Black and White (2022) by Laura Annansingh & Anne Jones (2022)
An interesting series of reflections about lockdown and Covid. Two local authors produced this pamphlet whi h I bought at a local craft fair. I know one of the authors, so it was good to see her words in print at last.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes (2013)
Booker Prize winning novel, thoughtful, well-observed piece about interpreting an unseen past. Wordy, quick and structurally interesting without rising above the middlebrow. A deliberately monosyllabic protagonist allows the author to manipulate the story his way, but the character arc isn’t believable and ultimately the [non-]resolution is a despondent one. Worth a read, as it won’t take long.
I recently finished the first Moneypenny Diaries novel, and I must say it was a pretty good read. I wasn't excited by the idea when it was first announced sometime in the mid-noughties but I've heard mostly positive reviews over the years and now that I've read the first installment I'd agree with the positive consensus. It's a well thought out, detailed and intriguing tangent to the Fleming novels and I like that the first novel deals with the Cuban Missile Crisis - one of the seminal real world thrillers of the previous century. I guess I'll always prefer a more conventional Bond-centric novel, but the Moneypenny Diaries concept was certainly a much better one than I initially gave it credit for. I may well find myself reading further diaries in future. (I did also read the two short stories that are freely available on Kindle as well.)
Currently I'm busy with a re-read of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's always great revisiting a bona-fide spy classic. This was a book that I initially tried to read in the early days of my literary Bond exploration. Perhaps predictably I put it aside after 3 chapters went by without any sort of Bond-style action. I eventually read Tinker Tailor after seeing the trailer for the 2011 film, and I managed to read the book before going to the cinema to see the movie. And I enjoyed the book a lot on that read through. I'm enjoying it at least twice as much on the re-read now, being much more familiar with Le Carre's work these days.
Some COVID reading:
THE LEOPRAD by Thomasi di Lampedusa (1958)
Giuseppe Tomasi was the Prince of Lampedusa, a Sicilian nobleman, born in 1896, who spent the last years of his life attempting to publish his masterwork: The Leopard. He died in 1957, a year before the book’s eventual publication, so he never saw its success and fame. The Leopard is a superb historical masterpiece, tracing a year [and some] in the life of Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, and his extended family and retinue. He rules over thousands of acres and hundreds of people, and attempts to reconcile the tempestuous present of 1860/61 to the past he reveres and the future he fears. Lampedusa as an author is a touch old-fashioned; he likes to tell not show and many internal monologues explain the Prince’s thoughts and actions. In a lesser hand, this might be a disadvantage, but Lampedusa has such a firm grasp of his central characters that we become embroiled in their personalities and ambitions, we come to understand the delicate socio-political balance the Prince enacts with peasant and peer alike. The splendour of his surroundings is not tainted by the life of squalor which supports it, an equally refined caste of its own, exemplified by the princely conciliatory work of the calm Jesuit priest, Pirrone.
The novel is packed full of quiet observations and close detail. It never outstays its welcome. The dusty journey to Donnafugata, the Salina family estate, becomes a journey both into the past and the future as Fabrizio learns to deal with his new neighbours, a nouveaux riche of some distaste, while preserving his own privileged status. This is maintained through the age-old tradition of marriage, the new wedding to the old and creating a fresh generation of unified Italians, exemplified by the extravagant autumnal ball held in Palermo, where the Prince recognises some of his old acquaintances are as gauche as his new ones.
The great Prince becomes tortured by notions of failure. The eleven page chapter Lampedusa devotes to Fabrizio’s death is one of the great melancholic monologues: “The significance of a noble family lies entirely in its traditions, that is in its vital memories; and he was the last to have any unusual memories, anything different from those of other families.” Meanwhile, the final chapter, an extended epilogue, reminds us that these days and memories have vanished. The Salina Daughters, all spinsters, have procured a host of relics, in part to memorialise their family which no longer retains political or social influence, merely a religious station. By 1910, this false maintenance too is coming ti a close. The Salina Family, the house of the Leopard, has entered its terminal decline, but Lampedusa creates a stupendous series of metaphorical images to remind us of the never-changing landscape of Sicily. The stuffed hide of Bendico, the hunting dog, is the sole remnant the Princess Concetta keeps from those hot summers at Donnafugata; she decides to dispose of it along with the fake relics. Magically, the whiskers of the hound become the bearded Prince, which in turn becomes the Leopard, itself confined to the past when “all found peace in a little heap of dust.” It is as good a closing paragraph as Fitzgerald’s for The Great Gatsby.
The Leopard is a monumental work of passionate and intelligent prose, demanding we consider character over incident, tradition over modernity, science and wisdom over religious conviction. A stunning achievement which ought to be more widely admired.
EDGE #7: CALIFORNIA KILLING (1974) by George G Gilman
This spaghetti Western influenced series was the best selling title that encompassed the era of the Piccadilly Cowboys - a group of British authors who never ventured outside of London, but who wrote over 300 westerns during the 70’s and 80’s. I am doggedly ploughing my way through them all - it’s pulp Western fiction at it’s finest - full of action and period detail, so much that you can taste the dust in the streets of the towns that are deliciously described. This one takes place in what will become Hollywood but is called The Town With No Name for now. Lots of fun is to be had with character names such as Cooper, Brosnon, Wayne, Elam etc. It’s insanely violent as our anti-hero Edge sorts out the bad guys.
Terry Harknett, who wrote the Edge series, passed away a few years back, and although I never met him we did correspond by email when he was in a nursing home in Dorset, he told me that he was always astounded at how popular his books were and that he was able to make a living from writing them. He leaves a lasting legacy of work and I will always be grateful to him as I sold countless thousands of his books over the years.
What happened to that saucy old book covers thread? Did it run its course?
That thread's still in existence. It's just not been active since May and has fallen down the Off-Topic list as a result:
@Napoleon Plural and @Silhouette Man Yes, I thought that it had run its course, there was little or no feedback and the “views’ counter had stagnated, so in the time honoured fashion of diminishing returns, I decided to stop posting any more. It wasn’t exclusively for me to post covers though, so anyone else can do so and if it reignites then I’m more than happy to post some more. Same thing happened with the movie poster thread I started.
Working my way through the Clive Cussler Books, not in any particular order, The latest adventure "Iceberg".
As with all Cussler's Dirk Pitt Novels, It's a ripping yarn full of Mystery, Swashbuckling and action. Some of
the language is a little dated and perhaps would be " Problematic " for todays' world.
I read a couple of his. The earliest Dirk Pitt's I think. Raise the Titanic and Vixen 3. They were okay. Good adventure stories.