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Saturday April 30, 2016

Books in April

  • Blood Sympathy, Born Guilty, Killing the Lawyers by Reginald Hill
    Reginald Hill wrote only 5 of these Joe Sixsmith novels in the 1990s - which is a shame as they are delightful - but I guess they are products of their time, so I am not sure he would have ever come back to the character.
    Amusingly, and clearly written pre-1997, Gary Glitter is very much in evidence as a symbol of popular culture in the background of this story, which cannot but stand out as bizarre to current ears, and in a very different way than the original humorous intention. Much of the action takes place in the pub (The Glit) which is a shrine to the Glitter Band, (and all the harmless fun it once represented). At one point Joe ponders that his own version of God "likes Gary Glitter as much as Haydn" which may be true if we are speaking musically, (and for all I know may be true altogether since I know nothing about Haydn's personal life - but I read that he was a 'devout man of good character').
    I read the final two books of this series in 2011, and these are the first three.

    BOM-BloodSympathy.jpg BOM-BornGuilty.jpg BOM-KillingTheLawyers.jpg

  • Rat Race by Dick Francis
    BOM-RatRace.jpg I'm amazed to find yet another vintage Francis (Dick) that I have not previously read. The plot and writing were in the old tradition and so it was interesting and thrilling as usual.
    However, the part that really interested and impressed me was actually in the foreword, where the author explains that his wife Mary "in doing the research for the book" became so interested in flying that she took lessons, gained her license, and was commissioned to write a learners text book on the subject (!) "still in use today". And if that were not enough - the pair of them started an air taxi business (as described in the book) which they built up and then finally sold on. All I can say is some people are born hard working entrepreneurs.

  • BillNighy.jpg A Decent Interval
    Again I'm going to go on and on about what high quality adaptations by Jeremy Front these are - even down to the really clever and natural way that each episode gives us the "previously ......" information about the plot.
    You have to catch them - next time round - or on iPlayer.

  • KingOfDiamonds.jpg Galbraith and the King of Diamonds
    So in contrast, here was a series (many episodes) that was not only seriously dated (maybe almost in a Good Way) but also almost seriously bad (in a Bad Way). I've never been fond of Bernard Hepton (he should have tried his hand at comedy) and here he played Galbriath and thus was compelled to affect a (constantly slipping) Scottish accent. This play for radio is by Robert Barr - most well-known for z Cars and Softly Softly on TV - but actually a prolific writer for radio. There is a second play featuring Galbraith "The Midas Touch" - which after this I look forward to with.... interest...

  • TheSpyingGame.jpg The Spying Game
    Four very worthwhile plays on the subject of espionage:
    The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming. James Bond battles to rescue a trapped British agent, (and in which I learn that the film of the same name dismisses the entire plot of short story in the first few minutes.)
    Max Is Calling by Gayle Lynds.
    An idealistic CIA recruit is pitched against a cynical veteran.
    The Red Carnation by Baroness Orczy.
    A former Russian spy's loyalties are tested over an assassination plot.
    A Demon in My Head by Jean-Hugues Oppel.
    The struggles of a troubled spy suffering from crippling migraines.

  • JulianRhindTutt.jpg Rumpole on Trial
    So these manifestations of Rumpole took me quite by surprise, and I did quite enjoy them. However - Rumpole for the modern world? - except that Rumpole is not of the modern world. I cannot imagine him as anything but a product of his time.
    Overall they reminded me of the remake of Reggie Perrin - nothing wrong with it - very funny - excellent actors - just somehow not right.

  • TheMagus.jpg The Magus
    New radio dramatisation of the novel by John Fowles. This was such a cult book and such a long time since I read it - and a pretty odd book. My college tutor in the 1970s (when the revised edition was published, which was the version I read) thought it was marvelous and likened the plot to 'peeling an onion'. Like everyone else, I found the book very interesting - though I never thought or really clicked that the story is set in 1954; I think the locations make it somewhat outside of time.
    It seems it was the first book Fowles wrote, and not his best in his own estimation though we all seemed to love it.... though of course it is the weird plot that fascinates us rather than the execution of the writing.
    This version on radio makes an excellent play with a worthy and starry cast in the shape of Tom Burke, Charles Dance, and Hayley Atwell. Somewhat surprisingly, the much earlier film with Michael Caine was generally considered a failure. However this made me consider that maybe it's better suited to a radio adaptation as the story is very much from the "I"'s point of view - and on radio one is more clearly inside "I"'s head with his sense of unreality.
    The reviews all say that the ending of the book is indeterminate, and Fowles resisted writing any subsequent conclusion - but my understanding was that the revised edition made it very slightly more determinate (if you were desperate for a "happy" ending), and the translation of the final lines also indicates an optimistic ending. This play on the other hand seems to lean towards a pessimistic outcome for the lovers in my opinion, with Nick mourning his loss to no apparent response; it's not at odds with the written ending but being acted out indicates a certain finality. There are also references to the author telling different readers whatever they wanted to hear, and this is very much in keeping with his experimental manner of writing - ie offering different scenarios all in one book (the French Lieutenant's Woman where Fowles offers different plot turns, and at one point writes himself into the story. I noted a similar idea in Ian Mcewan's Atonement, although the 'real' outcome in that story was made crystal clear, even if it bypassed my sister....).
    Read this review - it's so much better then my own!

Posted by Christina at 3:17 PM. Category: Books of the Month