BY BRETT EASTON ELLIS
BY ZOE STRIMPEL
ONCE part of the American literary brat pack of the 1980s that included Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz, Ellis is in many ways the most intriguing and – thanks to his famed use of violence in 1991’s American Psycho, about Manhattan yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman – the most compulsive to read.
Imperial Bedrooms is a sequel, 25 years on, to Ellis’s debut novel, Less Than Zero, which was about a group of rich, druggy LA teenagers. Clay, its star, is now a moderately successful screenwriter and returns to LA from New York for a hedonistic Christmas. LA is still very much LA and his friends Trent, Julian and Rip are recognisably themselves, only more depressingly so. Trent is now a producer and married to Clay’s ex, Blair; Julian runs an escort service and Rip, once a gorgeous trustafarian, has had so much plastic surgery he’s almost unrecognisable.
While casting a script he’s written, Clay falls for a third-rate actress called Rain. Soon enough, an ominous (one of Ellis’s favourite adjectives) atmosphere develops; stalkerish warnings begin appearing in Clay’s phone and apartment. His affair with Rain is so booze-fuelled that reality takes on a swirling quality, but there’s no doubting that something grisly is cooking as images of brutality and death – including a videotaped execution with an internet link nobody can activate – begin to swarm the text.
Deeply noirish and at times shockingly violent, Imperial Bedrooms is ultimately depressing: at its core is an LA completely empty of soul; a vacuum-packed labyrinth of blue skies, tan limbs and misery. Its protagonists (if they can be called that) are drug and sex-fuelled shadows of their former selves. You could call them tragic, if they weren’t so – well, so LA.
BY SHAUN ATTWOOD
BY ZOE STRIMPEL
REAL-LIFE Sherriff Joe Arpaio, lord of the Maricopa County Jail system in Arizona, is known (to his detractors) as the Angel of Death. He brags about spending less money feeding the inmates than the prison dogs; he makes everyone wear pink underpants and women are put on chain gangs. Look at his website – www.mcso.org – and you’ll get a sense of this man’s fervour for punishment.
His prison, then, is not the kind of environment a successful day trader from a happy family in Widnes is suited to. Yet this most dreadful of US prisons is just where Englishman Shaun Attwood wound up after a SWAT team busted him for money laundering and drug dealing at his Scottsdale Arizona apartment, where he lived a double life as dotcom millionaire and raver.
Hard Time is the gripping account of Attwood’s time among lethal gangsters, including the Aryan Brotherhood, and of living in fear amid sewage and cockroaches. At first, he is in shock – then he slowly adapts, learning how to avoid violence and garner some peace and quiet. Having only read books on finance before, he submerges himself in literature, psychology and philosophy in a quest to understand his past. He begins to write letters home, his first one with a golf pencil he sharpened on a cell wall. These became a blog attracting world-wide acclaim; they’re harrowing, horrifying and often funny.
Hard Time begins with Attwood’s arrest in the middle of the night and proceeds through his two years in jail prior to his sentencing to nine-and-a-half years in prison (he was released after six). It’s shocking, but readers will be cheered to know that for Attwood, the ending is happy, as he’s now back in the UK and free, spending his time giving talks on the perils of drugs.
POWER GRAB: HOW OBAMA’S GREEN POLICIES WILL STEAL YOUR FREEDOM AND
BY CHRIS HORNER
REGENCY PRESS, £16.99
BY MATTHEW SINCLAIR
LAST year Citigroup Investment Research released a devastating report on the “affordability crisis” threatening energy investors. They set out how Britain needs to invest more in its energy sector than Germany, France and Italy combined to meet environmental targets, a massive £139bn investment in the energy sector. Paying for that and the smaller amount (£66bn) needed to keep the lights on will require roughly doubling profits and, in turn, doubling prices. That could lead to a consumer backlash as households whose disposable incomes will be squeezed by the fiscal adjustment rightly don’t want to see such a huge bill for offshore windmills that aren’t economical without subsidies of up to £100/MWh. Firms could face dramatic cuts in subsidies – something already happening in Germany, Spain and Italy – or windfall taxes.
If anyone in the City wants to know what the backlash will look like then they should start with Chris Horner’s new book Power Grab. As the subtitle makes abundantly clear, it is a furious blast at climate change policies that threaten enormous harm to the standard of living enjoyed by ordinary American families. Some of the stories are fascinating. To give just one example, environmentalists in the Sierra Club boast that they have blocked 100 coal power plants since 2001 through regulatory and legal roadblocks. It received $47.7m from 2005 to 2009 from David Gelbaum, a prominent investor in renewable energy. The book is full of examples like that of how global warming has become an excuse for US politicians and rent-seeking businesses to grab money and power. The same thing has happened here in the UK. As the public find out they’re going to get angry just like Chris Horner. Matthew Sinclair is research director at the