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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alma Cogan
Alma Cogan actually died in the early sixties, but this book takes as the premise that she lived on into obscurity. This is an extraordinary look at what comes after fame and how to cope with both sides of the coin. Mixed up with Alma's search for herself are highlighted trips to look at her portrait, her clothes in museums and a visit to a scary and obsessive fan who...
Published on 16 Aug. 2010 by S Riaz

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ..`ALMA HOGAN`. from archie.
..`an alternative title could be ..`GORDON BURN`.. A novel by `ALMA COGAN` .. i could not get my head round ..`is`` ..is`nt ``she dead .. and a bit desperate in the `moors murders` add ons.. but with the right subject matter there`s a beauty in there.
Published 11 months ago by archie muir


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alma Cogan, 16 Aug. 2010
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alma Cogan (Paperback)
Alma Cogan actually died in the early sixties, but this book takes as the premise that she lived on into obscurity. This is an extraordinary look at what comes after fame and how to cope with both sides of the coin. Mixed up with Alma's search for herself are highlighted trips to look at her portrait, her clothes in museums and a visit to a scary and obsessive fan who does not seem to see that Alma herself is the person he is obsessed with. Mixed in with Alma's story is the search for Keith Bennett's body, making this is an even more unsettling read. Gordon Burn is a horribly under rated author who does not get the acclaim he deserves. This book is an absolute masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine writing and theme - but is it quite a novel? And, perhaps more pertinently, is it quite ethical?, 3 April 2015
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This review is from: Alma Cogan (Paperback)
I read this first quite a long time ago, when it was first published, 1991, and it stayed on my shelves as I thought at some point it might be a re-read. A recent book club choice, its time came, and I found myself not quite so sure the second time around.

Burn was certainly a writer of intelligence, provoking unease in the reader, in part to do with his often unsettling subject matter, but I suspect he is more of a sociologist, a philosopher exploring themes, and, of course, an insightful, incisive journalist (he was) more than a writer of novels.

Alma Cogan was, in the 50s and early 60s, very much a star, in a kind of wholesome family entertainment way which hardly seems to exist anymore. Known as `the girl with the giggle in her voice', she was 4 times the winner of The New Musical Express's Female Vocalist of the Year competition. Born in Whitechapel in 1932 to a fiercely ambitious Romanian Jewish stage mother, Alma was quickly winning contests, and famous for her glamour. By the early 60's, with the rise of The Beatles, R+B and teen culture, she was falling out of mainstream favour, though once she had been at the epicentre of popular culture high society. She died young of ovarian cancer in 1966. Quite quickly, a fan culture grew up around her, and she was seen as iconic of a time and place - a little search online reveals her fan industry is still active.

Burn's book assumes she did not die, and is, in the late 1980s, living a fading, out of the limelight life. The Alma of Burn's book looks back on her own life, examining a Britain which has gone, where the glamour of the limelight hides the darker side of celebrity and the voracious, obsessive world of fandom. What has gone is not the darker side of celebrity - that has, of course, grown, it is the innocence that believes the shiny face of glamour is real. This Alma is a more intelligent, self-aware and even self-mocking voice than the `real Alma' image presented at the time.

The book disturbed me for a couple of reasons, despite Burn's brilliance as a writer analysing the spirit of the times through a cleverly structured invention. The book won the Whitbread Prize in the year of its publication. Although he doesn't play fast and loose with the real Alma's life, and although it is absolutely made clear at the start of the book that she died in 1966 so all else is invention, the less than flattering making fast and loose with Alma and her relationship with her mother, may well have been highly disturbing to surviving family members.

The second reason, is that as part of Burn's examination of the darker side of celebrity itself - not so much the darker side of the celebrities, more the dark nature of us, our obsession with it, and our obsession with the seamy and the sordid - obsession with those who become famous for their misdeeds, rather than their talents - he weaves in The Moors Murders of 1966, and particularly the murder of one of the children, Lesley Ann Downey, with a song of Alma's. The use of a real event - and even the transcript of the tape of her killing which Hindley and Brady made, within the book, seems distasteful, somehow a further abuse of a life cut terribly and violently short, used as a novelist's device

This book is a very pertinent examination of the whole industry of fame, celebrity culture and how it has changed and developed, and a microscopic dissection of the shadow side of celebrity, the vicarious and slightly sinister quality of fandom. It certainly fulfils one purpose of art - to shock out of complacency, and to force those who encounter it to think, reflect, ponder, and become discomfited, uncomfortable. It does not, at all achieve another purpose which is found in some art - that is, to raise, inspire and aspire to something finer in our nature.

3 ½ rounded to 4 - it is a much more superior novel than `okay' but `like' is not really an appropriate response!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both sad and uplifting, but with moments of real horror, 9 Jan. 2010
By 
Andy Miller (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Alma Cogan: A Novel (Paperback)
From the start it's clear that this is unlikely to be a conventional or predictable text, either in its content or its structure. On the front cover of my copy is the stylised representation of Alma Cogan's face taken from the cover of an issue of `Fans Library', a 1950s magazine. Adjacent to it, the face of Myra Hindley, the colours bizarrely transposed - purple hair, orange face.

