Last Book Read...



  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff
    edited March 2023

    My pleasure, Tony. No, I haven't seen the TV version yet, though I might get round to it.

    Start with the Mr Mercedes book, and if you like that then Finders Keepers followed by End Of Watch then The Outsider. Hope you enjoy!

    Edit- I sorted the disappearing post problem.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    THE SPOILERS by Desmond Bagley (1969)

    I’ve never read a book by Desmond Bagley. So, crossed that off my list then. While he first came to prominence during the 1960s, when spies and espionage and intense, visceral thrillers started to proliferate, Bagley’s style is more at home in previous eras. Names like Victor Canning spring to mind. Bagley doesn’t even pack in as much tension and excitement as Ian Fleming. Whole passages of this convoluted and exceedingly dull novel pass where nothing is achieved except the consumption of food and drink and discussions about the meticulous engineering of WWII torpedoes, or the odds of tossing a coin, or the construction method’s of Iraq’s ancient underwater supplies. There is so much extraneous detail, I was skipping paragraphs to make my read time shorter.

    It doesn’t help that the main protagonist of the novel, Nick Warren, is a General Practitioner whose experience and attitudes simply aren’t cut out for the story which evolves. He knows too much about the illegal drug industry, its supply, prices and societal impact. These kind of details are usually the preserve of academia, police or investigative journalists. While I accept Warren may have some correct facts about heroin supply, Bagley needs a better mouthpiece for the data, and the adventure which follows, than Nick Warren. The idea a GP happens – just happens – to know a mercenary, an underworld gambler, an ex-navy gunner, etc, etc; all the ideal personnel required for his hair brained ‘spoiling’ scheme doesn’t hold water. The fact such specialists then bow to his ‘authority’ is also highly unlikely. Indeed as the story progresses the mercenary Andrew Tozier becomes more in control than Warren. The plan fails so miserably Warren and his crew rely on the coincidental appearance of an old acquaintance of Tozier’s – also a mercenary – who happens – yes, again, just happens – to be running guns for the same Kurdish separatists who export the raw opium. Once Tom Metcalfe is on board, the adventure picks up immeasurably and moves quicker and with some purpose. But this doesn’t happen until we’re over two thirds in. Up to this point, the piece didn’t grab me at all.

    Film executive Sir Robert Hillier discovers his daughter has died of a heroin overdose. He’s an absent father and takes out his guilt on Nick Warren, his daughter’s doctor. Warren persuades Hillier his anger would be better directed at the people who supply the dodgy heroin. This would be the ideal time for Bagley to have put Hillier in touch with Tozier directly; instead it’s all down to Warren and his two pronged attack plan. The good doctor simply isn’t a dynamic enough character to carry the narrative. The assorted group of experts is split in two and most of the really intriguing stuff is done by Mike Abbot and Dan Parker, who traipse around the low lives of Beirut and make direct contact with the villains, devising a plan to thwart the smugglers with a nifty bit of piracy. The escapade in Iraq, while eventually exciting, didn’t interest me at all. I felt as if the two storylines, rather than running parallel to each should have occurred one after another and with a smaller crew of ‘spoilers’. As the novel stands, there are too many characters doing very little for too long. The book is about 60 pages too long because of it.

    Thrillers ought to be sharp and incisive, seizing my attention and making me turn the page faster and faster as I identify with the lead character and his quest. The Spoilers isn’t any of this. Very disappointing.   

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    The Goodbye Coast: A Philip Marlowe Novel. Joe Ide

    I've been a fan of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe almost as long as I've been a James Bond fan. Read the books, seen the films, you know the score. Chandler died over 60 years ago, having written seven Marlowe novels (plus one unfinished). It would be a long time before what we in the Bond world call continuation novels started to appear, and these came irregularly. I'd be happy to discuss that if anyone asks.

