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  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Yes, I very much agree that this felt like King moving back to his usual territory. Definitely better than "Finders Keepers", I found this one very involving and like you read it quickly. Nice point about the villain being particularly heinous for an author not short of such characters. Damn, I need to read that whole trilogy again now (and we all know where that'll lead ...).

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Sophie Hannah's fifth Christie continuation novel. As ever, it's narrated by Edward Catchpool, her combination of Hastings and Japp from the originals - my guess is that she felt that since there was no way her version of Poirot wouldn't be compared to Christie's she wanted to avoid other comparisons as much as possible. Miss Lemon hasn't appeared in her stories to date, either, although George the valet has a cameo in this one.

    Poirot and Catchpool are invited by the latter's mother to spend Christmas in a mansion by the sea, populated by a rich dysfunctional family with secrets to hide. That's about all I'm going to say - you can figure out the rest easily enough if you're a fan of this sort of thing but will you figure out whodunnit?

    Hannah is a good writer but more than once I felt she was padding out the story unnecessarily as if she had been given a certain word count to work towards. Christie could have wrapped everything up in half the number of pages without losing anything essential.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    Ok…been on a bit of a The Beatles reading kick of late…

    The top one is fairly light reading, interesting but not really packed with new information…

    The second one is excellent, a month by month guide to their last year as a group…throughly enjoyable 🍸

    The third was written during the time it covers…1963…by Braun who was with them.

    The last is David Quantick’s look at and appraisal of The White Album….insightful, amusing and worth a read.

    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    This one should be next on your reading list, @Sir Miles. 😉


    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    Had it on my shelf from the release date 🤣🤣🤣

    YNWA 97
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,198MI6 Agent

    How about this?

    Scraping the Barrel - Free as a Bird to Now and Then by Napoleon Plural. 😁

    Actually, I'm reading one that is tangentially relevant, it's called On the Cusp: Days of '62 and it's by David Kynaston.


    It got a lot of reviews when it came out and many mentioned that it deals with the real start of the 60s, with the arrival of the first Beatles single and the release of Dr No in the same week of October.

    It's very good - the author has done a series of these books starting with VE Day - and not lengthy but it's not possible to skim read it. The author doesn't differentiate between the telling of diary entries by unknowns and big political events, it seems to be a grass roots, worm's eye view of the UK, using the humdrum, local news story or what's on telly that night to weave a narrative. This is the past without a filter and it almost aims to include the drab in an Alan Bennett kind of way. But you can't just skip over passages, and the result is like sifting through your parents' junk room where old receipts, diaries, consumer catalogues, timetables and precious family heirlooms and photographs all compete for your attention from an equal footing. It takes its time, everything has to be considered.

    Here's a review

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/sep/11/on-the-cusp-days-of-62-by-david-kynaston-review-dizzyingly-varied

    I've been meaning to do a massive Beatles book review and you never know, I may get round to it before Christmas...


    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    I've had it since around the same time. Too many books to read unfortunately. 😀

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    It’s in a perennial state of being the ‘next book to read’ 🫣🤣

    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    That sounds a lot like my house. It's partially held up now with "to be read at some point" books. 😊

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff


    I’m in a bit of a Solar Pons rut, as can be seen from my recent posts in this thread. A story in this volume

     

    has irked me, and I would like to share my thoughts with you and hopefully read your thoughts on the subject. This whole ramble is going to be one big spoiler so stop reading now if you haven’t read this and might want to.

    It’s called “The Adventure Of The Immortal Dead Man”, and it’s a novella ie a fairly long short story or a short novel, depending on how you want to classify such things. It opens, as many such stories do, with a worried man coming to the great detective for help and guidance- if you’re into this sort of thing, you’ll be familiar with this from reading or watching Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, etc etc. No sooner has he left our hero’s consulting rooms when he is killed by a drive-by gunman.

    Our hero and his sidekick naturally set off to investigate. We spend a lot of time now with the man’s best friend with whom he had a falling out since both of them were after the same woman, the woman in question, the man’s employer, the investigating police, the man’s house where an earlier attempt had been made on his life… you get the idea. A good number of pages are also spent on the nature of the man’s work and explanations of it for those of us who have difficulty with quantum mechanics (such as me).

    Got all that? Fairly standard whodunnit stuff, which the experienced reader will be familiar with and will be happily looking for clues in. Like I said, a good number of pages cover all this.

    Then, only a few pages from the end, our hero discovers from the man’s bank account that he had been taking out large sums of money for his gambling habit and deduces that he has been killed by gangsters because he cannot pay his debts.  End of story.

     

    What? This is introduced only a few pages before the end of the story. We have been wasting our time with the love triangle, etc, for page after page. Back in the golden age of detective stories (when this is set) there were rules which had to be followed, and one of them was not to introduce a character in the last one or two chapters who turns out to be the murderer.  It’s very annoying. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I’m particularly asking our in-house authors but all thoughts are welcome.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    Hi @Barbel I'm not sure what you expect me [us] to tell you. This for want of a better phrase literary cloaking device was not unusual in the formative years of detective fiction. I can't tell you who started the trend. Contrary t popular belief, it wasn't Agatha Christie who kicked off the idea of an unknown suspect - she plotted her hero's solutions backwards, deciding who the killer would be during the revelatory scene and then inserting clues into the already composed dialogue and action. In truth while I am no lover of Christie, that is exactly how I work some of the plot complexities in my novel and for non-saga fiction, I would say that is quite usual. What isn't is the Murder by Death idea of the omnipotent detective; most famous detectives always discover clues and piece together the solution and motive for a crime. Invariably however, one always feels it is a bit of a guess on the detective's part even when it isn't. As a reader, I want the clue to be there, somewhere, even if I have to search for it. Having read a lot of Alistair MacLean recently, while he didn't write whodunits, his stories often feature an explanatory chapter where the lead character explains everything we as readers have not been party to, this often includes background information known by the hero but never mentioned until this moment, making him not only omnipotent but also appearing cruel to his companions [usually but not exclusively women] as they, like us, are completely unaware of unfolding danger. This writing tactic is lazy IMO as it betrays a lack of narrative forethought.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    As these novels are short, I read them back to back over a couple of days.

    UP THE JUNCTION by Nell Dunn (1963)

    Controversial on publication, jaded in 21st Century Britain, Up the Junction is a series of short episodes in the life of a rich girl relocated to Battersea and how she negotiates friendship, hardship and men. The sixteen short stories are vaguely related by the characters featured – most notably Sylvie and her sister Rube – and all share an unseemly penchant for dirty talk. This may have been shocking in the early sixties, but it barely raises an eyebrow of concern for me, other than to lament how horrid social attitudes were in the sixties. Common subjects are abortion, feckless husbands, rent money, squalor, booze and sex. The portrait painted of south London is grim indeed. Each story is told at breakneck speed and with the barest of description. This is a dialogue heavy novella, which doesn’t even bother with adjectives or names, so we never have any idea who is talking. A dated experiment of a novel which fits snugly into the era’s kitchen sink genre. 


    POOR COW by Nell Dunn (1967)

    Poor Cow may be a more traditionally structured novel than Dunn’s debut Up the Junction, but it still inhabits the same climes of dirty south London backwaters, flawed heroines and one-track-minded characters. Sex is so uppermost in everyone’s thoughts it just becomes boring. Not so much scandalous as repetitious. Some of the events discussed by the book’s central figure and occasional narrator Joy had already been touched on by the author, which disappoints as it fails to present a unique storytelling vision. Tales of nude modelling, bar work, prostitution and a sometime onetime romance attempt to enliven the narrative and the author uses technical trickery in an attempt to keep the one-note plot afloat. It doesn’t work and the whole enterprise becomes mired in drudgery. Perhaps the pages that read best are those concerning Joy’s blissful moments of motherhood, when she lovingly pampers and pesters her son, Jonny, who grows from newborn to two year old as the action unfolds. Here Dunn’s observations are thoughtful, intense, genuine and charming. The rest of the prose, peppered with expletives and a recurring sense of desolation – the final chapter even has the word as a title – simply isn’t interesting enough. The stuck record needs changing and a revelatory final few pages comes too late to save a messy, if short, dialogue heavy novel.     

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    I haven’t read these but I’m going to have to after reading your review. They sound authentic and very much like the real life South London of the 70’s and 80’s that I grew up in. Today’s sensitive souls wouldn’t understand that world at all.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Thanks, @chrisno1. Really I'm only grouching about an unsatisfactory read. I'm going to break my cycle of Solar Pons books (I gave about one and a half still to go) and read something else.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff


    THE SECOND MURDERER Denise Mina

     

    The latest in the sporadic series of Philip Marlowe continuation novels, carrying on the work of the late Raymond Chandler. This time it’s the first by a female author, one with a respectable history of writing crime novels.

    I am very pleased to say it is far better than the last one, “The Goodbye Coast” by Joe Ide. Mina captures Chandler’s prose more effectively than any of her predecessors, the similes and metaphors feeling unforced and natural and the characters an intrinsic part of the plot rather than being put in place because they’re expected to be there. Speaking of the plot, any Chandler reader would agree that this is not his strongest point but Mina manages to tie everything up nicely- though not too nicely.

    The title’s a Shakespeare quote which Chandler had considered for “Farewell, My Lovely” and Shakespeare quotes and paraphrases are scattered through the story like grains of salt on a pizza. The female characters are stronger than the male ones (incompetent cop, sadistic billionaire, drunken taxi driver…), which again wasn’t unusual for the original.

    I hope Mina writes more Marlowe, she’s perhaps the best of those who have tried.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent
    edited January 15

    Lisey's Story by Stephen King

    Lisey Landon, widow of celebrated author Scott Landon, has finally begun cleaning out her late husband's papers and personal effects, a chore she has put off since his death two years prior. Unfortunately, her efforts are quickly put on hold, first due to her sister Amanda becoming catatonic, and then owing to the visit of one Zach McCool, a grade-A nutcase who has an unhealthy infatuation with Lisey and her late husband's writing. If she is to save herself and Amanda, Lisey must pull back the purple curtain and recover memories she has repressed for years; memories of Scott's harrowing childhood and how she and her husband were able to visit another magical world he called Boo'ya Moon, home to things both wondrous and terrifying.

    Lisey's Story reminded me a little bit of another Stephen King novel called Bag of Bones; both deal with the loss of a loved one, overcoming grief and how even death cannot completely sever certain bonds. Unlike his more recent novels, which are much more linear and direct in their storytelling, Lisey's Story has a more complex structure to it, regularly bouncing between different periods of Lisey's and Scott's lives, often within the same paragraph. It's a much denser narrative that required me to take my time with it and stop after each chapter to process what I'd read. The book is also equal parts unsettling (some of the sections in Boo'ya Moon were downright disturbing) and sentimental, especially in its depiction of Lisey and Scott's life together, with an ending that was among King's most moving and emotional.

    King has said this is his favorite book and overall I found it to be a very good read; definitely one of his most heartfelt efforts.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    THE FUNGUS (1985) by Harry Adam Knight

    It’s actually James Bond In The Cinema author John Brosnan under a pseudonym that he used many times. An artificially created fungus escapes from a laboratory and spreads across London causing death everywhere it touches. It’s great fun and moves so fast you barely know that you’ve got to the end of the book. As per usual with these nature-gone-wild pulp actioners there are lots of vignettes where people are set up for the kill. Brosnan’s dark humour shines through like a beacon and there is one particular gruesome event which is absolutely outrageous.

    Hugely recommended.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff
    edited January 16

    @TonyDP I agree, it's a good one. I haven't seen the screen version with Julianne Moore yet, and I might not in case of disappointment (it's rare to see a good adaptation of King).

    @CoolHandBond You learn something new every day, I didn't know that about John Brosnan. Sounds very Herbert - ish

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent

    @Barbel, I haven't seen the screen version yet either (don't have Apple TV) but it's my understanding that King wrote the screenplay for each episode himself since he thought it important to get this adaptation right.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Ah, I didn't know that. Sounds promising; I don't have Apple TV either but there must be some way to get this.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    I still use a potato for my TV but now they've moved on to Apple TVs. I need to get with the programme!

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    Other than MacLean, I recently read ALI SMITH's HOTEL WORLD which is an interesting multi-voiced novel set in and around a fictional hotel and concerning the events leading up to, surrounding and the aftermath of a fatal accident. Smith creates landscapes and characters, focusses attention on their emotions and provokes sympathy while gently satirising the [then] Labour government [or any government, although she does mention Tony Blair] and society as a whole over its lack of social responsibility and awareness. The novel uses shifting perspective, tone, typography and voice to develop its characters and references other texts and cultural phenomena to suggest place and time. It is short, awkward to read, but very deep and as a conceptual novel succeeds more than it fails, but you do have to be prepared for the unusual.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    DOWN-BOUND TRAIN (1973) by Bill Garnett

    This is an Amicus style portmanteau effort with few surprises. The line-up of characters have no redeeming features, a blackmailer, a depraved priest and a degenerative doctor are amongst the passengers on the train. There is no light relief in these tales with all of them deserving their fates. Garnett has a good sleazy way of writing, but it’s all rather soulless.

    Very average.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WILEY HOOD Mark @Loeffelholz

    (I've had the Kindle version for over 18 months but have only just got round to reading it. On my bedroom bookshelf lie books crying "Read me! Read me!" so I do, but Kindle books clearly don't do the same so they have to wait. @chrisno1, same explanation to you.)

    The third of Loeff's books I've read, after "Blood And Ashes" and "Storm Maker". Both of those adventures of 1940s private eye Oscar Jade I enjoyed and recommend, but this is in a different league altogether.

    Here the author takes giant steps in his writing in all departments - character, plot, style, you name it. I literally could not put this down until I reached the ending, digesting it in one gulp. I love when that happens with a book and am still basking in the glow.

