Monday, August 27, 2018


Henry Pulling , a retired bank manager in his mid 50's meets his aunt at his mothers funeral.  From this meeting Henry travels the globe with his Aunt.  His first adventure is when his mothers ashes are swapped out for weed by his Aunt's  much younger lover to hide it from the police, the ashes go down the drain and Henry ends up being interrogated by the law.

Next there is currency smuggling in  Europe, followed by gold smuggling.  We travel on the Orient Express and by air.  As the novel progresses it becomes obvious that Henry's Aunt is really his mother and that her sister raised Henry as the Aunt was a working girl, performer and petty crook.

This is my favourite of the Greene's that I've read.  It doesn't get a mention with his "serious" works but this is a great story of how you only get one crack at this life so don't waste your time because it'll be gone before you know it.

Great fun and the ending is spot on, Henry might have started late in living his life but he is not going to waste anymore time on his flower garden.

As Rod Stewart says in The Killing of  Georgie: Parts I & II

Never wait or hesitate
Get in kid, before its too late
You may never get another chance
'Cos youth's a mask but it dont last
Live it long and live it fast

Monday, August 20, 2018


Vidal was a man of vast contradictions and enormous energy:  a brawler with aristocratic pretensions, an intellectual and a workhorse, a tireless sexual adventurer and genius.  His houses were grand, his feuds ( with Truman Capote, Bobby Kennedy and Norman Mailer ) were legendary, the scope of his friendships ( with Tennessee Williams, Paul Newman, John F. Kennedy, Princess Margaret ) unparalleled.

Firstly, the person who wrote this  cover blurb has not read this book.  Vidal meet Kennedy several time but there was no friendship and what relationship there was ended abruptly after Vidal got liquored up at the White House and failed to cover himself with glory.

This is a good entertainment, Pirini was a friend of Vidal's for 30 plus years but its not a hagiography. He is well aware of Vidal's short comings and doesn't shy away from apportioning blame where it is deserved.

Vidal did know 'everyone' he lived a life where through his family and his talent he mingled with politicians the theater and movies from his teens up until his death aged 86.

He was a brilliant essayist, his collection  "United States 1952 -1992 is stunning.  Personally I have trouble reading his fiction, some is very clever, too clever and can be overly 'wordy'.

This book precis's his novels and memoirs with Vidal's reactions attached.  His reaction to poor reviews was legendary.  He never forgot a bad review and was notoriously thin skinned about criticism.  Narcissistic to the core bad reviews were a result of poor critics  never his writing.

He lived with Howard Austen for over 50 years ,it was hardly an exclusive relationship but the depth of feelings was apparent after Howard pre-deceased him and he seemed to give up on life, trying desperately to drink himself to death.

Like many who have lived a life in the spotlight Vidal did not handle it well when he slipped from the spot light, he stilled lectured but his fame petered out.  His alcoholism no doubt helped with this as he became less reliable and tended to ramble.

But reading this no matter how thinned skinned, how nasty, how vain he could be, his dedication to hard work could not be faulted.  Tired or hungover he religiously wrote, always planning something, a book, a play, a screen play or review.

He was a fascinating individual, unfortunately it doesn't look like he kept a diary.  It would be explosive.

This is a good biography, it flows, its honest and not tedious, tedious is bad.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Schoolboys are disappearing all over Aberyswyth and nobody knows why.  Louie Knight, the towns private investigator, soon realises that it is going to take more than a double ripple from Saspan, the philosopher-cum-ice-cream seller to help find these boys and whether or not Lovespoon the Welsh teacher, Grand Wizard of the Druids and controller of the town, is more than just a sinister bully.  And just who was Gwenno Guevara?

The first thing you realise when starting this book is that all belief that this is a run of the mill murder mystery must be suspended.  It set in what is loosely a parallel universe, a universe where Wales has many returned veterans from the 'Welsh Vietnam' roaming the country side.  The 'Welsh Vietnam' refers to Wales going to war against Patagonia.

Once you accept that this world is slightly out of kilter you can settle into a very funny mystery with great characters and an outlandish plot. I think of it as 'C' grade Douglas Adams which is not meant in a derogatory fashion, its just there's Douglas Adams and then everyone else goes to grade 'C' regards imagination.

Our hero of course falls hard for the star of the local cabaret and then has numerous run ins with the local gangsters.

All this, plus a fantastic title, with great cover art work and a diabolic scientific genius makes this something completely different and a really fun experience. 

Plus I can pronounce Aberystwyth like a native.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

SALVATION OF A SAINT - Keigo Higashino

When a man is discovered dead by poisoning in is empty home, his beautiful wife, Ayane, immediately falls under suspicion.  All the clues to her being the logical suspect, but how could she have committed the crime when she was hundreds of miles away?

This is a straight mystery with a limited cast.  The method of murder is very clever albeit with a major cheat that stops the reader figuring out the sequence of events.

My only complaint is that the writing is flat.  This may be my usual complaint about translations, people do not talk like this in real life, the conversations are too grammatically perfect.

The star of the story is the physics professor Yukawa who assists the police,he has at least has a  sense of humour and is not as 'flat' as the detectives.

Would go again with this author just to see if things liven up a bit.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

SELF'S DECEPTION - Bernard Schlink

When a young woman goes missing in Berlin, her father, an over bearing local official, demands that private Investigator Gerhard Self track her down.  But Sweet Afron-smoking, armchair- philosopher Self requires some gentle persuasion if he is to take on the case.   In this instance, the persuasion arrives in the form of 5,000 marks in cash, delivered in an unmarked brown envelope, enclosed with a photograph of the missing girl; however, Self becomes suspicious when it seems there may be more for him to uncover than just the location of the officials daughter..... Secret after secret is unearthed.

This is  set in the early 1990's in Germany  involving terrorists and a major government cover up.  Our hero is a 68 year old ex prosecutor who ambles along, nothing dearing do but asking questions and putting things together.

Not a bad story but like lots of translations I am always left with the feeling I'm missing some subtleties  but this worth a read and I'll read any others I come across.