brought with them 14 other street artists from around the world. In bringing their usually London-based exhibition to Palestine they forced art collectors to see the truth behind what was happening in the occupied territory.

Your freedom - to be ignored!

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Your Freedom, a new Downing Street website through which people can suggest ways in which civil liberties can be restored and unnecessary laws scrapped, was launched by Nick Clegg in July.

Members of the public log on, write about a law they want to scrap, and then other users vote on the idea. "The deputy prime minister launched Your Freedom giving people the opportunity to suggest ideas on restoring liberties that have been lost, repealing unnecessary laws and excessive regulation," the link explains.

Rank hypocrisy

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While most school students face an uncertain future of dilapidated school buildings and funding cuts, one section of society already receives taxpayers' help to give their children the education they deserve.

Last year the government spent £172 million on subsidising the private school education of senior army officers' children. The scheme covers 90 percent of the cost of the schooling, and is taken up by thousands of top brass officers who save as much as £135,000 per child. A similar scheme is available for diplomats.

The scheme is also available to lower ranking troops - the trouble is that most are too poor to afford even the remaining 10 percent of the costs.

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