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Showing posts from July, 2011

The Difference by Charles Willeford

The Canongate Crime Classics series was something I invested in a few years back, with authors like Boris Vian (I Spit on Your Graves), Chester Himes (Cotton Comes to Harlem) and John Franklin Bardin making up some of the most intensely readable and enjoyable crime writers of their times. Charles Willeford has a couple of spots on the list, with Shark Infested Custard the other title represented, and having read that and Miami Blues, a Hoke Mosely novel, I can endorse Elmore Leonard's assertion that "No one writes a better crime novel than Charles Willeford." However, The Difference is not a crime novel in the sense that a bookstore might classify it. It lacks a detective, and our protagonist is certainly not on the right side of whatever law existed at the turn on the 20th century in Arizona. What we have here would be better described as a western, but might unfairly be judged on such a label.

A quick plot summary for those curious about such things: a young man is swi…

The In-Betweeners

Not everything I read makes it onto the pages of this blog. Indeed, of some books it pains me to say I may well be slightly embarrassed to admit having read them, being slightly superior and a somewhat jaded critic of the popular milieu. However, what sort of chronicler of intertextual flow would I be if I were to omit those texts that fill the void between the titles carefully chosen by me to illustrate what an esoteric and highly educated reader I am?

Therefore, I've chosen to humble myself by exposing those little items of brain candy that I occassionally treat myself to, behind closed doors of course. Those shavings of Occam's Razor I call, The In-Betweeners.

I'm not sure why I relegate John D MacDonald to the also-reads, seeing as he is quickly becoming my favourite pulp author. Or maybe I just answered that question. Nonetheless, Bright Orange for the Shroud is number six in the adventures of boat bum and knight errant Travis McGee. This one snuck in between chapters …

Backlist - Storage Stories by Jim Bob

As I go, I'm attempting to catch up on those that have gone before, unfortunately in no particular order, but those for which I would feel bad if they were left out. Some, including Ismail Kadare, David Mitchell and Michel Houellebecq are already consigned to the mists of time, but I am confident I can still reach back and grab at a few key titles.

One such is this unusual offering from former Carter USM front man Jim Bob. Truth be told, it probably wouldn't have had the effect it did were it not for two things: 1) My mate Rob was a bit loony about Sheriff Fatman and whenever we went to the City Arms in Cardiff for a few whiskys, it invariably made its way on to the rather excellent jukebox in there. I guess Jim Bob simply inveigled his way into my brain thanks to alcohol and good company. 2) I read it whilst my wife was in labour and so had been awake for 72 hours by the time I finished it. This rather profound experience, coupled with the surreality of life in Jim Bob's m…

The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin

Many years ago (okay, more like 6, but who's counting?) I began a crusade to be the biggest and best contributor to the Waterstone's website booksellers' reviews pages. Before my marriage and subsequent name change, I got to be a top 25 reviewer (and it was chuffin' easy - ironically, the competition was limper than the divisional manager's handshake) with reviews of my favourite authors, stuff I'd read at university, and so on. Is there a point here? Only a very inane one, and a tenuous link to this blog it is. I was perusing my work yesterday after coming to a standstill on the thorny issue of what to read next. Despite the piles of things arranged carefully in order of importance, I hate to be confined to what I said I would do a few days / weeks / years ago (hence the near constant state of irritation my wife finds herself in) so I was fishing for inspiration. Thankfully, I came on this old review of "The Sacred Book of the Werewolf" by Pelevin: &#…

A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan

Augustus Rose has come to a small island in Scotland to die. Being the only one-eyed black American pensioner on the island, he quite naturally generates a number of questions posed in absentia, having exposed a vein of gentle racism and insatiable curiosity in his new neighbours. Still, he doesn't care, or so he tells himself, and whilst his narrative continues, despite his wishes, on the island where he now lives in a ruined croft, the gaps in his history are slowly filled through the plucking of the many integrated strands of his other lives.

To tell more would be to risk spoilers and such like, but it is sufficient to say that being a half-Italian, half-Black American growing up in a country where such effrontery is barely tolerated by the keepers of the peace let alone the morass of a hostile public ashamed of that which does not confirm it's own beliefs, means that Augustus' life was never going to be straightforward. However, Duncan never treads the boards of self-pi…

A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley

I guess it shouldn't, but it does still surprise me just how many books that I pick up, read through avidly and enjoy thoroughly only to discover a Kurt Vonnegut quote on the back. Maybe it says something about how my tastes track his, or how what I enjoy reading is shaped by the glut of Vonnegut I read during my formative reading phase. It's also equally probable that, when struggling for someone to slap a cast-iron guarantee on the back of their latest publication, the unscrupulous editor would habitually turn to a man with few qualms about attaching his singular surname to future American classics in return for some cigarette money. Just how I got to this strange confluence of literary hero and American deadbeat in the form of Frederick Exley is a fairly odd journey, but one worth recording for posterity.

A number of years ago, in a former life as a bookseller, I picked up a book by a group of Cambridge scholars intent on myth-busting in professional football (soccer); it…