AT FIRST sight The Death Ship by B Traven seems nothing more than a Boys' Own style story of adventure on the high seas. However, in the pages of this book you will find no glamour or heroism. Instead The Death Ship is a wonderful indictment of the absurdities of capitalist society, and a gritty description of life as the lowest of the low, full of burning anger, black humour and razor sharp wit.
WHITE RIOT is the new book by co-editor of the anti-fascist Searchlight magazine Nick Lowles. It tells the terrifyingly true story of the assorted racist psychopaths and crackpots who make up the Nazi terrorist group Combat 18. Combat 18 was formed in the early 1990s out of the gangs of thugs who guarded the meetings of the Nazi British National Party (BNP).
A selection of films for all moods that are worth catching, or setting the video for, over the Christmas break.
Baby Boy is the latest work from John Singleton -the maker of the film Boyz 'n the Hood, made in 1991. With an all black cast, the movie is aimed at a black audience. Singleton says Baby Boy is his version of "What's Goin' On". However, unlike the song by Marvin Gaye that challenged 1960s America, this movie is described by its maker as "like watching the soul of a black man on screen".
Alem is 14. He is both Eritrean and Ethiopian, and Eritrea and Ethiopia are at war. Alem's father finds that his family is unwelcome in either country. He brings Alem to Britain and leaves him there, where he thinks he will be safe. The book follows Alem as he gets to grips with England, the weather and the immigration system. He suffers many major setbacks.
Recent polls by Waterstones and other bookshops found that Lord of the Rings was the most popular book of the 20th century. The book (or three books) has stayed in print for almost 50 years and sold more than 50 million copies.
Top of the list of novels has to be The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré (£6.99). It is a gripping novel, which exposes the murderous activities of profit-hungry giant pharmaceutical companies. Le Carré's novels have got more political in recent years. Particularly relevant today is The Tailor of Panama (£6.99), which shows the viciousness of US imperialism.
Along with about 80,000 others, I will never forget the monster Rock Against Racism carnival in Victoria Park, east London, in 1978. "We are black, we are white-we are dynamite!" was the slogan of the day, as people rocked both to reggae band Steel Pulse and punk band The Clash – who leaned heavily on black music and struggle for their inspiration.
Rail privatisation gets the Ken Loach treatment with the TV showing of The Navigators on Sunday 2 December. Rob Dawber, socialist and ex rail worker, wrote the film. It follows the fortunes of a group of track workers as the privatisation of British Rail takes effect.
George W Bush apparently requested a special screening of this film. But don't let that put you off seeing Kandahar, by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. His concern for the suffering of the people of Afghanistan goes back to at least 1987, with his film The Cyclist, which featured Afghan refugees in Iran.
J K Rowling's bestselling series of books based upon the adventures of an 11-year old wizard, Harry Potter, have become a worldwide phenomenon. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has sold over 100 million copies in over 46 languages.
The new film Gabriel and Me is set in Newcastle against the backdrop of derelict shipyards. The story revolves around Jimmy Spud and his family. Jimmy's ambition is to become an angel to "save people from the intolerable burdens society places on their shoulders".
A new video from the US called 9.11 produced by Indymedia is now available. It is an alternative insight into the immediate response of New Yorkers to the events of 11 September and to the threat of US military retaliation. It begins the very next day after the attack, where the people of New York gather in Union Square to share experiences.
Software Giant Microsoft launched the latest version of its Windows software on 25 October. Sting played a special gig in New York to launch Windows XP. London's Royal Festival Hall was booked for the European launch. Behind the hype Windows XP highlights Microsoft's obscene rush for profits. Company founder Bill Gates is already worth £41 billion-over £6 for every person on the planet. His company reckons that Windows XP can increase that even further.
The Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker is a powerful set of novels based around the real experiences of individuals during the First World War. Regeneration begins in Craiglockhart Military Hospital. It is the job of army psychologist Dr Rivers to rehabilitate officers who are shellshocked. The high profile poet and officer Siegfried Sassoon has been sent there because he has publicly denounced the war.
Rock band Pulp have returned to form with their new album We Love Life, rediscovering the radicalism of their fantastic 1995 album, Different Class. Different Class propelled Pulp to the top of the charts, with anthems like "Common People" and "Disco 2000".
"We made it as part of the Media Workers Against the War contribution to the anti-war camp. It's 25 minutes long and made up of interviews and footage of speeches such as at the first stop the war meeting of 2,000 people at Friends Meeting House in London. People who couldn't go to that meeting or who don't live in London can begin to get a sense of the Stop the War Coalition. The video outlines the basic arguments against the war-on humanitarian grounds, it's illegal, counterproductive and it is leading to a worsening of the situation."
The war in Afghanistan has produced a torrent of maps in the media. The British Library's current free exhibition couldn't be better timed. Under the brilliant punning title "The Lie of the Land", it shows how the rich and our rulers have used maps.
La Ville est Tranquille (The Town is Quiet), directed by Robert Guediguian, is one of the most powerful and deeply moving films I have seen for many years. Set in Marseilles, it is a razor-sharp portrayal, devoid of sentimentality, of working class people suffering the unremitting brutalisation of modern day capitalism.
The Man Who Wasn't There is a new film by director Joel Coen. It follows the life of Ed Crane, a small-town barber in late 1940s California. Ed, who talks very little and always has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, is tired of the futility of his life.