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Unhealthy crisis day at Midlands hospital; BOOKS REVIEW.

IT starts out as just another routine day at a Hereford hospital... until a desperate gang of IRA gunmen march in and start taking hostages.

Among those held at gunpoint are a very pregnant American doctor and her mother, who just happens to be a nurse in the same department.

The plan is to lure the men from the nearby SAS base into a deadly ambush - and it almost works.

Believe it or not, the best Special Forces team in the world fails to notice three large Volvo trucks parked incongruously nearby.

The bad guys hidden inside open fire and a serious gunfight follows as the black-clad troopers struggle to get control of the blood-soaked battlefield.

The murderous assault on Hereford is the centrepiece of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (Michael Joseph, pounds 16.99) - a starring role that the Midlands town could probably do without.

As recent tragic events in Omagh and Nairobi have reminded us, the real world is very different from Clancy-land.

Clancy has made a reputation as the world's biggest-selling thriller writer, with books like The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Executive Orders and Clear and Present Danger, and a string of movies starring Harrison Ford as his hero Jack Ryan.

This time we have CIA "spook" John Clark leading a new multi-national unit called Rainbow - presumably as part of Bill Clinton's recently declared international war against terrorism. It is in Hereford because this is where the SAS have their base.

But the key players are all American, which is presumably what Clancy's audience expects.

The team is called out to deal with an series of terrorist incidents involving German, French and Basque terrorists, including a raid on a theme park full of children.

A sinister ex-KGB man is pulling the strings but is there a pattern? You bet!

It all leads back to a group of environmental nutcases in America, led by a wealthy businessman, who plan to murder most of the world's population in order to give the planet back to Mother Nature.

"It's like something from a bad movie," says one of his characters, with unconscious irony.

But how often does a worldwide best selling author decide to set the action here in the Midlands?

Clancy obviously likes everything from our newspapers, good manners, breakfast habits and countryside, although some people will be surprised to learn that his Yanks find our hospitals over-staffed.

Clancy throws in everything that gives us nightmares - fundamentalism, fanaticism, terrorism, chemical and biological warfare - plus supermen who can shoot out a gnat's eye and lots of hi-tech gadgetry.

Yet it seems long, slow, rather leaden and distinctly unscary. No doubt it will be different when the inevitable movie is made.

Iknew Jacqueline Du Pre only as the spectacularly gifted musician who made a recording of the Elgar Cello concerto like no other.

But when she died in 1987 it felt as if I had lost a personal friend.

Her death came at the end of a long struggle with the multiple sclerosis that cruelly cut short her career at the height of her powers.

Now I know a great deal more about her extraordinary life thanks to A Genius in the Family - Jacqueline Du Pre (Vintage pounds 7.99), an intimate memoir written by her brother Piers and sister Hilary.

Candid, honest and intensely human, this is a story that only a family can tell.

To the English, bulighting is the unacceptable face of Spain but, every year, thousands of tourists are lured to watch a sport that is loathsome and yet fatally fascinating.

Eamonn O'Neill went to Spain to look into a world where young men risk their lives in a bid for fame and fortune and where many animals die in the most brutal of circumstances.

The result is Matador (Mainstream, pounds 15.99), a journey through what he calls the "indefensible but irresistible" sport, taking in young hopefuls, veterans, aficionados and the madness of Pamplona where anyone can run with the bulls.

This highly readable book at least tries to peep into the soul of Spain, even if it doesn't find many answers in the great morality versus cultural tradition debate.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 30, 1998
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