Sunday, October 30, 2016

DON QUIXOTE - Miguel De Cervantes

I bought this book on the 31st of March 2004, I know this because at the time I was writing the purchase date inside the book, anyway, it has sat in the pile for 12 years until last week.

Last week I picked it up, started it and put it down rarely, mainly for sleep and work.  This is an absolute joy to read, I had heard and read that it was amusing, I didn't know that large parts are absolutely hilarious.

There are actually two books, Part One was published in 1605 with Part Two published in 1615.

The story revolves around Alonso Quixano who after reading many books on Knights and chivalry goes insane, thinks he's a Knight errant  ( a Knight who travels widely in search of adventures) and heads out looking for adventures,taking along as his squire ,the wise dolt Sancho Panza.

Part One is pure farce with many incidents, the best known is with his fighting the Giants (windmills in a field).  He also witnesses two armies fighting for their lives ( mobs of sheep moving across the plain) with many many similar adventures.  Panza knows his master is insane but gets caught up in the madness as he has been promised " spoils" from the adventures.

Part Two is not quite as humorous and dips into tragedy as many friends and family know that Quixote is the "drunken uncle" at Christmas, a figure of sadness rather than one for constant ridicule.

Although Quixote is certifiable he speaks forthrightly to many he meets on his travels, these speeches make sense to the reader and other characters but at the back of it , he' mad and needs help, which is forth coming eventually.

This is spoken of as the first modern novel, the novel from which all forms of novels written since take in part.  Reading the book  you can see this.  There are novels within the novel, we have Cervantes as a mere medium for the real author of the book supposedly.  Its an amazing work, the original of all that's come since.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Galahad Threepwood writes his memoirs, these memoirs will evidently cause embarrassment to to many of Britain's aristocracy, recounting as they do youthful escapades. Some people in his family and circle want publication, while others will do anything to prevent publication

So, once again we enter Wodehouse's world at Blandings Castle where a cast of characters, many who are very dim, many who are very cunning and all of whom are very funny attempt to get their own way.

We have the usual misunderstandings and machinations that are usual in Wodehouse's writings; writings which are impossible to criticise because they are such a delight to read.

Of course the Empress of Blandings plays a pivotal part.

Friday, October 21, 2016


This one of the "Matthew Hope" series written by McBain with Hope being a Florida lawyer.

Hope is hired to prove that Ralph Parrish didn't murder his brother.  He is also dealing with surveillance on his business partners  wife who appears to be having an affair.

This book is muddled, way to coincidental even for a crime novel and its tedious, I only finished it as I was on the ferry and it was all I had to hand.  Everybody in the book is unlikable including star of the show.

If you're going to read McBain read his procedural's rather than this series.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


"What happens when the condemned man doesn't want to be proven innocent?'

Another great little murder mystery from Rex Stout featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.  This has the usual high quality interaction and humour between the combatants that all these tales have.
The Nero Wolfe mysteries are timeless, this was written sixty years ago, but you wouldn't know.

The pile of these I found at Jason Books for five dollars a piece is getting lower and lower and I'm going to have to look further a field to find more.  Finding these older mysteries is now difficult as we do not get new printings of these stories in New Zealand.  We would if they were cook books but alas.....

Friday, October 14, 2016


This is the fifth and last of the novels revolving around Richard Hannay, he of The 39 Steps fame and subsequent stories.

Some years earlier after a showdown in Africa he and his friend Lombard swear an oath to protect an associate's family.  Now many years later they are called upon to honour the oath.

The story travels from Africa to England to Scotland finally ending reaching its climax on a Scandinavian island.

This has great descriptive backgrounds to all the locations with much local colour.  The story itself is full of outlandish coincidences but you get that with the thriller genre, so you accept it and enjoy the story.

The book is of its time, meaning all the hero's are elites with the attitude and beliefs that were prevalent in 1936.  This could be off putting to the young progressives who may pick this up but if you look past it you will have several hours of enjoyment.

A good read in the "stiff upper lip " tradition.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


This is a "swashbuckling adventure set in the kaganate of Khazaria (now south west Russia ) around AD 950.

The story centers on two world-traveling Jewish bandits who style themselves with the euphemism "gentlemen of the road".  Amram is a hulking Abyssinian who is equally proficient with an axe as a game of shatranj:  he is haunted by the disappearance of his daughter many years ago. His companion is Zelikman, a Frankish physician who uses an over sized bloodletting lancet as a rapier.  Zeliikman has a morbid personality due to the trauma of watching his family slaughtered in an anti Jewish pogrom.  ( Wiki)

The two become involved in trying to restore a " displaced prince " to his throne.

I can see what Chabon is trying to do here, write an adventure like Ivanhoe but it didn't capture my imagination.  It was originally published in episodes and perhaps suffers from a lack of continuity because of this.

There are some great action sequences which are enjoyable and these are "swashbuckling" but in the end I found this hard work, nothing like Chabon's Sherlock Holmes story which I enjoyed recently.

The author has a a good body of work so I'd recommend everything prior to this.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Body parts start turning up in the 87th Precinct and the detectives have another murder to solve.

This has the usual high quality banter from the characters of the "87th" that lift this series well above most "cops & robbers" mysteries.

This was written in 1960, this particular edition is a UK one out of 1962. I picked it up from a second hand store while driving from Dunedin to Timaru last week.  A bargain at $5 and in great condition for something that's 54 years old. I love the cover art, a lot of effort was made.