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NEW OUT What? Anne Frank - The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose (Atlantic Books, pounds 16.99) What's it about? Francine Prose has produced a fascinating examination of the diary of Anne Frank and the circumstances which led to it being written and eventually published. She has analysed the controversies it triggered and the way it has been used by different groups for their own purposes. She also shows what amazing natural literary talent Anne possessed. Anne, a Jewish girl in her early teens, and her parents, sister and four other Jewish people, went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in 1942-44. Anne kept a diary about these years but eventually they were betrayed and all, except Mr Frank, died in Nazi concentration camps.

Is it any good? Millions of readers have become devoted to Anne but Prose believes she has become too romanticised. She greatly admires Anne but presents her in a more down-to-earth way.

What? A Cabinet Of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales And Surprising Facts From The World's Greatest Empire by JC McKeown (Oxford University Press, pounds 10.99) What's it about? The filth, barbarity and splendour of ancient Rome, as described by contemporary writers, are vividly summoned up in this entertaining book. American classics professor J C McKeown has used excerpts from Greek and Roman authors to create a fascinating social history. The book covers virtually every aspect of life in Rome, including family, medicine, slaves, food and drink, gladiatorial-type spectacles and, inevitably, decadence.

Is it any good? It's always interesting to read the uncomfortable parallels between life in ancient Rome and the West today.

What? The Long Glasgow Kiss by Craig Russell (Quercus, pounds 12.99) What's it about? Juggling loyalties between three crime lords can be daunting work - but for wisecracking private investigator Scots-Canadian Lennox, it's all part of the job. Craig Russell's likeable lowlife returns for another instalment of post-war skullduggery, this time involving the death of a local bookmaker, set in 1950s Glasgow.

Is it any good? The fast-paced plot has a film noir quality, but is formulaic at times. Sadly, the narrative is slightly limp when tying up all the loose ends of the thriller.

ON THE RECORD Los Lobos - Tin Can Trust Los Angeles-based, Grammy Award-winning band Los Lobos have been a regular feature on the rock scene since the late 1970s with their seamless blend of rock 'n' roll, Tex Mex, folk and blues winning them an army of fans over the intervening years. True, they have barely strayed from what has proved a hugely successful formula but their latest album, Tin Can Trust, is certainly one of the finest of their long and distinguished career. Most of the album is sung in English, including the expertly executed opener I'll Burn It Down, although two tracks - Yo Canto and Mujer Ingrata - are in Spanish. They have also chosen to cover one song, the Grateful Dead's West LA Fadeaway, which is a timely reminder of just what a great band the Dead were in their prime. Gone maybe, but not forgotten. In stark contrast Los Lobos are still very much at the top of their game. And bravo for that!

Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now With just an EP to her name on this side of the pond, Caitlin Rose has already developed somewhat of a following. On first listen to this album it's clear why the 22-year-old singer is so highly rated. This is not country-folk, country-pop or even country tinged with rock. This is just plain, old country. Perhaps it's this simplicity and respect for the genre which makes this album such a refreshing listen. The success could, of course, be due to the singer's ability (despite her young age) to emit such emotion in her vocals. For example on Own Side, even though her singing style is mild-mannered, she still manages to convey more passion then any of the current warbling R&B divas. This ability, combined with the songs simple arrangements, make for a delightful listen. Highlights include New York, That's Alright and Coming Up.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 7, 2010
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