    So, here's the latest one. I bought it eagerly, looking forward to more adventures with Chandler's creation- beautiful but untrustworthy dames, pushy cops convinced Marlowe knows more than he's telling them (usually they're right), conniving crooks trying to make him see things their way, a bottle of rye in the office desk drawer, more smoking than Mount Vesuvius. However....

    I can take the setting being modernised to LA c2022. It happened in some of the movies, it's happened in Bond continuation novels. Doesn't mean I have to like it, but I understand why and it won't stop me reading.

    I can just about take the story being told in the third person rather than the first. I think I understand why (it's to avoid direct comparison with the originals, where this story and author would sorely suffer) but there are so many scenes from the point of view of the other characters that Marlowe becomes lost, verging on being a supporting character in his own story.

    I can think of no earthly reason why we are introduced to Marlowe's father, who ends up playing a co-starring role, and given so much family back story. You know, like Chandler never thought necessary over all his books.

    Far too often the author introduces a new character by comparing them to a well-known film star. Not once or twice but regularly. This is lazy writing. I can't recall Chandler doing it (please correct me if I'm wrong) though Fleming did about three times over twelve novels and nine short stories - this author does it about three times per chapter.

    The story itself is nothing startling and could have been wound up in half the time, though there is one nasty character who deserves everything they get and a whole lot more.

    So would I buy another Philip Marlowe novel from this guy? Of course I would, I have a long history of doing very similar things....

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    I'm thinking of starting a Alistair MacLean appreciation thread, in the meanwhile...

    FEAR IS THE KEY by Alistair MacLean (1961)

    Fear is the Key is the sixth Alistair MacLean blockbuster thriller and the third successive set in contemporary times and revolving around an ‘espionage’ plot – this one to unearth a cache of stolen gold bullion and diamonds from a downed and drowned cargo plane. Mixed up in the narrative is John Talbot, a salvage expert on a revenge mission who is not everything he appears to be, and the delectable Mary Ruthven, daughter of an multimillionaire oil magnate. Talbot kidnaps the nubile blonde while escaping from a Louisiana courthouse. The strange, oddly humorous and slightly off-kilter opening is one of MacLean’s more peculiar scenes; he continues the tactic of showing everything yet telling nothing throughout almost the entire first half of the novel. He even disguises John Talbot’s thought processes, so the reader is unable to gauge exactly what the hero’s motives are. This device has its plus points, chiefly by disguise, but the reader constantly lurches from one extreme to another and the uncertainty doesn’t aid tension, only provokes confusion.

    Stick with it.

    Fear is the Key eventually straightens itself out and turns into a rollicking ride of fights, chases and underwater derring-do. If there are perhaps a shade too many scenes of violent incident, I can forgive this. It is fairly obvious MacLean wants to crank up the pressure for his hero in deliberate and unsubtle fashions. So, it works, I suppose, because Talbot’s manner is abrasive enough to make the bad guys believe every single one of his carefully woven lies, however preposterous. Of more concern is the amount of action and intrigue MacLean has left out: in the final chapter, he reveals whole swathes of back story, character development and investigation which could have been utilised to far greater effect inside the narrative. Instead, MacLean uses them as a knot-tying exercise and the suspenseful climax becomes a long monologue explaining the who, where, what and how. Unlike the early scenes, this is a case of extreme tell and not show, and it is not very effective. At least the opening three or four chapters had pace and intrigue; the denouement lacks a little of that which, given all that comes before, is a trifle disappointing.

    Fear is the Key begins the second phase of MacLean’s career, when having established his name and career with outstanding initial critical and commercial success in the late 1950s, he began to experience self-doubt and wrote in differing styles – and even under a different pseudonymous name – in an attempt to prove he could succeed without the expectation brought on by the name tag ‘Alistair MacLean’. It is a successful thriller, bounding from page to page with a hefty dose of the ridiculous and the central character, while initially unlikeable, grows on the reader chapter by chapter, reflecting Mary Ruthven’s own changing attitudes. Love and sex is pushed into the background in favour of drinking and fighting, where MacLean’s strengths tend to lie. He isn’t in the Fleming class with his heroines, but has imbibed Talbot with the steely wherewithal of a Bond-style secret agent.

    So, generally a thumbs up. Compared to most thriller writers of the era, who tended to the pedantic, Maclean understands the need to propel his stories forward with heroics and action; he sensibly saves the talk for appropriate moments. Fear is the Key, along with The Last Frontier, The Dark Crusader and Caravan to Vaccarès displays the storyteller’s skill to the full.


  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    @chrisno1 please have a look at to see my thoughts on this subject.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    That's an interesting take although I feel you are perhaps stretching a tenuous view.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff
    edited April 2023

    Fair comment.

    Now, two books I've recently read with a less than obvious connection.....

    STORM MAKER Mark Loeffelholz

    The second adventure for Loeffelholz’s private eye character, Oscar Jade. It’s 1942 and the story is set in the early days (for Americans, anyway) of WW2 which perhaps accounts for the noir flavour being less prominent than in the earlier “Blood And Ashes”. Oscar, who is irresistible to every woman he meets, and his supporting cast are as engaging as ever, and the plot twists and turns in a satisfactory way.


    BACK TO THE DEVIL Christoph John

    Jon Drago, Christoph John’s series character, goes to Crete for what is supposed to be an easy time writing about the place. Of course, that doesn’t happen and we are plunged into a deadly adventure with various gangster types. The Cretan atmosphere is well conveyed, and the action scenes compulsive- there’s an outstanding one where Drago and a girl are chased through a town by villains on Lambrettas. A nice title drop by an old man called Yannis. John has closely read his Fleming and MacLean, and the influences are clear.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent
    edited April 2023

    Thanks for that glowing review @Barbel

    It has taken seven long years to get the third Jon Drago novel published - and more activity is to follow this year. Read BACK TO THE DEVIL - catch up on his thrill a page adventure in Crete - meet Jon Drago, the beautiful Amy Porter, the wily Costas Palamara, the mysterious Turk and the patriarch Papa K and see where the journey takes them and us. Blood, anger, intrigue and suspense haunts the story at every turn...



    If you don't want to read on line, you can purchase the paperback.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,992MI6 Agent

    An Expensive Place to Die

    Len Deighton, 1967

    For some reason it took me a long time to find this one. It was only because someone seemed to have traded in a complete set of silver trimmed 25th anniversary editions that I finally found a copy.

    I can’t tell if this is another adventure of My-Name’s-Not-‘Arry or not. In the intro Deighton does say this is the fifth in a series, so Deighton ought to know. But there's none of the other recurring characters, and a lady refers to My- Name’s-Probably-Not-‘Arry as a “big ugly man”. Was the character in the previous four adventures big and ugly? I forget, because I picture Michael Caine.

    This adventure is all about the seedy underbelly of Paris, based on Deighton’s own experiences living there after the war. My-Name’s-Probably-Not-‘Arry is renting a room above a neighbourhood café, where all the locals go daily for the best food in town. Deighton gets his food-porn in in these scenes, though our protagonist is not the one doing the cooking. He does however make an excellent cup of coffee.

    Other regulars at the café include a typical crowd of bohemian wannabe painters, and the best part of the novel is early scenes showing their egos and zany antics. This would seem to be a scene Deighton knows well and could easily have been the entire book.

    Then the story quickly shifts focus to a mysterious “clinic” run by a phony psychiatrist. In fact the “clinic” is a type of exclusive high class bordello, and the "psychiatrist" invite’s Paris’s political elites and visiting diplomats to hang out, drop acid and indulge in decadence, filming it all and compiling dossiers. (Decadence goes beyond the expected orgies to include violence and torture and even one death-by-Iron-Maiden). Though he claims his files are all for his amateur scientific research, everybody else believes the "psychiatrist" is working for some branch of the French Secret Service, providing blackmail materials to keep everyone under control. Unusually for Deighton, this is all clearly explained in the first couple of chapters and remains the main plot til the last page.

    It quickly turns out all supporting characters, most of all the various wannabe bohemian painters, are all secretly working for various rival secret services, and the villain, and all have secret personal relationships with each other. This aspect requires a flowchart, and I assumed Deighton was making it up as he went along.

    Later chapters introduce a secondary plot of needing to deliver top secret American radiation research to a Chinese spy (so the Chinese don’t underestimate the real dangers of a limited nuclear strike, I think?). This is in fact our hero’s main mission, but is only roughly sketched in, much less interesting than the zany bohemian lifestyle and the creepy clinic/bordello.

    Breaking the format of his first four novels, Deighton inserts alternating chapters from the point-of-view of the leading lady Maria, who we gradually learn has secret relationships with every other major character. By the time we get to the end she is a tragic character, so I guess Deighton felt the need to explore her own thoughts, but the switch in PoV’s is a confusing distraction.

    Horowitz might have been influenced by Maria's plot-thread in his latest Bond novel however…

    …Maria turns out to be the daughter of the evil "psychiatrist", and so did the BondGirl in With a Mind to Kill.  Of course Fu Manchu and Ming the Merciless both had morally ambiguous daughters, so the trope is not original with Deighton.

    for more fine and learned discussion about Len Deighton and his unnamed protagonist see Barbel's thread The 60s Bond Rivals (2): Harry Palmer

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    BILLY SUMMERS by Stephen King

    King has been moving in the last ten years or so towards "hard case crime" and this is another step along that road. The titular protagonist is a hit man hired to kill another hit man, for reasons that don't become completely clear till near the end.

    It's frequently been noted that King's main characters are often writers and here Billy Summers poses as a writer as part of his cover. He finds the task more self revealing than he thought, and this gives King the opportunity to have two narratives which find themselves heading to the same conclusion.

    To say any more would risk spoilers so I'll only say that if you enjoy King's work then you'll enjoy this, even though nothing supernatural or paranormal happens. Well, almost nothing....

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    CONSPIRATORS: TO EACH HIS OWN AGENDA by Matthew J. Gupta (2020)

    Bloody battlefields, spectacular sieges and the even more dangerous climes of warrior politics inhabit the thousand-year empire of Rome, collapsing under the stewardship of the psychologically disabled Egnatius. The princes of the outlying kingdoms take up arms in a civil war that threatens not only his throne but also that of the empire. Set in a pseudo-fantasy historical context, yet almost entirely fictional in character and place, Matthew J. Gupta seamlessly blends the gutter footnotes of history with powerful sovereigns and mythical figures, their lives and interactions spilling across the page with heightened ferocity, candid rhetoric and deftly placed wit. Focussing primarily on the wily ranger Gilorn, the story plunges us directly into battle and rarely lets up, following his trials and summary allegiances as he begins to ascend into the ranks of nobility. Gilorn is a man of the people and his entry into the world of princes is well realised. It is disappointing the novel later eschews this angle in favour of the scandal-mongered nobility, as their sex and superiority complexes are less interesting than the politics they author and the assistance Gilorn, as a spy and assassin, offers them. The writing style is very visual. The author knows his history and the imagined world feels genuine and is colourfully visceral, thanks to a lurid attention to detail. As with many self-published novels, there are some formatting and editing issues, but I won’t dwell on them here, Conspirators is a fine addition to the epic tradition and, even if occasionally the story flounders into the fantasy genre, there is always something to catch the eye and mind. An absorbing debut novel.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    This is also reproduced in the JAMES BOND LITERATURE section....

    ON HIS MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE by Charlie Higson (2023)

    I enjoyed Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series of novels. They catered for a market and demonstrated a formulaic method of writing which appreciated the anticipations of its audience. Having served that apprenticeship, Higson, much like his Young Bond character, has been delivered the poisoned golden chalice and asked by Ian Fleming Publications to pen the first James Bond novel set during the reign of King Charles III. He’s been constrained by time and theme, but the result is a cheering effort, while not being entirely a success.

    I suppose measuring a novel – or a novella, the book is extremely short at about 50,000 words – against the weight of its chief character’s history is a trifle unfair, and perhaps we shouldn’t, but the prose doesn’t grab and incentivise the reader as Ian Fleming’s books did. Nor is it as chiselled around detail as John Gardner’s earliest, most effective, pieces. It is comprehensive and thoroughly researched, and has a certain world-weary, empire on the slide rhetoric which is familiar from Fleming, but it lacks the florid, eye-popping panache brought by a journalist’s eye: the minutia which made Fleming’s prose so fascinatingly rare. Nor is he as obsessed with landscape and mechanics as Gardner. Higson shows moments of dexterity, but these tend to stick out rather than blend into the narrative. He needs time to adjust to the adult form and provide something more than scenes and dialogue which might have fallen out of a Daniel Craig movie.

    Case in point is the marvellous Fleming-esque section in Budapest where Bond observes the city and evades his pursuers, musing on the past, present and future which segues neatly into a rooftop confrontation as acerbic and rough edged as anything we’ve seen in the last three films, or even worse perhaps the gutter-trash exploits of Jason Statham, Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone, all attitude fuelled baddies, modernisms and smart-arse speeches, exemplified by the three word description “Headphones. Testosterone. Toblerone.”

    Higson's created a decent heroine, an Icelandic beauty with an unpronounceable name and “witch’s eyes”, but his villain is purely comic book, an amalgamation of Boris Johnson, the Marquis of Bath and Brian Blessed, bedecked in ermine robes and brandishing goblets of fire. I’m exaggerating. The King Alfred connection has some interest, so too the anti-establishment nature of Athelstan’s disparate terror network, its operatives a concoction of far right groups and terror organisations who read like Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Piers Morgan on speed. He’s got the political frenzy about right, and doesn’t labour it as Kingsley Amis might have done – in fact he sends it up. Some readers may not appreciate the satirical slant he’s giving it.

    The overblown hideout at Szalkai Castle in the Hungarian mountains had familiarity written all over it, but it was fun to have the chief baddie residing in broad daylight. The infiltration of this terror elite was too easily achieved – a necessity of writing time, I suspect – and its was disappointing Bond is aided by secondary and third [actually thirty] agents who appear not to be under the same suspicion as he is. The obsession of writers and filmmakers these days to insist everyone of importance must be an equal to Bond gets as boring as the idea he rescues damsels in distress all the time. Again, I can give the benefit of doubt as the work was hurried into production specifically for the coronation.

    I can’t though forgive some lapses. M randomly calls OO7 by his first name, which would never happen, and worse on page 4 Higson refers to OO7 as “James”, temporarily forgetting this isn’t a Young Bond novel. An editor really should have picked these errors up. The appallingly crass shovelling in of “all the time in the world” seems as if the author wants to tell us the phrase is being overused, but it also lowers the tone of his own work.  

    On a purely personal note, I hate italics and capitals in novels: I can read and understand emphasis, I don’t need to be told when to do so, thank you. If you want to stress something, Mr Higson, be creative not lazy. The ending coda is borrowed from John Gardner’s Scorpius and feels as equally unlikely. The plot, slim as it is, has holes bigger than the fifty-pence piece Bond uses as a weapon of mass destruction.

    Did I enjoy it? Well, yes, I think I did. The book isn’t a long read and judgement on Charlie Higson as an adult Bond writer should come after he’s penned something more substantial. It certainly ticks most of the boxes in terms of action and intrigue, and it is also more amusing, but the nature of its production holds back the depth and detail required for it to be completely accomplished. What I do appreciate is Higson’s ability to update James Bond to 2023 without active reference to Fleming, Gardner et al or the films, as Benson was prone to do. This is a reimagining of Fleming’s thirty-five year old James Bond dropped directly into the current state of the nation without the baggage of the past and it is refreshing to find, with a few contemporary tweaks, that he fits almost seamlessly into a modern lifestyle of still stuffy offices, bustling city streets, classy restaurants, slender tender arms and extravagant villain’s lairs just as before, while the same stresses, fears and strains, loyalties and certainties inhabit this James Bond, a man we know and recognise.

    An optimistic thumbs up.        

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,289MI6 Agent
    edited June 2023

    Fairy Tale by Stephen King

    Charlie Reade is a 17 year old who befriends the cranky town hermit Mr. Bowditch and his dog Radar with whom Charlie instantly falls in love. When Mr. Bowditch dies suddenly he leaves Charlie all his possessions including Radar, his home, a fortune in gold and a mysterious shed in the back yard which houses a portal that leads to another world. As Radar becomes progressively sick and feeble from old age Charlie embarks on an adventure in a desperate bid to save her, unaware that he will be thrust into a battle between good and evil with the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance.

    The novel is very much a love letter to those classic fairy tales of old like Cinderella, Snow White, Rupelstiltskin and others along with more than a smattering of HP Lovecraft for good measure. Of course, this being Stephen King, he chooses to weave the darker versions of these classic fables into his narrative than the newer, more family friendly versions. As with many of his other works there are also some subtle connections to his expansive Dark Tower saga as well for those familiar with that work.

    Like so many of King's longer works, Fairy Tale takes its time (pretty much the first half of the novel I'd say) to let us really get to know the characters before finally diving into the central conflict. Some have complained about this aspect of his writing but I find it helps the reader get much more vested in the proceedings. When things go well you will cheer and when a character falls it hits all that much harder.

    I enjoyed Fairy Tale. Despite being a long novel (nearly 600 pages) it was a fast read that I burned thru in less than 3 days and by the end, satisfying though it was, I found myself wondering if I would have been able to make that same final choice Charlie does. If you're one of King's constant readers this is definitely one to add to his already long list of must reads.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    I had to quickly look away from that review - it's next on my reading list!

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,289MI6 Agent
    edited June 2023

    No worries Barbel, there's almost nothing in my writeup that isn't on the dust jacket. Hope you enjoy it.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    Thanks, Tony! 😀

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,289MI6 Agent
    edited June 2023

    Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

    A followup to the King/Straub collaboration The Talisman. In the former book. 12 year old Jack Sawyer embarked on a magical and harrowing journey across two separate but connected worlds to acquire a magical object known by many names including The Talisman, to save his dying mother. Now 20 years later an adult Jack, who has forgotten about his childhood adventure and the incredible powers he attained, is pulled into into a murder investigation involving a serial killer who preys on children. What at first seems like a puzzling but otherwise earthbound mystery soon spirals into a struggle involving multiple worlds, ancient monsters and even darker things.

    I bought Black House many years ago and all my prior attempts at reading it ended in failure as the first 70-100 pages are an absolute slog with a ton of exposition but very little actual plot. King always likes to flesh out his characters before diving into the meat of his story but his collaborations with Straub increase this aspect of the writing exponentially.

    This time I was able to make it past those first difficult hundred or so pages and even though the pacing over the rest of the book exhibited an odd pace vacillating between thrilling passages and more exposition that could have quite frankly used a good trim, the story presented was a really good one with some very strong and overt detours into Stephen King's Dark Tower opus, really expanding that saga in some interesting ways that I wasn't expecting or familiar with. The cast of characters are almost all an interesting lot (with the exception of a couple of relatively minor ones who are surprisingly one-dimensional) and when the stakes get high you want to keep turning the pages.

