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The In-Betweeners

Nobody Move by
Denis Johnson
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.


These little beauties all occurred at various points between Lethem and Barth, but considering that I haven't as yet gotten to either, and that my desk is slowly disappearing below miscellaneous unanswered correspondence, dust, and thoughtlessly discarded clothing I decided it was better to get them out of the way and safely onto the shelves before they were lost permanently.
Walk On, ostensibly
by Ronnie Whelan
Beginning at the beginning was always my preference but as always, my preferences are less important than countless other considerations; in this instance they are subject to my own recollections as to what exactly these books were about, and with the passing of (no matter how little) time, these are already dim at best. So perhaps the most obvious one would be to start with Ronnie, yet another Red Ledge with a handful of tuppenies to chuck about from his life in the dressing room. As always, you'll not get a very objective viewpoint from me on the quality of erstwhile Liverpool footballers' biographies, but as it does appear in the In-Betweeners pages, perhaps you could come to an understanding of its relative merits from things left unsaid. Otherwise, it's another blisteringly brilliant piece of ghost-writing from Tom Conlon, pulling together the uncollected thoughts of the great Red utility player who was no friend of Jacky Charlton to be sure. Lots of rumbling emotional turmoil brought about by the well-documented traumas of the past, and a few undocumented traumas suffered at the hands of the incomparable Souey, former friend turned big bad boss, and similarly, one Kenneth Dalglish. Lots to recommend it there, and it's a quick and enjoyable read to boot.


The Stranger's Woes
by Max Frei
Max Frei's rather slapstick namesake is someone who was destined to wind me up from the beginning. He was a tosser in his former life (i.e. in this dimension) and unfortunately, due to this irreverent attitude and charmingly confused naivety, is received as a king in his new world, that of the city of Echo - literally, as he somehow wangles a claim to the throne of the dung-eating peoples of the so-called Barren Lands. Plus, for some reason Gollancz thought that a direct comparison to Harry Potter on the front cover would attract readers rather than repel them. If you were to think Sergei Lukyanenko without the ability to pull a variety of plot strands together then you wouldn't be far off. Nonetheless, for some reason I still cared enough to finish it, and perhaps that is Frei's triumph after all. 

Lastly (but conversely, the first of the bunch), comes Denis Johnson, another victim of apathy to this point, rapidly proving that my own preconceptions are wildly inaccurate and that I should stop judging books by their covers / by their sales representatives' opinions / by the fact that proof copies were handed out like sweets. Johnson is an accomplished writer of fast-paced hard-boiled thriller romps, or so it would seem from Nobody Moves. The plot just boots along unrelentingly and characters are developed in situ and as required - if you don't need to know something, it ain't made known. Shit starts happening, stuff gets done to people, there's some scary dude in a hat and a wild cat drunk Native American lady with a viscous streak and an unhealthy attachment to someone else's money. You want something to read that'll take your mind off your bunions and make your tea go cold, then Denis Johnson might just suit. I may just take a punt at that proof of Tree of Smoke that I've studiously ignored for 4 years...

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How's about that then?

Apochryphal Tales by Karel Čapek

Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.

How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.

Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…

Free Fall In Crimson by John D. MacDonald

Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end. 

You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Fup by Jim Dodge

If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …