This book is most compelling when it returns – as it does repeatedly – to these roots: to the family and wider civic dynamics which shaped Coulter’s life; and to the thread of politics which forms an essential part of the story. Such a context provides no end of arresting vignettes: watching in 1970 as internment without trial is introduced violently in Derry mere weeks after Dana’s Eurovision win with All Kinds of Everything, a song re-engineered by Coulter to provide a little “fairy dust”; sheltering in 1979, amid smoke and screaming, under the Steinway piano he had been about to play as a bomb explodes against the walls of the Guildhall – and the list goes on. This political awareness, however, renders even more perplexing Coulter’s decision to visit apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. He was roundly criticised at the time; and his defence of his choices introduces one of the few jarring notes in the book.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator