Last Book Read...

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  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    Thanks, but I won't look... yet.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,978MI6 Agent

    barbel said:

    I’d seen this guy around Bay City, but this was the first time he’d spoken to me. He seemed as if he knew a thing or two, but I wasn’t going to let first impressions fool me.

    “You’re Marlowe?” he said.

    “I just checked my peeper’s licence, that’s what it says”.

    “Wise guy, huh? They tell me you’re the shamus to ask if you want to find something out".

    “Sure”, I said, “that’s what they’ll tell you".

    “Well, they call me @caractacus potts  and I got just one question for you”.

    I took my time lighting my cigarette.

    “Spit it out, sunshine, time’s money”.

    “I want to know who killed the chauffeur”.

    I sighed. Another one with the chauffeur question. It had been going on for years, all the way back to Howard Hawks and William Faulkner. They say that Bogie had asked, too, but somehow I don’t believe that. I don’t think he would have cared, with his mind and hands full of Lauren Bacall at the time.

    I said “Chauffeur? Let me ask you a question first- what makes you so sure there was a chauffeur?”

    His face went through more emotions than Boris Johnson at a public enquiry.

    “Are you telling me there was no chauffeur?”

    “I’m telling you to read Chandler- you’re in for a treat. And maybe, just maybe you’ll find out a thing or two".

    He was beginning to look worried, like the captain of the Titanic when he first spotted the iceberg.

    "Like what?" he said.

    "Like maybe- just maybe- there are characters in the stories like "The Curtain" who aren't in "The Big Sleep", and of course vice versa. And maybe- just maybe- there is no answer to that question".

    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    reads swell boss, but needs more similes. A Chandler pastiche without similes is like a tarantula without a slice of angel food cake

    but in all seriousness, the wonderful thing about this is: I am finally a character in one of your Imaginary Conversations! I have finally hit the big time, and now I too can pace back and forth beside the telephone waiting for a call from EON. hooray!

    but yeh thats what I was thinking, that in cobbling two or more short stories together and calling it a novel maybe some key plot details got lost along the way.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,319MI6 Agent

    I'm having to study realism so I've partaken of FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, by Thomas Hardy, a novel about obsession which understates everything and is fascinated with the colour red. Very good, but like the 1967 film, a bit stately and takes ages to get going then sort of simpers away to nothing. The novel is told by an omnipotent narrator, but always from the vicinity of Gabriel Oak, a shepherd in love with the wilful beauty Bathsheba Everdene, so we know whose opinion matters most to the author. Bathsheba is a prototype for a modern emancipated woman.

    In fact she's the fore runner of Undine Spragg, the 'heroine' of Edith Wharton's THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY, a novel set in contemporaneous times to the author's own experience. It's a veiled satire on the rise of a consumerism. Undine's unseemly ascension of the social ranks is accompanied by much buying of dresses and a series of self-centred escapades which take place in Wharton's favourite back yards of New York and Paris. She's manipulative, self-seeking and remarkably unlikeable with the attention span of a small puppy but the hidden wiles of a unpleasant beautiful dragon. The open ending is a let down after all the semi-comic self-serving nastiness. Exceptionally well written, but the annoying time-jumps restrict the flow of the narrative. We never understand Undine and I'm not sure the author does either.

    HEATWAVE, by young French novelist Victor Jestin, is an ultra-realist 2019 novella set at a campsite full of horny and confused teenagers. Leonard discovers his new pal Oscar hanging by his neck from the chains of the playground swings. Fascinated, seeking any distraction from the boredom of adolescent antics, he watches while Oscar dies, setting in motion a hectic thirty-six hours of misunderstanding, guilt and sexual awakening. Luce, the object of Leonard's affection, inhabits a physical and emotional space half-way between Bathsheba and Undine. The novel is obsessed with the summer heat, a metaphor which doesn't quite work in the same way as Wharton's consumerist intentions. The naturalist situations and dialogue are excellently observed, and individually you believe in the incidents, together they don't quite meld as well as they could, probably because the time frame is so short. The mystery of Oscar's missing body becomes more intense as Leonard's frustrations and fears mount in equal measure. The resolution was a surprise. Heatwave would make a decent movie.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    That made both the Bride and I burst out laughing. Thank you, caractacus! 😂

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,286MI6 Agent
    edited November 2023

    Started reading Mr. Mercedes a couple of days ago. About halfway thru and enjoying it a lot. Full thoughts when I finish it but one thing is already very clear: I am never, ever going anywhere near an ice cream truck again.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    😁 He has that effect on readers - makes them scared of ordinary things.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,286MI6 Agent

    Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

    During the predawn hours an unknown killer drives a Mercedes into a group of people waiting in line for a job fair, killing and maiming many victims. Several months later retired detective K. William ("Bill") Hodges, who was assigned to the case shortly before retiring, receives a gloating letter from the killer. Depressed and beginning to have suicidal thoughts, the letter which was intended to push him over the edge ends up having the opposite effect of galvanizing Bill into deciding to finish the job and bring the killer to justice once and for all, even if it means breaking many of the laws he swore to uphold. Over the course of the story he forms some unexpected friendships as he tries to stop Mr. Mercedes from committing another atrocity, this time with thousands of lives hanging in the balance.

    Mr. Mercedes is a crime novel thru and thru. While the killer, who King introduces us to early in the story and makes no attempt to hide from the reader, is one of his scarier antagonists, there is nothing remotely supernatural about him; he is a psycho pulled right out of the headlines and King enjoys getting in his head and showing us just how screwed up he is. The book also introduces us to Holly Gibney, a middle aged woman with her own set of mental challenges who helps Bill track down the killer and has become one of King's favorite recurring characters as of late. Rounding out the group are Jerome Robinson, Bill's teenage neighbor and Janelle "Janey" Patterson, who's family was personally affected by the murders and becomes emotionally involved with Bill.

    The novel had a good pace to it and reading how Bill works the case as he gets closer and closer to his quarry was interesting and entertaining. I only really had two qualms: the first is what happens to Janey, which I found particularly cold and cruel given what she had already gone thru and how much Mr. Mercedes had already hurt her family. Also, when we get to the climax, Bill quickly and surprisingly gets relegated to the sidelines and Jerome and Holly end up doing the heavy lifting, which felt odd considering that Bill really drove the search and much of the narrative until that point.

    Regardless, Mr. Mercedes was a fun read. It's the first of the Bill Hodges trilogy of crime stories and I'm looking forward to getting into the followup, Finders Keepers, soon.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    I didn't know what to expect at the time, and very much enjoyed it. I liked Holly but never expected that she would become the central character in a series - I don't think King did, either.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,360MI6 Agent

    I loved the Bill Hodges books - I need to catch up on the Holly Gibney series, I’ve been spending too much time reading the Piccadilly Cowboys series of books - only about another 100 to go 😂

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,319MI6 Agent

    This Stephen King love-in is getting too much. I read about some real horror this week: A MESSAGE FROM UKRAINE by Volodymyr Zelensky. A series of speeches given by him between 2019 - 2022 regarding the situation in Ukraine before and during the Russian invasion. There are some terrible things going on in the world once more. He has certain repetitive idioms that work well in capturing an audience and emphasising a point. He's very concise and doesn't draw on too many subjects at once, which is a mark of good speech writing. As a performer, he clearly does his homework as the texts deliver maximum impact with minimal effort, unlike Putin's hour long rants which are wearying and lack substance and focus despite their length. [I tried to read one once online, but gave up after fifteen minutes.]

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    That's fair comment about King, and I speak as one of the main culprits. So something different -

    June Thomson has written a series of Holmes pastiches, mostly with similar titles (Secret Archives, Secret Files, etc). They're not bad, and the author most certainly knows her stuff, but the amount of footnotes included is very distracting, often repetitive, and sometimes unnecessary (I don't think that many readers would need reminding who Mycroft Holmes is, for example).

    This was the fifth or sixth of hers which I've read so I must like them, deep down.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,360MI6 Agent

    I disagree. I think @TonyDP and @Barbel should continue their reviews of Stephen King, I, for one, enjoy them immensely, whether I agree with the comments or not, it’s great to read alternate opinions. These threads are open to everyone and the more posts the better as far as I’m concerned.

    I haven’t read any June Thomson books, but sold a few over the years - she wasn’t particularly popular at my store.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,319MI6 Agent

    The Stephen King comment was meant to be tongue in cheek. Maybe I should have added an emoji 😉

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,360MI6 Agent

    I wonder when it was that emoji’s became essential in messaging? I,often send messages then send an emoji afterwards because I realise it could be taken the wrong way 😳😁😂🤣😱😉🤪

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,319MI6 Agent

    Good point. The written word, in short phrases, doesn't always reflect what we mean. Thing is, I hate having search for an appropriate emoji 🤔

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,978MI6 Agent

    but how do you do deadpan if youre relying on emojis to signal a joke?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    Text is very poor at communicating tone, which is an essential part of spoken communication. Emojis help with that. Often people misunderstand a text which they wouldn't have done in speech.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,319MI6 Agent

    Emojis are supposed to represent physical reactions - at least those facial ones are - so that helps as communication is as much to do with listening [tone] and watching [expression] as it is speech, or here the written word. You could suggest of course that we all became unreliable narrators via online blogs, posts, etc, but that probably stretches things too far. There is though definitely a gap between intent and interpretation. Speaking as a writer, I hate emojis, although when writing online message board posts I tend not to consider my words as carefully as I do an essay, poem, review or novel - but I seem to recall there was some author recently whose book is basically written in text speak, so maybe I need to catch up with modern life a little. [cue confused emoji...] 🤔

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,360MI6 Agent

    Another thing is that I don’t know what half of the bloody things are supposed to be indicating 😂

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,703MI6 Agent

    It's like the famous French philosopher Jacques Derrida's theory of deconstruction - that words ultimately have no meaning. I remember one of my English Literature lecturers at university illustrating deconstruction by using the example of a "Keep Off the Grass" sign. It could simply mean to keep off the grass so as not to trample it but it could also mean to "keep off the grass", as in not smoking weed. Of course, words are all context specific and that can sometimes be lost in written text as opposed to written text. As another philosopher, Alan Partridge once said, words are useful when you're having a chat though. Indeed, where would we be without them?

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,286MI6 Agent

    No worries @chrisno1, I kind of figured you comment was made in good humor.

    My problem is that my recent attempts at reading a non-King work have not gone well. That can sometimes happen when you focus on one author for a while. I know I should broaden my horizons but with King I usually know what I'm getting and I'm pretty sure I will like it. It can be tough to get out of your comfort zone, especially when you're on a roll.

    Currently about 1/3 of the way thru Finders Keepers, written by you-know-who.

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 1,050MI6 Agent
    edited November 2023

    I just had quick read of a classic ( at least here in the Nordics): Otter Tre To kallar! by Leif Hamre. It's a boys adventure fiction from the 50s' A survival story of an aeroplane crew that gets stranded in middle of a winter storm in the Finnmark plateau after their plane suffers an engine failure. I remember reading it the first time when I was 8 years old, and it had not lost its magic. Always makes me want to camping in the dead of winter and to hunt and fish!!!

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,286MI6 Agent

    Finders Keepers by Stephen King

    Morris Bellamy is John Rothstein's biggest fan, so much so that he kills the retired author for his treatment of fictional character Jimmy Gold (Bellamy's literary hero) and so he can get his hands on Rothstein's money and notebooks, which are full of unpublished novels, stories and essays. Before he can read or sell the notebooks (which are worth a fortune) Bellamy gets drunk, assaults a woman, is convicted of rape and promptly sentenced to life in prison. Fast forward 30 years where young Pete Saubers stumbles across the stash, using the money to help his struggling family and falling in love with Rothstein's writing along the way. When Bellamy is released from prison a few years later he promptly sets about planning to recover what he believes is his property, setting his sights on the unsuspecting Saubers family and anyone else who will stand in his way.

    Finders Keepers is supposed to be the second entry in the Bill Hodges trilogy, a series of straight up crime novels featuring retired police detective K. William Hodges and his friends Holly and Jerome. In reading the book however, I got the feeling that this was originally a standalone novel which King then grafted Hodges and his friends into. Hodges himself doesn't appear until the halfway point and the focus of the story is squarely on Bellamy and Pete, who in many ways can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Remove Hodges and things would have played out largely the same with just a few very minor revisions to the text.

    In spite of that somewhat odd construction, I found Finders Keepers to be a well paced and interesting story. The final pages also set up the final entry in the trilogy, which appears to pick up the threads of Mr. Mercedes more directly. Looking forward to starting that one soon.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,535Chief of Staff

    This is one of the (very) rare King novels I was disappointed in, and I had been hoping otherwise after "Mr Mercedes". I think the reason for that is one you mentioned above - construction. I found myself ahead of the story (and that is certainly not usual with this author) and impatiently waiting for it to catch up to where I knew it would be going.

    As a sidetrack this is the main reason I grew tired of reading the Jack Ryan series by various hands after (and quite possibly before) the death of Tom Clancy.

    Anyway, this obviously wasn't enough to put me off reading the next one, which turned out to be fortunate because..... but more on that later.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,286MI6 Agent

    @Barbel, yes I experienced that sense of being ahead of the story as well. You could kind of see where things were going and unlike other books King really didn't pull the rug out from under you here. I didn't mind because at the end of the day all I ask of a book is that it lets me forget about the day to day grind for a while and this one did that. The setup for End of Watch suggests more of a return to vintage King ("clack!") and I'm looking forward to diving into that one; hope to start it in the next day or two.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,360MI6 Agent

    I had that feeling about Finders Keepers myself, but couldn’t put my finger on why, you’ve solved that now @TonyDP thanks! I wasn’t disappointed in it, but just found it a bit odd.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,319MI6 Agent

    MAY DAY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    The novella gets a bit of a rough deal among literary critics. Fitzgerald's writing often lends itself to the shorter form, where his condensed and intense descriptions provoke emotions which resonate clearly through the ages.

    Here, he inhabits a similarly consumerist environment to Wharton's anti-heroine Undine Spragg from The Custom of the Country, only while she inhabits a pre-war New York with all its conspicuous consumption and robber barons spending money like water, his rich young things are post-war, dealing with guilt and issues of social reform. It is telling, given what would happen in Germany a decade later that the socialists are considered to be Jews and intellectuals. Fitzgerald's world doesn't change as much as Wharton's, we don't see the other side of the Atlantic or the mid-west, but we do see two disgruntled foot soldiers, who despite their war record remain on the lowest rung of the ladder and pay the price for those attempting social reform. The irony strikes as deep as Wharton's, is more subtle and nuanced. Fitzgerald is one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century. I would recommend this as a good introduction to his longer even more affecting works.

  • IstvanTheHun007IstvanTheHun007 Posts: 75MI6 Agent

    Having finished the final John Gardner 007 novel, I also completed Vol 1. of Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian - The Coming of Conan The Cimmerian. And with that, the last book I have read is "In the Beginning..." by Joseph Ratzinger. Very interesting theological and philosophical treatise on the Book of Genesis.

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 1,050MI6 Agent

    Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour in search of the perfect meal."

    I really like his prose, and believe that he was one of the great raconteurs of our time. It's a funny thing how I hear his voice inside my head while reading the book.

    I never thought, watching his shows on tv, that he really could be so uncertain, squeamish and at times down right reluctant to engage with the food and people he was faced with shooting the show. His book gives so much more depth to what you see on the show, that I have been re-watching the show on the u-tube armed with his book. Pausing and reading while I go forward, using the book as a sort of roadmap to the episodes.

    I never was a fan of travel or food shows pre-Bourdain, and haven't bothered with those post-Bourdain.

    I hope the feast in Valhalla met his expectations...

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,286MI6 Agent

    End of Watch by Stephen King

    Retired detective K. William Hodges is called in to investigate a series of suicides that bear the meddling imprints of his old nemesis, serial killer and all around sociopath Brady Hartsfield, the so-called Mercedes Killer. Hartsfield as been in a vegetative state, confined to a hospital bed, since the events of Mr. Mercedes several years earlier and would at first seem incapable of being involved. Alas, looks can be deceiving. Making matters more difficult, Hodges has discovered that he has pancreatic cancer. Faced with his own mortality it's a race against time to stop Hartsfield before he can execute his latest scheme and before his cancer overtakes him.

    End of Watch is the final chapter in King's Bill Hodges trilogy. More straight up crime dramas, this final chapter adds in a healthy dose of the paranormal as Hartsfield is given some interesting psychic abilities, making the book feel more familiar and accessible to King's constant readers. Unlike Finders Keepers, which felt like a standalone effort with Hodges and his friends shoehorned into the proceedings, this one comes across as the direct sequel to Mr. Mercedes it was obviously meant to be.

    The book itself was a fast read. Taking place almost in real time over the span of a few days, there was a sense of urgency throughout and unlike other King books events ramp up quickly and race to a final confrontation between Hodges, his friends Holly & Jerome, and Hartsfield. It's interesting to see how the characters evolve over the three books, especially Holly who has grown and changed a lot from her first appearance. Hartsfield himself is for me easily King's most vile and evil villain. Yes, characters like Pennywise and Flagg committed heinous acts but you could almost understand their motivations, twisted though they were. Hartsfield simply kills because he likes it, and inflicting suffering on his victims is the most fun part for him. He deserves a bad end and while it's not a spoiler to say he gets his in the end, I was hoping he would suffer a bit more than he did. His final fate seems a little too easy given all the pain he inflicts and all the harm he does.

    Not sure where to go next. I have The Outsider (and Holly) on my shelf but after the previous three books I think I'd like to go in a different direction for the next one and circle back to Holly's continuing adventures a little bit down the road.

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