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SethLynch

SethLynch

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Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
We Can Remember It for You Wholesale
Philip K. Dick
Hothouse
Brian Wilson Aldiss
Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation
Abraham Maslow

Spike Milligan: His Part in Our Lives

Spike Milligan: His Part in Our Lives - Shelagh Milligan I’m not sure what to make of this book. I love Spike Milligan, he was one of my early hero’s and has remained so to this day. This books is very light reading and is a collection of short tributes to Milligan. Some are interesting and insightful, some are a few anecdotes, and some I’ve heard before. The part I’m not sure about: I get the feeling that many of the people who contributed did so out of a sense of duty and might not have done so otherwise. They obviously liked Spike but were perhaps not too keen on this project. Although these are supposed to be spontaneous tributes I get the impression they were sent questionnaires with questions like: When did you first realise Spike is a genius? The more interesting parts come from people who contributions were taken from other sources – such as Harry Secombe’s auto-biography. These are the sections from writers who weren’t sent the questionnaire (if one was sent and I suspect it was). I also don’t like the comments about Shelagh Milligan (who wrote the forward to the book.) There are lots of parts about how good she was with Spike etc. Along with quiet a few on how Spike was unhappy in his first marriage (Shelagh was his third and final wife.) I find it disturbing because between this book being compiled and going to print Spike died and Shelagh effectively cut his children out his will. I’m also dubious about the inscription on his tombstone, part of which reads: I love you, Shelagh. That just doesn’t feel right.I borrowed my copy from Bexhill Library – one street away from the street where The Devonshire Arms used to stand – a pub Spike used to drink in. I do like that about Bexhill, being able to imagine Spike Milligan here both as a young man doing his military training and then going to the De La Warr for reunions.Anyone can be 52, it takes a bus to be 52A. Spike Milligan

Death of a Marseilles Man: A Nestor Burma Mystery (Crime Case)

Death of a Marseilles Man: A Nestor Burma Mystery (Crime Case) - Leo Malet Léo Malet is one of my favourite crime writers. He happens to have been a combination of things I admire: a member of the Surrealist group in the 1930′s and the instigator of French Noir crime fiction. Before Nestor Burma – Leo Mallets detective French crime tended to be imitations of American Hardboiled crime. Knock-off Chandlers and Hammetts. Through the early part of World War Two, this was how Mallet made his money – it was also the cause of his split with The Surrealists. Then Malet stopped writing novels set in American cities which he’d never visited and wrote one set in the city he’d live in for most of his adult lie, Paris. The rest is French Noir, Hardboiled, Crime-Fiction History.My French is not good enough to read the original versions (except any lines where Burma says: I’d like a coffee please, or can you direct me to the train station, I have a train to catch.The problem is that Burma knows Paris inside out and so doesn’t need directions. He doesn’t drink much coffee either, preferring something stronger. So for me, for now, this is good-bye to Nestor Burma. I’ve read all the books which have been translated into English, and look longingly at the forty or so which haven’t.This story opens with Burma waiting for his secretary at the train station. She’s been down in the South. He then finds himself at the fairground where somebody jumps him and tries to throw him out of a scenic railway. I’m not certain what a scenic railway is but it goes up high and if you fall out of the carriage you can be crippled or die. Each of those things happened to the two people who fell out of this carriage (on separate occasions). One of them had been thrown out after a struggle with Burma. There are a few femme fatales, some no-good delinquents (I think that’s the suitable mid-1950s turn for them.) Then there are the twists and turns as Burma puts the case together (see, I’m trying not to let you know the butler did it).The ending itself is a little sour. Being the last book I’ll be able to read of Mallet’s for a while I like that. I don’t part easily from this series. If anybody were to start translating them they have a ready market in me.

