Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Its been 4 years since I've read this and its still in my opinion the second best of the Bond books. Goldfinger is far and away the best but this is a good entertainment.

If you've read this book you'll know that the film adaptation is taken straight from it and makes the film my favourite in the series.

This isn't literature but pure escapism perfect for a flight, and there's nothing wrong with pure escapism at anytime.

I love most of the Bond books which these days tend to suffer from tiresome revisionism by tiresome individuals who want everything and everyone to agree to their tiresome world view.  But as I don't have anytime for tiresome people I will continue to enjoy these stories again and again.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Leys' Physical Training College was famous for its excellent discipline, and Miss Lucy Pym was pleased and flattered to be invited to give a psychology lecture there.  But she had to admit that the health and vibrant beauty of the students made her feel just a little inadequate.

Then there was a nasty accident.....

Another high quality mystery from Josephine Tey published in 1946. Her humour and ear for conversation is outstanding and make this is very pleasant read.

This isn't a story of multiple corpses laying about the country house but a tale of friendship taken to the nth degree.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


In 1953, acclaimed travel essayist Jan Morris was in a singular place: scaling the previously-unclimbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay and the other members of what would become one of history's most celebrated mountaineering expeditions.

From the new 1999 Introduction by the author:

The book , which I wrote in the 1950's, needs to be read with a strong dose of historical sympathy, for everything has changed since then.  I have changed myself- I was living and working as James Morris in those days- but Britain and the world have changed hardly less. Few such moments             (Climbing Everest) now could be accepted around the globe with such generous and uncomplicated pleasure.

The book gets its title from the fact that the announcement of the successful climb reached London on the Queens coronation day in 1953.

The narrative relates more to the logistics of keeping dispatches and announcement in regards to the expedition secret from newspaper rivals than the technical aspects of the climb, although Morris went over 20,000 feet. Dispatches to London were taken from Everest  by runners who managed to get them to the nearest radio generally within 8 days.

To enable the announcement of the expeditions success to reach London on coronation day the runners made it in about 6 days helped by a large wage increase.

A great story of great daring- there were no "safe rooms" if someone said something nasty in these days- it was 'iron men, wooden ships" stuff.

Morris has never written a bad paragraph and all the writing in this as usual,is beautifully understated; a is a wonderful read.

Monday, August 14, 2017

IF THIS IS A MAN - Primo Levi

It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944, that is, after the German government had decided, owing to the growing scarcity of labour, to lengthen the average life span of the prisoners destined for elimination; it conceded noticeable improvements in the camp routine and temporarily suspended killings at the whim of individuals...............

It seems to me unnecessary to add that none of the facts are invented.

The above is from the authors preface.  This like the book itself is so understated its chilling.  The preface further states that he does not go into numbers to any great extent as him doing it would add nothing to to atrocities recounted many times.   The one set of numbers he does recount is there were approximately 640 humans in his train to Auschwitz, within 24 hours 500 of these humans no longer existed.

This book like ...Ivan Denisovich is about the will to survive for some humans.  Many did horrible things to enable their survival, Levi recounts some of these events stating what these people did, he admires them in a way but does not ever wish to see these people again.

This was a death camp, the ever present view of the chimneys smoking was a constant reminder what eventually awaited them all.  The "selections", when a new shipment of humans was due, camp authorities went through the barracks and selected 7% of the camp population, generally because they were failing physically sometimes just on a whim for death to make room.  This was 7% of 12,000 humans; twenty four hours later this 7% no longer existed.

Again, this terror is recounted in such an understated way it makes it doubly chilling.

This is one of those books like Denisovich that should be required reading in schools.  It was initially published in 1947 but did not find an audience until the early 50's.  Even at the time of original publication the denial machine was attempting to re-write events, sadly the denial machine is still trying to deny the monstrosity that was Nazi Germany.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

HIGHLAND FLING - Nancy Mitford

When the "Bright Young Things" meet the "Old Regime" on a Scottish grouse Moor, the real sport begins...

Jane Dacre felt that Scotland was a thoroughly respectable place- but that was before she encountered Albert Gates at Dalloch Castle.  Though of impeccable family, Albert is a surrealist painter and greatly given to outrageous pranks.

This is Mitford's first novel which was published in 1931.

Its very funny in parts with some acute observations in others.  She writes a couple of pages regarding why the men who fought in WWI should not be mocked for their post war attitudes, this was after one of the young people got a bit smart trying to impress the party. Poignant is the word to describe what she has written.

It is a first book and its  disjointed, Jane our hero doesn't even make an appearance until chapter five. However, this was the start of a learning curve which resulted in "Love in a Cold Climate" , one of the funniest books I've ever read.

Worth the effort, and again I do love this between the wars period.    It is said today many young people are layabout but if you came from money in the times of this book you really had to do nothing for ever.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, a principled heroine caught between two worlds: one 'mercenary and ambitious'  the other' entirely deficient in self knowledge, generosity and humility.'

Raised since the age of nine at Mansfield Park, the grand home of her uncle  Sit Thomas Bertram and his family, Fanny quickly become vital to the happiness of the house-hold.  But when she and her four cousins- Ton, maria, Julia and Edmund- reach the age of marriage, Fanny is forced to confront the artifice and insincerity of her upbringing as she wards off a serious rival.

I don't know whether I enjoyed this or not, there is amazing detail of family life as there has to be as the book is almost a one scene setting.  I suppose life was like this at the time . There were very few entertainment options, only the wealthy could travel even the shortest distance's, so the smallest things took on importance that would not even be noticed in our enlightened times.

There is humour throughout this book, little asides by Austen that are clearly digs at attitudes of the times.

Our hero Fanny Price has nasty things happen to her, but Austen never goes full Dickensian and has her sent off to a gulag in Siberia by her nasty aunt Mrs Norris.  Its more Mrs Norris is an old bitch and life moves around her.

So, the story is a bit too static for me and it is a formula tale, so the outcome is fairly obvious but I can see why Austen has survived, reading the book time slips away which for me is the sign of quality.

The thing that really disturbs me is this cousins marrying.  This practice may explain a lot of the undershot jaws you see these days.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

THE FOUR JUST MEN - Edgar Wallace

Manfred, Gonsalez, Poiccart and Thery.

Four men wanted by the police throughout the world- four men dedicated to prevent injustice, and to punish those whom justice could not touch.

Originally published in 1905 this is a short 150 page book detailing the plan to kill a British politician who is to introduce a bill into Parliament which would cause the death of many.

The whole thing is a set up for a locked room murder. Its short, two decent baths sees it read and its fun.  The murder weapon is very subtle and the clues are there if you pay attention.  A decent Sunday diversion.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


The poison was cyanide, slipped into the sacred wine of ecstasy just before it was presented to Miss Cara Quayne at the House of the Sacred Flame.

This is a very ordinary detective story. It is set almost entirely in a  single room.

For this story Marsh has given Alleyn, her detective, a "Watson" in the form of a journalist who continually feeds Alleyn questions like "How in the world did you discover this?' which gives Alleyn the excuse to give an explanation which is the only way of progressing the story.

When the killer is unmasked we find the entire lead up has nothing to do with the solution. Disappointing, one of Marsh's weaker efforts.