Alma Cogan, who I can just remember from the black and white television of my childhood, was one of Britain's most popular stars of the 1950s. She was known as `the girl with a chuckle in her voice', wore extravagant self-designed dresses and, after a final hit record in 1961, was swept into semi-obscurity by the raucous explosion that was the Beatles, the Stones and the rest of them. She died in 1966 at the age of 34.

Except that, in Gordon Burn's novel, she didn't. Here, Alma Cogan is looking back on her life, on her years in and then subsequently out of the limelight, from a standpoint in 1986.

Straight away I had some worries and reservations about the appropriation of a `real life' figure for novelistic purposes, much in the same way, I suppose, as those recently unsettled by David Peace's fictionalising of Brian Clough's brief spell of command at Leeds United. Added to that, the cover's heavy hint that the Moors Murderers were to be somehow woven into the narrative seemed discomforting and heavy with sensationalism and exploitation.

However, Gordon Burn's prose is superb and drew me into a suspension of my concerns. The `Alma Cogan' he creates here clashed terribly with my preconceptions and assumptions about a dimly-remembered figure from what, despite my better judgement, I continued to see as a simpler and more straightforward era. His creation, certainly not the `bubbly airhead' of my rememberings, seemed to have taken herself off in the interim to an Open University degree in semiotics or cultural studies. The novel helped me suspend my initial disbelief and warm to this person who had adjusted in her later years of faded celebrity to a life of pragmatism and ordinariness, somebody able to appreciate both the psychological and physiological rush created by fame, and the tawdry, cynical and sometimes violent manipulations of a ruthless media industry. Burn's Alma proves to be an observant and insightful guide, puncturing the facade of mass entertainment's bonhomie and worthy proclamations and the ugly conspiracies between providers and gluttonous consumers, while still retaining sympathetic affection for the human need for dreams and fantasy. As the novel moves to its unsettling and deeply distressing climax, where the atrocities of the Moors Murderers are fashioned into an awful link to the main narrative, I found myself profoundly discomforted and chilled, in a way that few books, if any, have affected me.

In summary, I ended up finding this book, which I hadn't expected to enjoy, immensely impressive. The conceit of extending the life and career of a real celebrity works brilliantly in that `Alma Cogan' was already a creation of the nascent advertising and publicity industries. By emphasising further the fabrication, Burns brilliantly illuminates the collusion that we, `the public', volunteer ourselves for. A sad, uplifiting, observant tale with moments of real horror that have continued to haunt this particular reader.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ..`ALMA HOGAN`. from archie., 4 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Alma Cogan (Paperback)
..`an alternative title could be ..`GORDON BURN`.. A novel by `ALMA COGAN` .. i could not get my head round ..`is`` ..is`nt ``she dead .. and a bit desperate in the `moors murders` add ons.. but with the right subject matter there`s a beauty in there.
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12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Burn burns darkly, 7 April 2003
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This review is from: Alma Cogan: A Novel (Paperback)
Gordon Burn is probably unique.
Not an easy phrase to throw around, is it? We live, I fear, in a world where 'awe' and 'splendour' is all too simple to achieve and compartmentalise. Mundane products are advertised with grandiose soul stirring taglines. The world, as David Thewlis's character in 'Naked' says, has been explained to us, and we're bored with it. Consequently, to sell anything to anyone, we are promised The Experience Of A Lifetime (TM) regardless of whether we're talking a new car, a pair of sunglasses or the latest Pizza Hut pizza.
Gordon Burn, you can tell, doesn't agree with that. All his stuff says; Yeah? You reckon we're so great? Well just take a little look through this hole and then tell me what you think. He gives us a torch with dodgy batteries and chucks us head first into the dark, and lets us piece it all together slowly, languidly, with (as in Happy Like Murderers) seemingly mundane detail, until we have everything and just as we begin to put the bits together, the torch begins to flicker, and...
Alma Cogan takes a bold step forward into a fully realised fantasy world of alternative history and exposes the fickle nature of fame for a long-departed, nearly-forgotten star. The ending creeps up with superb tension and desperate ugliness.
No-one who reads Hello! or OK! has ever read this book.
As I say, the man's a genius.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faded celebrity at its best, 1 April 2003
This review is from: Alma Cogan: A Novel (Hardcover)
The tie-up with Myra Hindley is perhaps a bit sensationalist. But as a study of faded celebrity this book has no equal. It's pretty good too at depicting an intelligent woman who's become a star in the innocent 1950s realising that a darker period in social mores is about to begin.
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3 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy like Murderers, 5 Mar. 2004
This review is from: Alma Cogan: A Novel (Paperback)
this is a fantastic indepth history of Fred and Rosemary West. it contains not only many facts about the couple, but also their victims and their historys. many of these facts I have not read any where else. a thoroughly recommended read.
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Alma Cogan: A Novel
Alma Cogan: A Novel by Gordon Burn (Paperback - 4 Jun. 1992)
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