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NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH - Liz Smith, once called the nation's favourite fictional grandmother, is a familiar face to all TV and cinema viewers. She is most often recognised for her role of Nana in The Royle Family and has appeared in numerous productions over the years. OUR BETTY is Liz's life story - from her cosseted yet lonely childhood with her beloved grandparents (her mother died giving birth to Liz's stillborn sibling), through the war with the WRENS, marriage and children, divorce and poverty, long years working in dead-end jobs such as in a plastic bag factory, until her heavenly escape of evening acting classes provided the chance for a career. While working at Hamley's one Christmas ('I was one of those tiresome people who stop you and beg you to try samples of this and that'), she received a phone call from a young director who wanted to make an improvised film. His name was Mike Leigh and the film Bleak Moments. From that point, when Liz was 50, her career took off and she has worked with some of the most famous names in the entertainment business. OUR BETTY is, like its author, original, amusing and fascinating on the struggles, hopes and successes endemic of a life in front of the camera. Review: Liz Smith is an institution, a national treasure, one of the greatest character actors of all time. Although she cites The Royle Family as her all-time favourite, for me it was Carter Brandon's Mum, Annie, that set her apart from all those other great actresses. This book is a treasure, too - from early days in Scunthorpe to now, it's a treasure-trove of memories from a brilliant actress, no holds barred, nothing left unturned, and it's a joy to read.

In January of 1497, Fray Augustin Leyre, a Dominican Inquisitor and expert on the interpretation of secret messages, is sent to supervise Leonardo Da Vinci's last touches to The Last Supper painting. He was sent by Alejandro VI who had heard that Da Vinci was painting the twelve apostles without their halo of sanctity, that the chalice was missing, and that Leonardo had painted himself in the painting with his back to Jesus, This could have sent him to the inquisition. Why then did he do this? Was Leonardo Da Vinci a heretic? Full of misleading facts and controversies, The Secret Supper reveals the truth behind Da Vinci's best-known Christian piece. After finishing this novel, you'll never see The Last Supper in the same way again.

Review: Da Vinci Code aficionados and Conspiracy theorists will absolutely love this - set in the time Da Vinci was actually painting the Last Supper, it's a kind of middle ages whodunnit, or rather whatdidhedo, and throws lots of light on the basic Dan Brown argument that the figure on Christ's right hand in the Last Supper was, in fact, a woman. It doesn't really matter how much art critics (Brian Sewell) or Catholics, or, indeed, CofE people deny it, the laymanm could be forgiven for thinking that this figure is a female, having features unlike any of the other characters in the painting. It's difficult to envisage this as being James, and the argument for it being Mary Magdalene are compelling and convincing, certainly in the light of what Sierra tells us about the events of the time. This is a novel, of course, but it's well-written and very readable even in translation. I'd be happier if they simply said "OK, it's a female" - that in itself would have absolutely no bearing on the message of Christianity. Instead, "they" seem hell-bent (!) on denying something the rest of us find patently obvious and have no difficulty accepting.

When Washington, D.C., chiropractor Yardley Brown goes to his local bank, it isn't only to make deposits into his account. He has long since accrued some interest in Rayne Waters, a bank employee who's too beautiful to be true -- and too beautiful to be single. At least that's what Yardley believes, which is why he has never approached her. Little does he know that Rayne is anything but taken. Not for want of trying, of course. But after barely surviving a dating disaster with her hairdresser's brother and then falling for a member of her church band, she's on the verge of giving up. That is, until Yardley -- discouraged by his own slew of dead-end romances -- finally works up the courage to give her a try. The true craziness, however, is just beginning, thanks to a cast of characters who seem bent on botching the young couple's relationship. There's Rayne's erratic mother; Yardley's playboy buddies, always trolling for sex; and, worst of all, past lovers who make a habit of popping up and ruining things as only old flames (or previous mistakes) can. Weaving the carnal and the comical in true Zane fashion, Rayne and Yardley's struggle to find love in a world gone mad is a timeless talk about everything that can go wrong in the dating game -- and a few things that can go right.

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Gateway is published by Paul Edmund Norman on the first day of each month. Hosting is by Flying Porcupine at - and web design by Gateway. Submitting to Gateway: Basically, all you need do is e-mail it along and I'll consider it - it can be any length, if it's very long I'll serialise it, if it's medium-length I'll put it in as a novella, if it's a short story or a feature article it will go in as it comes. Payment is zero, I'm afraid, as I don't make any money from Gateway, I do it all for fun! For Advertising rates in Gateway please contact me at Should you be kind enough to want to send me books to review, please contact me by e-mail and I will gladly forward you my home address. Meanwhile, here's how to contact me: Gateway banner created by and © Paul Edmund Norman

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