Dig Ten Graves

Dig Ten Graves - Heath Lowrance Dig Ten Graves is a short story collection. There are eleven of them. The eleventh is a bonus track – not really a part of the collection. It’s a good story though so I’m glad it was included. I think that, currently, Dig Ten Graves is only available in e-book format.I read the first few graves in late July. Then I went through some edits on Salazar and put it on hold. I cam back to it in September and read all the rest. This is the kind of book I would have loved in my late-teens/early twenties, when I was filling my head with Camus, Kerouac, and Colin Wilson. I loved it now – I just don’t have the same set of friends around to share it with. Except you, I didn’t mean to forget you. If only we were in a field late at night watching out for shooting stars, with no work in the morning (because we don’t work). I’d be filling you head with how good with of these stories are. My thumbed and scribbled copy (e-books didn’t exist) would be in your coat pocket. And, even though I’ve already recited each tale in turn, you will go home and read it from cover-to-cover: so tomorrow you can recite each tale back to me. Our copies of The Bastard Hand having been devoured months ago.Each short story, grave, has a death in there somewhere. They grow darker as you delve deeper in to the book, upping the dose to keep you high. These tales, full of dark humour, could have come straight from the writing shed of Roald Dahl – perhaps after he’s spent a night drinking wine with Kafka. This is the Roald Dahl of Tales of the Unexpected. Dark stories – not all with a twist at the end: a few start off pretty twisted. I’d never thought of Dahl as being a noir writer before, but I do now. These books aren’t for children (neither are Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected) but I think I’d like to read a children’s story by Lowrance: with all the sinister undercurrents of James and The Giant Peach, or Matilda.I’ve been avoiding talking about the graces themselves, deliberately. I don’t like to talk about the plots of the novels I review, in case I spoil them. As these are short stories I can’t even hint too much. There is a nice one (which reminded my of The Magic Finger, and is where I first picked up the Dahl theme) where the hunter becomes the hunted. This is echoed much later in The Bad Little Pet. There are some great lines too, here’s my favourite: It lay dead in the tub, already seeming to go stiff, like a snakeskin or a used condom.These stories would have inspired André Breton. They are full of dark surreal images, a delving into the subconscious desires of man. He would have loved the humour, the gallows humour, the weak laugh into the face of the abyss, is what surrealism was all about. I have a short anthology of Humour Noir by Breton, these stories would have been given a honourable mention had Breton been writing it today.I read a story a night, and wished there were more. I’ve downloaded That Dammed Coyote Hill, to get my fix. I’ll leave it a while first. I’m part way through another collection: The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. by Edward A. Grainger. It’s a book I downloaded after reading a blog post about it on Heath Lowrance’s blog. I warn you now – if you head over to Heath’s blog at Psycho Noir don’t read his book recommendations or his series on noir through time – it’ll cost you a pretty penny. If you are wiser than me, you’ll print of the posts and keep them in your pocket ready to pull out each time you enter a second-hand bookshop.If you decide to buy this book you could ask Heath for a Kindlegraph.

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile - This is a good reference guide. The end of chapter exercises annoyed me a little bit as I felt they were just a gimmick to fill up space.I have read a few self-edit and writing books. Before reading this one you should read On Writing by Stephen King and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

The Redbreast

The Redbreast - Don Bartlett, Jo Nesbo, Jo Nesbø Jo Nesbo, the man who spawned an entire industry in The Next Stieg Larrson stickers. Rather unfair – like sticking The Next Bristol City on the gates of Old Trafford. Jo Nesbo is the writer Stieg Larrson showed signs of becoming by the end of his trilogy.This book is the third in the Harry Hole series. The pervious two are not available in English yet. I don’t mind coming into a series at a this stage. Harry has history. Most of it stems from those previous two books. I never felt that I was missing something significant by starting here. What you get instead of the introductions are fully developed characters going about there work.I don’t like to go into plot details in these reviews, I don’t want to spoil anything and half-the time I can’t remember enough of the plot to comment. I prefer to comment on the feel, the idea, and maybe scenes. These are the things which stick in my mind. Characters too but if the characters are undeveloped or unbelievable I probably won’t bother finishing the book. The first thing I liked about this book was its underlying subject – Nazis. I don’t have a thing about Nazis and am more interested in World War one than the sequel. I am interested in history and the way its twisted and perverted by time. The Norwegians, like the French, pretend that they fought bravely against the Nazi occupation. There were a few traitors but they were all shot on liberation. This book makes one fact clear: a lot of Norwegians fought for the Nazis. These people felt they were as loyal to their country as any other patriot. To them the real danger was the U.S.S.R. I like Harry Hole. It’s a reasonably long book which is engaging enough to sustain itself. There’s a Wikipedia page on Hole if you want to know about his character etc. I liked him. He’s a bit of a Martin Beck on a bad day. When I finished reading it I had to resist downloading the next one straight away.

The Last Deep Breath

The Last Deep Breath - Tom Piccirilli I read this a while a go. It’s a novella rather than a novel. It’s also an easy read which draws you in quickly. This made it feel a lot shorter than it really was. I felt like I got picked up half-way along some dusty road and didn’t really know what was going on until we hit LA. By that time the intent came through. The lead character had led a pretty fucked up life. Trying to redeem something or perhaps out of some new-found loyalty, or baser instincts Grey (the lead character) is on the trial of his foster-sister – or adopted sister, I’m not certain which. He gets there eventually, uncovering the seedier side of life along the way. The ending is neat – Taxi driver neat.