    While the central conflict of Black House is resolved by novel's end, Jack's story clearly isn't and he's left in a very interesting and pretty unexpected place. The plan was for King and Straub to write a third book which would conclude the saga but Straub's death (and his apparent lack of interest in getting to work on that third book even before his passing) seems to have ended that plan, at least for now. I wouldn't mind seeing King tackle the final chapter on his own. The voice would be different from the combined voice of King and Straub but given the subject matter I think he'd more than be able to see it thru.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    Yes, it's frustrating that there's no third part.

    I'm hesitant to agree with you on another point, since I love reading King (and btw, I'm well into "Fairy Tale" at the moment)- is it possible that his staggering success has left editors in an unenviable position? It would be a brave person who dared to advise the world's best-selling author (or close enough, he's definitely in the running) on how to write a book.

    It reminds me of a possibly apocryphal story of a producer advising Paul McCartney on how to write a song, only to be asked "Oh yeah? How many No1 records do you have?"

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,289MI6 Agent
    edited June 2023

    @Barbel, I'm sure it would have been even harder to tell two famous collaborating authors that their work could use a little editing. It's been years since I read The Talisman but I seem to remember that it too had a sometimes bloated feeling to it, with exposition that went on a little too long even though the underlying story was really interesting.

    With regard to King's solo works, I'm really curious to read your thoughts on Fairy Tale once you finish it. Despite its length I found it a fast, almost breezy read (Eye of the Dragon would be a close analog in terms of my reaction) and never got that "get on with it" feeling I got with the Straub collaborations. Though I have to admit some of King's earlier works like The Stand and It could also be a challenge at times. Like you, I enjoy his work all but when you're on page 12 of a 1,000+ page tome it can sometimes feel daunting.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    Yes, breezy is the word. At page 200 or so and it's going down like iced water on a hot day. More later, of course!

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    THE FALL by Albert Camus (1956)

    Albert Camus is one of the literary world’s great short story writers. His stories always have an international flavour to them, concerning the clash of cultures he witnesses around him. In part this stems from his experience as a Breton-Spaniard growing up in Algeria, alienation going hand-in-glove with acceptance depending on which side of the street you walked or lived. Hence, ideas of human individuality and free-spiritedness are laced throughout his works. If you only ever read one short story collection in your life, try Exile and the Kingdom, you will not regret it.

    The Fall is a monologue and it details a lawyer’s personal downfall, how his overindulgent, egotistical lifestyle has resulted in a wastrel lifestyle, where he philosophises with economy and measure, but also with cynicism, arrogance and confusion. Jean Baptiste Clamence has relocated his practice to Amsterdam and it isn’t entirely clear why, until he divulges to the stranger [us] his life story and the turning point which forced him to leave Paris, aware the city and its emotional entrapments have turned him into an unfeeling hypocrite. So, he works for the poor, talks to the lonely and walks the fog-bound canals and waterfronts in an attempt to attain for the fatal mistake he made when turning his back on the helpless.

    While catharsis is not philosophy, Camus certainly tries to make you believe it is. Some passages are excellently and beautifully described, emotionally refined and edged with a searing bitterness at the bland conformity of nations and the modern moralities that undermine them; others are a messy long-winded bore. A disheartening and disturbing tome which, like Satre’s The Age of Reason, doesn’t offer any solutions, allowing us to form our own opinion of Clamence, to judge the judge, as it were. The final section, set in Clamence’s bedroom, is the weakest until the final paragraph when Camus delivers the unprovoked twist in the tale.

    Camus is always worth a read. Thankfully this novella is short and swift enough for the occasional inadequacies not to matter.  

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    Well, I finished it yesterday but I had to wait until today to let it settle in my mind.

    A long book but never a heavy one, King pulls you in and pulls you along as he always does. He's wearing his intentions on his sleeve with the title and yes, as @TonyDP says, there are references to his earlier works but if you haven't read those it isn't a problem.

    Charlie is an engaging narrator, and not afraid to let us know that he's less than perfect. Mr Bowditch is your standard grumpy old man, but his dog Radar is who I fell in love with.

    One of King's favourite plots is to have his lead character(s) cross over to a very detailed fantasy world and then return to this one at the end... well, maybe.

    Some have complained about the structure (not wanting to give anything away) but I didn't have a problem with it. Loved it, and looking forward to King's next.

    Next for me- Double Or Nothing

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,289MI6 Agent

    @Barbel, happy to read that you enjoyed it. Yes Radar definitely stole the show for me as well; kind of made me regret never having had a dog of my own which is probably the best compliment I can give the book.

    For a change of pace I decided to read Foundation by Isaac Asimov; the first entry in his trilogy of the same name. The saga is supposed to tell the story of the fall of an advanced intergalactic empire and the efforts of a scientific think tank to mitigate the disaster and plot a course for mankind's redemption that will take a thousand years to reach fruition. This first entry details the first part of that plan. For a novel that supposedly spans several hundred years I found it all rather dull as very little actually happens within the narrative. The sections of the novel, which take place several decades apart from one another, are relatively small in scope with each introducing a new crisis for the titular Foundation to tackle, and a new set of characters who quickly get left behind when the next epoch is reached. Very little actually happens and the resolution to each crisis is almost always a plan that we weren't let in on or a twist that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Add in a lot of anachronisms that have resulted from real world advances in science and it made for what was, for me at least, a very unsatisfying and often tedious read. Having finished the first part, I really don't have any interest in finishing the trilogy. I was never a big fan of Asimov's writing, preferring Arthur C. Clarke's more engaging prose and presentation of hard science fiction concepts and this book just reinforced that sentiment.

    Might be time to pivot back to horror.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,897MI6 Agent

    Again I'd like to direct the forum's attention to the problem of chrisno1's too large brain. For years now he has made the rest of us look like the idiots we are by posting his long movie reviews. Now he's spreading this dangerous campaign to books! He doesn't mention it here, but I happen to know the book reviewed here is just some light reading he had lying around to read while on the toilet. (I know the type. My younger sister and her husband used to keep philosophy books in German in the bathroom to pass the time while sitting on the porcelain throne. They since had kids.). I shudder think what's on chrisno1's night stand or worse - his library. This calls for action! Send this at-risk member all your Playboy magazines, Dan Brown novels, Conan comics and FHM, Maxim and Loaded magazines you can spare before it's too late for this poor man! We cannot allow him to maintain all those brain cells. We want him to remain one of us. 👍

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff

    I read that book when I was a teenager (yes, books had been invented that long ago) as well as it's two successors and while I enjoyed them then, I wouldn't read them again.

    Asimov started writing Foundation novels again in the 90s, and those quite frankly were terrible. He had developed an urge to tie all his various different sagas together and went to ridiculous lengths to do that.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,363MI6 Agent

    OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck (1937)

    A book which needs no introduction. A superb piece of work, a short tale of misunderstandings and broken dreams encapsulated by a simpleton and his best friend who spend their life on the road running from one crisis to another. Tragedy lurks at every corner. The metaphors are strong, the social commentary incisive and the emotional intensity of the climax is one of the greatest in Western / English literature. Excellent. If I could rate 11 out of 10, I would.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,341MI6 Agent

    Was that turned into a Laurel and Hardy vehicle? I'm unfamiliar with it.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,461MI6 Agent

    Come on @chrisno1 that reads like one of my own sparse reviews. If any book deserves a 500-word review it’s this one. Please review in your usual fashion.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,651Chief of Staff
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,897MI6 Agent
    edited June 2023

    chrisno1 seems to have taken to heart my criticism of some of his earlier reviews. Nice. This review is short and many of us were forced to read "Of mice and men" at school, so we know if it. That's better than Camus. You're smart, but for God's sake keep it a secret if you want to have any friends here! Try to fit in with the rest of us. 🤫

Sign In or Register to comment.