A Man in Full, by Tom Wolfe (Picador, £10 in UK)


A fiercely conservative property tycoon teetering on the brink of financial ruin; a young husband struggling to support his family; a talented lawyer representing a superstar black athlete suspected of raping the daughter of a prominent white businessman; a black mayor making a determined bid for re-election. Set in an Atlanta enmeshed in the certainties of a racially dubious past but determined to present itself to the world as a city headed straight for a prosperous, enlightened future, A Man in Full is a rollicking rollercoaster of a read. It is, as usual, in the set pieces that Wolfe excels; a horrifying prison rape scene; a press conference packed with maggoty hacks; a hilarious charity dinner; an early-morning earthquake. His acidly satirical gaze never falters, and this examination of what it means to be a man at the end of the first millennium is unflinching, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining.