Nick Hornby's latest novel Juliet, Naked, The Hurt Locker and the new Arctic Monkeys album Humbug

Sarfraz Manzoor is joined by writer Paul Morley, comedian Natalie Haynes and poet Paul Farley to discuss the cultural highlights of the week - featuring war as a drug, a fictional cult rocker and monkeys in the desert.

The Hurt Locker follows a three man American bomb disposal squad on its tour of duty in Baghdad in 2004. The epigraph at the beginning of Kathryn Bigelow's film is 'war is a drug' and certainly for Staff Sergeant Will James (Jeremy Renner), there seems to be something dreadfully compelling about the long walk towards what everybody else is running away from. The first Iraq War film to be a US box office hit.

In Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby revisits his familiar territory of men, music and obsession. Duncan is devoted to the work of cult US singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe, although nothing has been heard of Crowe for 20 years. Duncan's partner Annie shares his enthusiasm to some extent, but when a new album is released, containing demo versions of the tracks on his most famous release, their lives veer off in unexpected directions.

After a second album which, almost inevitably, failed to achieve the stellar success of their debut, Arctic Monkeys evidently decided they should look for a change of direction for their third release. This led them to the Mojave Desert studio of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme where they recorded the majority of the songs for their third album, Humbug, with Homme at the desk. The heavier, darker sound may not be to the taste of all the band's fans, but it certainly signals some kind of transition.

Don Paterson's reputation as a poet has been growing steadily since his debut collection Nil Nil was published in 1993. Born in Dundee, his first job after leaving school was as editor of DC Thompson's Commando magazine. He also has a parallel career as a respected jazz musician. Rain is his latest collection of poems which includes Phantom, an extended elegy for fellow poet Michael Donaghy.

When Geraldine McEwan hung up her straw hat as ITV's Miss Marple, the baton (or knitting bag) was passed to Julia McKenzie. Her first outing as the spinster sleuth is in A Pocketful of Rye in which she investigates some rum goings-on at Yew Tree Lodge. A star-studded cast mills around, dusting off their alibis. Whatever the twists and turns along the way, wickedness will not go unpunished.

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45 minutes

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Sat 29 Aug 2009 19:15