Sunday, December 30, 2018

THE EVE OF SAINT VENUS - Anthony Burgess

At the rambling Gothic mansion of Sir Benjamin Drayton, the preparations are in full swing for his only daughter's marriage.  The cake is ready for cutting; the champagne aches to be uncorked; the baronet is ready to start the toasts.  But corruption lurks in the wings, and plans are afoot to stop the marriage from ever taking place.

Until, that is, a little intervention from Venus herself adds divine meddling to mortal schemes.

This was originally written as a libretto for an opera Burgess planned, he then decided that it was miles too long for an opera and decided that it would be a good play, but not considering himself a playwright he refashioned the story as a novella and this is what we have here.

The story is set in a 24 hour period with the looming marriage and all the pressures that go with it.  Sir Benjamin is the only character who doesn't get too exercised but the whole thing, regularly consuming bottles of wine and staying very relaxed and the source of constant laughs.

Good fun, the regular Burgess themes are here, religion and his loathing of homosexuality.  His issue with homosexuality is strange as his main character in Earthly Powers  (his best book) is homosexual, reading him I often wonder if he "doth protest too much".  Anyway this little book is fun, 125 pages, fills in an afternoon nicely.

Friday, December 28, 2018


In the early 1960's Steinbeck took off with his 10 year old poodle for a trip about the United States.  He says he covered 10,000 miles and saw 32 states.

Weather this is completely true or not affects the book not at all.  We are only told about 4 or 5 states  but this is wonderfully entertaining.  Steinbeck seems to be a bit unfashionable  with some who write tweets as there main contribution to literature but his easy conversational style sucks you in and takes you for a very pleasant ride.

The only negative of this travelogue/ novel is that he finishes in the South where racism is alive and kicking and so the book ended on a sad note with Steinbeck looking at the way some humans treat other humans.

A great writer, a very good book.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

JOSEPH ANTON - Salman Rushdie

On February 14, 1989, Valentines Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been 'sentenced to death' by the Ayatollah Khomenini, a voice reaching across the world from Iran to kill him in his own country.  For the first time he heard the word "fatwa".  His crime?: To have written a novel called 'The Satanic Verses", which was accused of being 'against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran.

So begins the extraordinary, often harrowing story- filled to with surreal and funny moments- of how a writer was forced underground, moved from house to house, an armed police team protection team living with him at all times for more than nine years.  He was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by.  He thought of writers he loved and combinations of their names, then it came to him:  Conrad and Chekov- Joseph Anton.  He became "Joe".

This is a great read, very honest.  We read of two divorces, several break ups, births and raising of children on top of the constant pressure of living in secret.

Although the British Government supplied protection they were not always supportive.  In fact they were incredibly weak when it came to condemning  Iran.  There were airlines who would not fly him and then there were writers who blamed him for his situation, particularly John Le Carre, very particularly John Le Carre.  There were MP's who were happy to see him dead because of there cuddling up to adherents of a stone age religion.

There were many writers who supported him 100 %, supplying him with houses, publicly speaking out on his behalf, Harold Pinter and wife and Bill Buford are the stand outs

A fascinating read, much too much to explain in this little bit


A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods.  Worse still- both his family and the police- is that the body was in an area that had already been searched.

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case.  There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now- after a decade without answers- it's time for the truth.

This isn't one of the best in the series.  It's almost time for it to be the "Clarke"series.  The Clarke character is strong enough to carry a book on its own.  In this story, Clarke has the interesting crime to deal with while Rebus potters along on another investigation who feeds bits of information to Clarke's investigation.

For me the story is cluttered with too many characters, there's Cafferty of course and for some reason Rankin continues to employ the 'Malcolm Fox" character who adds nothing to any story he's been in.

My suggestion is that Rebus is time shifted back to when he was a working copper rather than the retired one who has populated the last few books.

This is one of the great series, Rebus, a great character but something needs to be done.  This formula of two investigation in a book is old already.


Storm clouds loom over Europe. Treason is afoot in the highest social circles.  The very security of the nation is in peril.  Jeeves, it transpires, has long been an agent of British Intelligence, but now His Majesty's Government must turn to the one man who can help... Bertie Wooster.

Yes I can confirm that this is every bit as bad as the above blurb states.  Bertie is shown here as someone who can reason and make decisions, it just doesn't work.

There are a couple of smiles but thank goodness there are 95 Wodehouse's to read & re-read. 

The Wodehouse estate is doing no one any favours by licensing this stuff

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


This is the last collection of articles that have been mined since Eco's death in 2016.   This collection is taken from his regular column in l'Espresso magazine.

There are 116 column's and they cover pretty much everything, daily life, cell phones, education, religion and philosophy, media, conspiracies, books and stupidity.

They are all short and for someone with a brain the size of the writer very accessible.

These are an absolute joy to read and can be recommended as the perfect summer beach book.

Spend the money and buy this book.