The best of Augustwithin 15 minutes walk of my house
(My monthly arts review has a very local flavour this month, as you might expect)
Album of the month: Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal. It's nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, it's a hugely acclaimed album, and it's all written by an 18-year-old from just down the road on a Bow housing estate. Dizzee - real name Dylan Mills - was regularly excluded from lessons at nearby Langdon Park school, but good old Mr Smith the music teacher took him under his wing and helped him to develop his talents. And what talents. This debut album defies pigeonholing, not quite hip-hop, not quite dance, not quite garage. I guess it's English rap, more East End than East Side, with DR's frenzied vocals peppering an inspired range of claustrophobic beats. Favourite track is Fix Up Look Sharp, currently number 17 in the charts, but I enjoyed the whole album far more than I expected. Check out somemorereviewshere, or just go buy a slice of urban E3 for yourself.
Book of the month: Truecrime by Jake Arnott. This is the third book in Arnott's East End crime trilogy, carefully blending realistic fictional characters with real life post-war criminals. This is GeezerLit. Truecrime opens at Ronnie Kray's funeral, backtracks through the orbital rave underworld and climaxes with the shooting of a film that sounds suspiciously like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. There's an uncomfortable encounter in Mile End Park on page 86, a flat in the Roman Road on page 247 - in fact the book probably namechecks half the places I've featured in the last month. It's a darned good story too. Highly recommended.
Another book of the month: Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler. The latest dark thriller from a well-established London author, and one of very few writers whose every novel I rush out and buy on publication. Mr Fowler likes to base most of his books within 15 minutes walk of Mornington Crescent, but his two main characters here are an octogenarian detective duo with the distinctly Bow-inspired names of Bryant and May. This story looks back to the Blitz and an investigation into a series of mysterious theatreland deaths. Good, but not his best book (only because Spanky back in 1994 was sooooo excellent).
Not the book of the month: Dead Air by Iain Banks. This novel opens in a red-brick loft apartment in a unnamed converted eight-storey Victorian factory "in the not-yet fashionable bit of London's East End north of Canary Wharf". Well, if that isn't Bow Quarter (or maybe Spratt's dog biscuit factory) then I'll be mighty surprised. Sadly the book is all froth and no plot, all conversation and no action, and I gave up on it part way through. What this is doing high up the bestseller list is completely beyond me. Prime candidate for disposal I think.
Single of the month: Four Minute Warning by Mark Owen. The end of the world never sounded so good. The former Take That pin-up has penned a supremely catchy ode to Armageddon, with a chorus whose half-life deep inside your brain must be longer than that of uranium. Could have been written, and a hit, at any time during the last twenty years. I didn't mean to love this track, I just do. Is this the end, then?