Saturday, February 27, 2010


Another week with too much work and not enough reading so I again opted for a collection which suited my short attention span.

And again I opted for a Tom Wolfe collection. This book is 21 previously published stories that originally appeared in magazines and were then published in previous collections.

So, this is really a " greatest hits " spanning the years from 64ish until 79ish.

It covers the New York art scene through to an excerpt from the "Right Stuff" on Chuck Yeager.

Some of the pieces are dated but the majority hold up and could have been written last week. Although that isn't correct because there is no one writing for magazines today that come with miles of Mr. Wolfe's ability.

This is a great over view of his articles and is recommended because , oh my, how this man can write, with apologies to John Hiatt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Having been a bit busy working lately I have not been able to read as much as I desire, but, I have still been able to do some.

And what I read this week was a collection of Dalziel and Pascoe stories. That's pronounced Dee-Ell, to the uninitiated. There are four stories here written between 1979 and 1994.

With any long running series maintaining the same characters, there can be a drop off every now and again of consistency. But with Reginald Hill even if the story is not that great you will always have brilliant dialogue. Andy Dalziel has the best lines in crime fiction, he's rude crude and clever. There is never any drop off in the consistency of his patter.

This collection has early stories through to one that is science fiction but always the verbals, they just make you laugh out loud.

When ever I read one of these novels I always see 'Fat Andy" as played by Warren Clarke in the television series.

Which of course brings me back to Anthony Burgess. Clark played the part of one of Alex's 'Droogs', Dim, in the film adaptation of 'A Clockwork Orange'. I may have mentioned this before but in case you missed it, Anthony Burgess was a genius.

Grab a Reginald Hill anytime, you will not regret it. Even his poorer stories are head and shoulders above anyone writing procedurals today.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

YOU'VE HAD YOUR TIME- Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess - Anthony Burgess

I was lucky enough to walk into Arty Bee's Second Hand Book Store in Wellington last week and found this 1st edition sitting waiting for me, excellent.

This second volume carries straight on from part one. He has been mistakenly diagnosed with a brain tumour and begins writing flat out to make some money for his wife. She, unfortunately is drinking herself to death something at which she manages to succeed 8 years later.

After the death of Lynne he marries his second wife Liana with whom he had a illegitimate child he did not know about from an earlier fling.

We have explained the circumstances of how his novels were written and his stage and musical work compiled.

This is all fascinating especially how he compiled his novels. Everyone of them are written on several levels - I believe to "get all" of what he was trying say you would have to have been as clever as he was.

Again there are great anecdotes regarding people he meets as his celebrity grows.

At a dinner with Groucho Marx:

......It was on this occasion that a lady was mentioned who had ten children because she loved her husband. "I love my cigar," Groucho said " but I take it out sometimes"

Burgess was elitist in his writing and his music, I don't think this is a bad thing because he was a genius but there is a sense of grievance in a lot of this writing when he doesn't get the recognition that he believes he deserves.

This is most apparent when he relates how novelist Shirley Cronan receives a million dollar advance for a novel, which is many hundreds of times more than anything he received in his life time.

There is also bitterness when Stanley Kubrick garners all the praise for " A Clockwork Orange". Burgess is forgotten as the author - and Kubrick does little to dispel peoples perception that the entire concept was his creation.

This volume still has major soul baring but nothing on the scale of volume one. This is explained by his second marriage making him happy, so we have none of the infidelities and behaviour that were quite striking in part one.

Again, highly recommended , get both volumes together and read as one would be my suggestion and then you could happily start again and be just as happy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

THE BIG KILL - Mickey Spillane

Mike Hammer P I , makes Chandlers 'Phillip Marlowe' look like a cream puff, and thats saying something. He's ruthless and kills or maims anyone in his way when he is on a mission.

Hammer is a completely one dimensional character out to solve the murder of a man he never met but goes after the killers because they left a little boy orphaned.

Along the way in this "noir" he gets all the 'chicks', because that is in the rules for loner private investigators, deals with intrusive policemen and at the end solves the problem leaving a trail of corpses behind him.

Its wonderful stuff, very violent for its time (1951) and very well written.

The author Mickey Spillane was criticised continually regarding his "low brow' novels during his lifetime, but developed a knack with spectacular self depreciating rejoinders to silence the critics.

"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage."

Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar... If the public likes you, you're good."

This criticism was and is unfair, he is a great writer and even though his main character is a cartoon, he can set a scene as well as Dashiell Hammett and this makes the scenes genuinely exciting.

Hammer has a completely black and white moral outlook on life and this keeps his life nice and simple.

If you can get hold of any Spillane's do, I believe you can import them or there will be a number about in second hand stores. He's great.