Thursday, September 29, 2016

CATCH 22 - Joseph Heller

The greatest anti-war novel ever written  and one of the greatest novels ever written.

I have read this three or four times and every time its new.  With every read I find something hilarious I previously missed or something tragic I see differently.

The novel follows the members of the 256th Squadron on a Mediterranean Island during the Second World War.  The main character John Yossarian is continually attempting to avoid combat because he doesn't want to die.  The supporting cast is many and varied.

For a proper synopsis of this Wiki. it, it is explained lucidly there, I can't do it any type of justice as there is too much to write about.

Fantastic is all I can say equally laugh out loud funny and desperately sad .

I will re-read many times yet.

Monday, September 19, 2016


This comprises two novella's featuring Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin.  Both tales are set during World War II with Archie serving as a Army Major.

Like the seventy odd other episodes in this series its note worthy for the quality of the verbal jousting. For me the mystery in each story is secondary to the banter.  If you like a very well written mystery give the Nero Wolfe series a look, they are ageless and always entertaining.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


"When the news breaks that Madeline Basset is engaged to Gussie Fink-Nottle Bertie's releif is intense.  But when Madeline attempts to turn Gussie vegetarian Bertie's instinct for self preservation sends him with the steadfast Jeeves on another up-roariously funny mission to Sir Watkyn Bassets's residence, Totleigh Towers.."

The world of Wodehouse where the worst things that can happen to you are a marriage engagement or a slight hangover.

This, like all Wodehouse is a delight, there is no mood that can't be improved by reading him.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

HOLY WARRIORS - Jonathan Phillips

This is a 355 page over view of the Crusades.  Its brief, and for the casual reader like myself perfect in length, explaining things briefly and factually.

What it gave to me more than anything is what misery religion has and continues to bring to our world.  The atrocities that have been committed in the name of gods can fill all the volumes in all the libraries. These atrocities have been committed for nothing other than a none existent 'thing' for which humans keep killing each other.

No side, 'christian ' or ' muslim ' is any worse or better than the other.

I was staggered by the volume of killing, hundreds of thousands, over and over.  Richard the Lionheart has the throats cut of 2700 prisoners in one day to "teach a lesson".

The only problem I can see with religion disappearing is humans would invent something equally as ludicrous to keep at each other.

The author is Professor of Crusading History at the University of London and as I stated he done a great job in making this readable, informative and light enough to be entertaining for the casual reader.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


This starts in Vienna in 1913 when a young English actor, Lysander Rief,  meets  "the intensely beautiful Hettie Bull. One year later, home in London, Lysander finds himself entangled in the dangerous web of wartime intelligence- a world of sex, scandal and spies that is slowly, steadily, permeating every corner of his life."

The above blurb makes this sound like a lurid penny dreadful but this is a well constructed thriller that keeps you guessing to the end.

Its intelligent and unpredictable. Recommended.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

THE COMEDIANS - Graham Greene

Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, a world in the grip of the corrupt 'Papa Doc' and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police.

Brown the hotelier, Smith the innocent American and Jones the confidence man - these are the 'comedians' of Graham Greene's title.  Hiding behind their actors' masks, they hesitate on the edge of life.  And, to begin with, they are men afraid of love, afraid of pain, afraid of fear itself..

I don't know how accurate the last paragraph of the cover blurb above is after finishing the book but it is a very enjoyable read.  There is lots of dark humour, similar to 'Travels With My Aunt" which I find rare in Greene's novels. Often,after finishing a Greene novel my initial thought is to indulge in a bit of self harm, he can be very dark.

The novel is set against the Haiti of the 1960's , a horrible, violent regime lead by Duvalier and then continued by his son.  Many, many thousands of people were murdered and disappeared.  Again,these regimes were tacitly supported by America because they were 'anti-communist'.

The ending is especially uplifting for our three 'comedians', who are not three of life's leading lights but whose characters make for a very good novel.