    I'm not going to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers (although the title itself sums it up), so let's talk characters. Wiley is an engaging protagonist, not a perfect man but a very likeable one who is easily identified with. His girlfriend Mary comes across as less so, perhaps because we're seeing her through his first person viewpoint. Her formidable father, who is amusingly never named but consistently referred to as "The Old Goat" is well drawn- if this is ever filmed then I hope Brian Cox is available.

    I can't see this having a sequel, for reasons that will be obvious once it's read, but will be very happy to rejoin Mr Jade. Bravo, Loeff.

  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters

    I'm only a third of the way through The Disappearance of Wiley Hood at the moment (on audiobook), but everything Barbel said in his review about the characters rings true for me so far. I'm finding it a very enjoyable read/listen...

  • LoeffelholzLoeffelholz The United States, With LovePosts: 8,985Quartermasters
    edited January 18

    I humbly thank you, sir. There will be more Oscar Jades (I'm 150 pages into Eyes of the Dead as we speak), but I think Wiley is the one I will be remembered for (if I am to be remembered at all)...the story has been a part of me for so long that it practically wrote itself - and it has given me the courage to perhaps reach further beyond the rather straightforward genre stuff that Jade represents.

    Thanks again @Barbel! You made my day 🍸️

    EDIT: Brian Cox would be brilliant as the Old Goat! Since I first wrote the short story (nearly 40 years ago), my actor wish list for the character has been forced to evolve as the old gentry has died off. Past list members include Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau...even Adam West (in a more obviously comic take) ...my brother and I have joked that it's bad luck to nominate anyone for the role, haha. I think Christopher Walken would be riveting in the part as well. The nature of the character is such that any solid senior-age actor could easily make it his own without disrupting the character's footprint in the piece.

    Check out my Amazon author page! Mark Loeffelholz
    "I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
    "Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM
  • LoeffelholzLoeffelholz The United States, With LovePosts: 8,985Quartermasters
    edited January 18

    You're still in the 'setting up the dominoes' phase of the piece...you'll know when they start to fall. Thanks so much for giving it a listen, @Golrush007! I am especially proud of the work of my narrator, Scott Ellis, whose performance is nothing short of remarkable as the stakes get higher.

    If you enjoy it, please leave a review on Audible and tell your friends. It's very hard for indie authors to keep their work from remaining a secret in such a crowded literary marketplace. Cheers! 🍸️

    Check out my Amazon author page! Mark Loeffelholz
    "I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
    "Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    (I've had the Kindle version for over 18 months but have only just got round to reading it. On my bedroom bookshelf lie books crying "Read me! Read me!" so I do, but Kindle books clearly don't do the same so they have to wait. @chrisno1, same explanation to you.)

    no offence taken @Barbel

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent
    edited January 28

    The Shining by Stephen King

    Jack Torrance takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, located in the Colorado mountains. Bringing his wife Wendy and their 5 year old son Danny along, Jack hopes this gig will be the break he needs after a series of unfortunate events that have befallen him owing to his alcoholism and unstable temper. The Overlook however has its own plans for them, especially little Danny who has a strong Shine, a powerful telepathic ability that even he doesn’t fully understand.

    One of King’s first novels, it’s interesting to see the first appearances of many King staples: the would be writer struggling with alcoholism and self doubt, the gifted child placed in peril, the unhappy childhoods of the protagonists and how it affects their outlooks on life, the lurking evil who’s origin and motives are never really explained because, in the end, evil needs no explanation or motivation. Jack in particular is an interesting character. Generally thought to be a sympathetic victim who is slowly corrupted by the evil in the hotel, I came to have a slightly different opinion of him: a well meaning but ultimately weak willed loser who never really conquered his demons and was ripe for corruption. His final turn to evil is foreshadowed and not all that surprising when it finally comes.

    The Shining is probably the most familiar of King's works to people not acquainted with his writing owing to the Stanley Kubrick movie of the same name. Much has been made about the differences between book and film and King’s dissatisfaction with the latter. In reading the book for the first time in ages it was interesting to see some passages that were lifted almost word for word from the book, especially the interactions between Jack and Grady, the prior caretaker of the hotel. And while much has been made about how Kubrick fundamentally changed Jack into a borderline psychopath right from the start, equally interesting to me was how he sidestepped the malevolent nature of the hotel itself. The book makes it pretty clear that the hotel is alive in its own way and a corrupting influence on its inhabitants, especially if they possess the Shine. It wants to absorb Danny, thus growing stronger thru him and his powers, and this aspect was largely omitted from the film.

    Overall, the Shining was a very entertaining book and definitely a must read for anyone thinking of getting into Stephen King’s works. 

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    No, sorry, don't know that one.

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