Thursday, June 28, 2012

TIME FOR A TIGER - Anthony Burgess

This the first novel by Burgess written after he had been a school teacher in Malaya and he thought he was soon to be dead  of a brain tumour - he was writing to leave some money for his wife.

It has a wide selection of characters, English school teachers, alcoholic policemen, muslim policemen and Indians.  The novel is about how complex a country Malaya was after WWII when the communists were beginning their infiltration.  This is best exemplified in the novel where there is a notice in bar written in four different languages asking patrons not to spit on the floor.

It has humour, usually due to the exaggerated arrogance of the British and equally sad due to the fact that these 'tin pot 'generals are all rather pathetic.

I enjoyed it much more than Orwells's "Burmese Days" similar themes ,but George can be very intense at times.

If you were reading this as an editor in 1956 you would say that young Burgess has a future as a novelist. (1956)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

WINTER'S BONE - Daniel Woodrell

A couple of times a year, if I'm really lucky I find a book that's extraordinary and 'Winter's Bone' is one, its an amazing book.

Set in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, 16 year old Ree Dolly goes looking for her father.  She lives in a area where everyone knows how to shoot  and 'most families are cooking up crank on the back porch'.

She finds out that asking questions is dangerous for your health.

The writing draws you in and makes it un-put downable.

It's a short read ,193 pages, its dark  and  tells a tale of people who have no time for authority and where a slight can go unforgiven for generations.

It has been made in to a movie and I am dreading how a screenplay will butcher this wonderful writing. (2006)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

VANILLA RIDE - Joe R. Lansdale

What's truly remarkable here is that Lansdale has been able write a comic without any pictures and that comment is a compliment.

Hap and Leonard are friends, Hap is white and heterosexual, Leonard is black and homosexual.

There is no back story, I presume something must have been explained about them in early episodes but here there is nothing except they kill boat loads of people every time they step out side their respective dwellings.

Hap and Leonard go and rescue a friends granddaughter from some penny drug dealers- at which they succeed at with much slaughter.  The only trouble is these guys worked for the 'Dixie mafia' and they then keep sending car loads of goons to enact revenge.  This results in an absolutely massive body count, invasions of countries have been completed with less death.

Finally the ultimate ' pro hitter' is sent- Vanilla Ride.

As stated, a comic book, great fun, lots of laughs perhaps too many - the good 'ole boy wise cracking does get a wee bit tiresome as it is constant but that's being really picky, an awesome wet day relaxing read.


Detective Miller is called into investigate a series of murders where the victims suffer a sever beating and are then killed.

As the investigation progresses he and his team discover that none of the victims exist.  He then sets out to find the common link.

The story becomes very political, very political actually, but there is enough action to keep the pages turning, all 500 of them.

Lots of killing, lots of intrigue, a tad far fetched in that the police aren't really as stupid as they are made to appear here but if they were any sharper we would have no story.

A good read, not brilliant but enjoyable with a good twist in the tail.


DEAD LIKE YOU - Peter James

Two series of violent rapes separated by a decade are too co-incidental for Superintendent Grace to ignore, this coupled with a young woman who he believes has been murdered by the rapist set the scene for this murder mystery that's not too bad, but it needs editing, it's way to long.

It's a bit graphic regarding the raping of the victims, I must be getting old but too much detail adds bugger all to the plot.

James can write and his plot is  about 80%, maybe we could have done without a couple of the red herrings as its fairly evident whose the killer is about half way though but like I say the writings good so I wanted to get to the end where there is a surprise so the story doesn't just fade away.

But again too long, the plot can't justify 600 pages.

This series is one I've just found and  I'll read more of them.

THE RISING - Brian McGilloway

The latest Inspector Devlin, ho hum, a local drug dealer is found burnt to death in a barn and it appears the work of local vigilantes.

The teenage son of his ex-partner goes missing at the same time and then more bodies start turning up, all related to drug dealing.

This is very ordinary, Devlin isn't as doltish as he's been in earlier books but I still think he's run his race and perhaps should be retired. 

The whole thing doesnt work, just too predictable and dull.


Another nice wee tale of murder and humour set in the Scottish Highlands

Constable Hamish McBeth  is all set to go to the alter when bodies start turning up, the main one being a rather nasty old lady who has moved into a local mansion.

By putting in his usual degree of hard work so he can maintain his lazy life style McBeth sets out to solve the mystery.

Packed with the usual laughs , another enjoyable read from Beaton.

Its not high literature but really enjoyable.

Monday, June 18, 2012

CAPONE - John Kobler

This is a dossier on Chicago gangsters from the late 1920's until Capone's death.

It is full of fascinating information, the most amazing being the wealth that Capone accumulated through being the gangster's gangster.  It was costing him 30 million a year just to buy off the police and judiciary , but it was money well spent as he was never touched.

Another interesting point was he was never  in the Mafia, he was just a  force of nature all on his own.  He worked with the mafia but they came to him as he was the power in Chicago.

The book has details obtained from the 'horses mouth' as it were, the book was published in 1971 so the author had the opportunity to speak with many who were in the rackets at the time the book is set.

Two things were re-iterated to me at the end of the book - prohibition was the most outrageously stupid piece of legislation passed any where at anytime by any legislature, no argument, and men will do anything for money, you can have all the standards and laws in the world but when money is on offer men will grab it with both hands.

The best book I've read on organised crime . (1971)

GOING TO THE DOGS - Dan Kavanagh

Another subtle little gem from Kavanagh ( Julian Barnes).

Self employed private eye Duffy gets a job at a country manor working for a friend who has a colourful past. It starts out with his just having to check the alarm system but shenanigans ensue and it gets more serious.

Its a tale of drugs and deceit told with lots of humour and  nothing overly violent.

A nice little country manor mystery peopled by lots of very strange hanger on's. Good fun.  (1987)

Sunday, June 17, 2012


The premise of this is that Britain has declined culturally and morally etc with the decline in standard of the Bond books from the beginning the series until its end.

The idea is pretty thin, but then many of these cultural history's tend to be, i.e having a basic idea and then the author is off on his hobby horse and mentions his premise every couple of chapters to justify it.

This is awful, truly awful, 291 pages of  left wing carping by the author .  Even for lefty writing this is dreadful.


" The Royal Marines monument in the Mall in London stands in for many others in its casual savagery, with its bronze relief of the 1900 attack on Tientsin, showing a seemingly helpless Chinese being run through with a bayonet while most of his colleagues flee in a cowardly way. Clearly there is something immensely violent and callous about the British Government..........."

Utter rubbish, no bibliography, nothing, just undergraduate ,chip on the shoulder, dross.

This is awful, on Amazon I'll give it one star ,only because that's as low as you can go.

And as for Bond, he rarely gets a mention, just thrown in to justify the title. 

This is that bad that the Russians would have had second thoughts about it being read at the height of the Cold War - it is the sort of anti -west propaganda they loved but they would have had second thoughts about exposing young minds to this. (Published 2006)