HarperCollins, £6.99 stg

Re-issued by the publishers six years after its initial release, Colin Bateman's 'Divorcing Jack' is now given another chance to humour a whole new fiction audience. With a mildly successful movie adaptation behind it, the book's profile has risen rapidly in the interim.

Belfast journalist Dan Starkey is a glorified loser. Yes, he has a job, a wife and, if he chooses to embrace it, a future. However, his irresolute outlook on life colours his whole existence with a huge dollop of grey – with Starkey, nothing is certain, and this coupled with his fondness for alcohol hints at trouble ahead.

The trouble duly arrives when a brief, drunken kiss with a beautiful young student unleashes a chain of bizarre and violent events including kidnap, murder, and a whole lot in between. Our reluctant hero is soon shaken from his inherent sloth, as he tries to evade the attentions of the IRA, the UVF, the police and, in the process, salvage what he can from the remnants of his marriage.

Plot-wise, 'Divorcing Jack' is far from impressive. Over-stretched and under-thought, the improbable story-line limps from chapter to chapter looking for a thread which will haul it to safety. It never finds it. However, in Dan Starkey, Bateman has created a gloriously irreverent and amusing (anti) hero. The novel is clearly a vehicle for the quick wit and charmingly concise writing ability of its author, and if you can forgive the hopelessly improbable plot, 'Divorcing Jack' remains a solid and humorous debut.

Tom Grealis

Colin Bateman's 'Divorcing Jack' and 'Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men' are re-issued in paperback by HarperCollins on September 17, 2001.