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The Turquoise Lament by John D. MacDonald

Wait, which chickadee is she again?
To give John D. MacDonald his due, his entertaining and quixotic detective fictions have certainly kept my attention for longer than more challenging and potentially rewarding works from chaps like David Foster Wallace and John Barth, for whom I need to build up a tolerance in the intervals between books which is depleted during the reading so that I might have the courage to finish them in a less than diabolically lengthy period and so that their influence on my own writing has the opportunity to wane and diminish. I am a terrible, terrible mimic of other peoples' styles. MacDonald provides a salve to a disquieted mind, something chewy but not strongly flavoured - no, sorry that's not quite accurate. Travis McGee has a very distinct flavour, a cherrywood smoked, Plymouth ginned, sun lotioned and salt tanged flavour. What is missing is the active involvement of the reader, making it all so much fun and fluff, pretty pictures with primary colours. It's easy just to read and to not think. 

It's probably the same reason I like a beer every couple of minutes, from time to time. Thinking is HARD.

So tilting at this particular windmill is particularly redundant. Yes, as a main character Travis is flawed; he's knowingly sexist, requires some one-on-one sessions with the diversity trainers at Bahia Mar, and could stop vacillating between perceived nobility and gratuitous violence for five minutes without dying of the shame. The novels are showing their age, now that we're into an age of spying from the comfort of one's smart phone, with some old-fashioned phone-book sleuthing and whatnot, and frankly, all of the female characters, apart from the one with the woman who was... no, sorry I was mistaken, they all really blend into one vacuous and offensive stereotype, a damsel in need of rescuing, despite not wanting to and exercising her own cute little feet stamping independence before Trav either slugs 'er or beds 'er. But they're not all bad, or rather, they're all not bad. That's a feat in and of itself quite remarkable, a consistency which is hard to achieve and difficult to deride. The fact that I can't for the life of me remember the who what where why of this one* is neither here nor there. Trav's flaws provide friction, drama, and plot devices. His blind spots are where the baddies live, and if he doesn't get knocked out at least once a novel then, frankly, what's the point? His hirsute side-kick Meyer, the supposed brains of the operation, provides a nice little counterpoint to hulking brutality and low cunning, and there are numerous titillating if nauseating moments of amorousness. All in all, this is pulp at it's least worst, and if you can't do anything else with your life but do the reading without the thinking, this would certainly kill some of that endless time of yours.

*No, wait, it's all coming back to me. There was a boat, a bad guy, a girl, and - sorry, I could actually be talking about any single one of the series. I tried, really I did.

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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 …

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…

Augustus Carp, Esq., By Himself: Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man, by Henry Howarth Bashford

So it goes that, for one reason or other, I was asked recently* to recommend a list of classic British comic novels that one might take on holibobs, to be read at the pool, on the beach, or in this case at a sprawling, crumbling ancestral seat in the heart of Ireland during a month-long fishing expedition.
Unfortunately, every suggestion I made was knocked back, either for reasons of personal (bad) taste or because it had already been read. I thought long and hard** and serendipitously, most likely due to having read this post from the most excellent Neglected Booksblog, but equally likely due to a ringing endorsement from Anthony Burgess at some point or other, I came upon Augustus Carp Esq, a book I noticed I had on my e-reader, although how and why it was there is anybody’s guess.
Penned by a notable English physician, one which any blog of note would not neglect to mention once was physician to a contemporaneous English King (George the something?), it is ill-in-keeping with any of …

The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills

It’s hard to say, when asked as I was recently at a meeting of local writers (who you can follow on Twitter if you wish), who might be my favourite author. If you look at my book shelves, you might see groupings of books by modern authors such as (WARNING - gratuitous alphabetical roll-call):
Paul Auster, John Barth, Richard Brautigan, Thomas Bernhard, Jim Bob, T.C. Boyle, Karel Čapek, Jonathan Carroll, Stephen Donaldson, Glen Duncan, Tibor Fischer, Peter Høeg, Michel Houellebeq, Bohumil Hrabal, Ismail Kadare, Andrey Kurkov, John D McDonald, Harry Mullisch, Haruki Murakami, Cees Nooteboom, Victor Pelevin, Thomas Pynchon, Jon Ronson, and Kurt Vonnegut (my usual go-to favourite when I don’t have the energy to explain).
In addition, you might just spot every book ever published by one William Woodard "Will" Self (minus Sore Sites which mysteriously vanished while moving house a few years back). Whilst a fan, and also willing to admit experiencing an embarrassing and sometimes di…