Saturday, July 31, 2010


The author was embedded with US Battalion 2-16 in Iraq during a 15 month tour in 2007and early 2008.

It tells the story at a platoon level of the soldiers of this battalion as they attempt to secure a really crappy part of Baghdad.

All the tales come from the soldier level rather than from command so we get all the moans and fears that are the soldiers lot.

It is very well written and very moving. During their tour the 2-16 loose 14 members and many more suffering horrendous wounds.

For me what stops this being great war reportage is that the author does not write of the humour that will have existed. It might be terribly black humour that surfaced, which always does when ever humans are put in intolerable situations, but there is none in this book at all.

This lack of humour is a shame because it will have existed,it always does no matter how bad things get.

Good reportage , a good read, but could have been great book if the negative wasn't accentuated so much.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE LAST GOOD KISS - James Crumley

This starts with private eye C W Sughrue tracking down a writer out on a bender and leads into the search for a girl missing in San Francisco for 10 years.

Assisting Sughrue is the alcoholic bulldog 'Fireball' and the 'writer' he has managed to track down.

This story takes us through the really seedy west coast of the USA and it is without a doubt Crumley's masterpiece.

This book would be one of the five best hard boiled detective novels ever written.

I am a huge fan of Crumley's but it is not an exaggeration on my behalf to describe it as brilliant,this is not hyperbole simply the truth.

Rolling Stone magazine says " The Last Good Kiss" ..the last good mystery.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Finally after nearly fifty years I have read this book of which I have seen several movie versions.

It is just great fun from start to finish. The characters are one dimensional but that does not detract from the adventures Fogg and his companions have on their trip around the world.

As I am probably one of the last people on the planet to read this it won't be a plot spoiler to say that the bet was won and the enterprise was successful.

Of all the movie versions made, the one with David Niven is the most enjoyable but even then the script writers had to meddle with the story. The story its self requires no meddling and should have been able to be transposed from the book to the screen, but no they had to try and tweek it a bit , never mind, if you haven't read this do, its great.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Unfortunately, I believe this is the last collection of Chandlers available.

This collection starts with an essay published in 1950 where he argues the virtues of the crime novel as literature and does a very good job . This essay was originally published in The Atlantic magazine.

After the essay there are eight short stories all originally published in the "pulps'. None feature Marlowe but the same moral code is apparent throughout.

There is one delightful story " Pearls are a Nuisance' which I think is a genuine hat tip to Dashiell Hammett and The Thin Man.

This collection was published while Chandler was still alive and are the best of the best as far as his short stories go.

He is an exceptional writer and its a real shame there are no more stories to discover.


I hate rats, and rats are my abiding memory of this travel book written by Greene about his travels in Liberia in 1935.

He and his cousin set out to travel across most of the country accompanied by native bearers at a time when there were few maps of the country at all, and none of the interior.

The group travelled from village to village and this is where the rats come into the story. At night when lying in his hammock and the lamps were doused the "rats teemed " down the walls eating everything in sight. What the rats didn't eat the cockroaches did. Greene managed to sleep most nights only due to a vast consumption of whiskey, his supply of which must have taken several natives to carry.

This is a real travel book, not written by some TV personality flown into a location for the day and then out at night to his hotel.

Nothing seems to have changed in Africa either, the europeans exploited the natives, the natives exploited the other natives who exploited anything that was left.

A great travel book with some autobiographical insight from Greene concerning his life in Britain as well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

WOLF HALL - Hillary Mantel

Once upon a time I swore that I would never again read a Mann Booker winner,and I have stuck to this for several years until two weeks ago when a friend mentioned that her book club was about to attack the 700 pages of Wolf Hall.

So, armed with this information I spoke with two book sellers I know and they both said this was a fantastic book and I should get into it. So I did.

I read the entire thing concerning Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More, Henry the Eight and Anne Boleyn and the split from Rome.

This book is really well written and the information concerning the history around the main characters is fascinating, but for me it started to drag after the first one hundred pages.

The positives for me were, as above, the historical facts of the characters, the fact that there was not one tedious description of the english countryside or any detail concerning the attire of the characters.

There are some marvellous lines - I have never read of a " river creeping".

The biggest negative was that I had to keep re-reading paragraphs because Mantel keeps referring to "he" and I kept loosing whether "he" was Cromwell, More or other characters.

This is a great novel and probably deserves the "Booker" but it just wasn't for me, not because it was no good rather I just didn't like it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Here we have another four novellas from one of the masters of the crime story.

The four stories all have Philip Marlowe on board helping the helpless and not getting much thanks for it.

The book title - Trouble is my Business- is the pick of the tales included here where all is not as it seems, which is usually the way.

As per all Marlowe stories all concerned drink gallons of whiskey and smoke for the Olympics as we see the seedy side of Los Angeles.

Highly recommended for fans and anyone who like a great crime story.