Skip to main content

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...

Comments

How's about that then?

Selected Holiday Reading - The In-Betweeners Abroad

I always try to travel light, a goal, something with which those among you with bookish leanings will empathise, that is challenging for someone intending to do as much reading as they can whilst ignoring as much culture and scenery as is possible. So huzzah and indeed hurrah for the generic e-book reader and its market competitors. Ten years ago I would likely have suffered a paroxysm of disgust for any apologist of the hated technology. Now, it seems, I must take one everywhere I go for more than one night.



The trip to which I am coming, an August sojourn by ferry to Santander and then by VW through Calabria, the Basque country, and north through Aquitaine, Poitou-Charente, Pays de la Loire and Bretagne, was a chance to get some serious reading under the belt. Twelve days of driving, drinking, books and beaches. The only 'real' books that made the trip were The Vagabond's Breakfast, of which more anon, and All The Days And Nights which, as I was on a deadline, I quickly …

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

The One from the Other by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is an author I have been reluctant to attempt to review for some time. His Berlin Noir trilogy cost me some hours of sleeplessness and in the end I decided to skip a review and just be happy to have read it and therefore move it from the pile of unread novels, via the edge of my desk where the “to review” pile occasionally falls over on to the typewriter and spills my pen pot across the floor and thus causes significant risks when stumbling blindly about the room at night too drunk to remember where my bed is or having just been jolted awake by the boy shrieking from the next room and running asleep into walls and doors, to the back half of my giant Ikea bookcase where novels that have been read and have caused my self-esteem to shatter on the diamond-hard edges of someone else’s talent currently reside, gathering dust and moisture until hitting the mildew tipping point and becoming physically dangerous in their own right. This awesome crew consists mainly of Will Self, Jo…

Hannah Green And Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

I was sold this book by Simon at the Big Green Bookshop in return for the money it cost plus a small donation towards operating costs and postage. 

In truth, I'd forgotten it was on its way, and it was a fucking lovely surprise when it arrived at my desk in work, my letterbox at the time being a tad short on width and breadth and unlikely to admit a hardback plus packaging. I recall very much enjoying reading Michael Marshall Smith, and I also enjoyed re-reading him, recently, and I documented this here, here and here. This was a book for which I hadn't realised I'd been waiting for a long time. 

However, had I not the history and warm, cosy feelings safely tucked up in the nostalgia bank, I would probably not have picked this up, going solely on the cover. There's a clock, the silhouette of a small girl, and leaves, along with a colour contrast and meandering font which brought to mind something cringe-worthily reminiscent of Alexander McCall-Smith*, or the covers of Sc…