I wasn’t paying attention in the 80s. I knew about the miner’s strike, and Live Aid, and the Falklands War and Greenham Common et al, but I really wasn’t following the news much beyond listening to headlines. So No Such Thing As Society finally offered me the opportunity to find out what was going on behind those headlines. (In the UK only, I should say. It’s not a world history of the 80s.) And it does it really, really well. All the stories I mentioned above are here, together with a lot I’d forgotten: The Young Ones on TV, ska, the Herald of Free Enterprise, Princess Diana, Loadsamoney, Wapping and Fleet Street and Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. The only complaint I have is that it stops with the end of the decade. There’s no real attempt to analyse the long-term effects of, for example, the miner’s strike. It gets to the end of the decade and it stops. But that’s a minor quibble, and it shouldn’t stop anybody from giving the book a go.
Inside Out is Nick Mason’s version of the life of Pink Floyd – up to the reunion in at Live 8 in 2005. I read it to find out what happened to Syd Barrett and why Roger Waters left. (Or at least, Nick Mason’s version of why Roger Waters left.) Those parts of the book are good, but there’s an awful lot of, ‘Then we toured Italy, and after that Japan, and from there onto a one-off concert at…’ I did a lot of skimming.
I don’t know how much of the writing Felix took over from his father. Nor do I care. This is just a great Dick Francis racing thriller, with a solution to the mystery that clicks beautifully into place and doesn’t leave you thinking, ‘Well, okay, I suppose that works.’ I really enjoyed this one.
Michael Winner made a few good films. And an awful lot of really bad ones. To hear him tell it in this breathless gush of an autobiography, they were all wonderful, and got wonderful reviews, and he had a wonderful time with all the wonderful world-class movies stars – Burt and Marlon and Sophia and Orson – who remained his wonderful friends for the rest of his wonderful life. Actually, there’s a little more to it all than that, and a lot of the stories he tells are genuinely entertaining. It’s a fun read, and if you liked going to the movies in the 70s, I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy this.