HarperCollins, £17.99  

Tony Parsons, former music journalist at the NME is currently a Mirror columnist and an author who has written several bestsellers, including 'Man and Boy' and 'The Family Way', the film rights of which were optioned by Julia Roberts.

'Stories We Could Tell' takes place on August 16, 1977, the day the music died, or specifically, the day Elvis left the building for good. The story centres on a handful of characters at The Paper. Rookie journalist and working-class hero Terry is based on Parsons himself, Ray needs to interview John Lennon to save his job and Leon is a middle-class rebel who finds himself on the run from an angry gang called the Dagenham Dogs.

Terry's girlfriend, the beautiful, earnest - and somewhat clichéd - Misty works as a photographer for The Paper. Her character vaguely resembles Julie Burchill, Parsons' real-life ex from his days at the NME. Enter also a famous middle-aged rocker called Dag Wood whom Terry has interviewed and befriended in Berlin. Dag - supposedly based on Iggy Pop, leads one to wonder if art imitates life, and if so, is life then just a badly-drawn caricature?

It comes as a real shock to Terry (but not to the fidgety reader) when Dag fall for Misty. In fact, I doubt if readers will find any surprises in this book, the plot being more obvious than an 'EastEnders' storyline. In fairness, perhaps herein lies the secret of Parsons' success. He delivers predictable, reassuring and symmetrical tales to an ever-growing audience, many of whom I suspect were once young and anti-establishment, before the inevitable march of time to middle age and middle-class.

My main criticism of 'Stories We Could Tell' is that the author sells himself short with what could have been his best novel. When he's good, Parsons writes with a charming observational style and laid-back insight. Unfortunately, this over-sentimental story brims, to the point of distraction, with cardboard cut-out stereotypes. 

A note from the publisher gushingly referred to this novel as 'the story he has been waiting to tell'. Gosh, I really wish he hadn't bothered.

Catherine Hurley