Yellow Medicine

Yellow Medicine - Anthony Neil Smith This is a gritty tale of a corrupt cop in corrupt times. The guy has nothing going for him. I don’t like him. Each move he makes reveals a more squalid side to his character. I read on with a morbid fascination. Until, at some point, everybody around him has become more sleazy and by comparison he doesn’t seem so bad. I soon shook that off though: Deputy Lafitte is bad. The terrorists he encounters happen to be worse.This is a cracking good read. Noir through and through. After reading this I bought 4 more A N Smith eBooks. For the price they are charging it’s hard to see what else you could be spending your money on. Buy it and try not to feel too dirty while you read it. And don’t be too hard on yourself if you end up liking Lafitte.

Murder in the Marais (Aimee Leduc Investigation)

Murder in the Marais - Cara Black There is a nice vegetarian restaurant in The Marais, next to a Lesbian night club. We used to go to the restaurant as the other veggie place we found was seriously cramped. I haven’t been back to Paris since Minty was born and I turned Vegan. I hope to fit in a trip later this year, in the Winter, when it’s quiet. Anyway…Gary Corby, writer of the superb Pericles Commission, recommended Cara Black’s books to me. I felt a little conflicted – I’m writing about a Parisian detective and so is Cara, and she’s got the jump on me. I subscribed to a blog she contributes to: and found her pieces interesting. I still didn’t read her book. I bought it and put it on my shelf – and stared at it. It was on my To Read list but always low down. I didn’t want to admit it but I was jealous. Then I moved house and I pulled this book out of the packing box and decide to read it. I’m not jealous any more – although I should be. It was a fantastic book. Luckily I find I don’t get jealous of good writers I get jealous of the bad ones who make loads of money. I don’t know how much money Cara Black makes but what ever it is she deserves more. I haven’t order the next book yet as I’m in new kindle owner mode and book 2 isn’t available in kindle format (although later books are)Recently I read a couple of Lee Child books (review here). I enjoyed them for what they were but they weren’t my kind of book. The Murder in The Marias is my kind of book and it was every bit the thriller that Lee Child’s books are. It doesn’t come across like that from the blurb or the cover the Aimée Leduc is secretly an action hero. She scales Parisian buildings in designer suits, ducks for cover as Nazi thugs snipe at here in court yards, and she breaks into Government buildings to make use of their computer networks.This book is about Paris’ murky past – the war and collaboration. It is only since the 80′s that the French have begun to acknowledge that collaboration was widespread. The myth of the resistance held sway until then. There was a resistance of course but it was not universally supported by every man, woman, and child as de Gaul may have had you believe. The Milice were probably more zealous in their rounding up of Jews than the Gestapo in France. This book reveals some of that. It shows the collaborators who sold out friends and family and then carried on as if nothing had happened. It also shows how the ‘That was then, why go dredging it all up’ attitude is a dangerous one indeed. And whilst exploring the dark side of Paris we also explore Paris itself and for all her reluctant Action Hero antics, Aimée is a detective and this book is a detective novel.I don’t want to reveal anything about the novel which may act as a spoiler – so I won’t. The main character is well developed – although if you are more stylish than me (not possible I hear you gasp) then you may get a few more of the references. I wasn’t totally convince by the bits which were in French and then followed by their English translation. It is hard to write a book set in a foreign country when it is not written in that language. How do you remind you readers that this is not New York or London but Paris – where they speak French. I say I wasn’t convinced but I did like working out what the French meant before reading the English don’t be put off by this I am talking about 6 or 7 words every couple of pages). Again – without revealing any of the novel itself – I liked the way the ends were tied together. I liked the character of the German minister and how his previous visit had been as an SS officer. I felt the story held together well. I’ll even break my Kindle buying streak to buy the next in the series.You should go out and buy this book today you don’t even have to go out to do it – buy on line)

The Hard Way (Jack Reacher, No. 10)

The Hard Way (Jack Reacher, No. 10) - Lee Child I don’t remember any blues in this book. It would have been nice to see that carry on. It could be that this is a one off, or perhaps he went off it somewhere along the line. I’ll find out someday as I will be reading them all, because these books are compelling. The draw you in and keep you in. I read each book in a few days. I’ll have to give them a month or so in between though as they are too similar to read one after the other.This book has Reacher in New York where he witnesses an event of little significance. The next night he learns that the event was actually a kidnapper picking up the ransom. This is how he is drawn into the story and although I read along I felt the drawing in was week. Whereas the draw in for Book 1 was solid. However I haven’t read the books leading to this one so it could be that Reacher has developed a personality where he likes trouble for it’s own sake – this is a part of his personality which is certainly there in book one but he denies it. It would be interesting to see he develop into a trouble seeker. For him to acknowledge that he lives by the thrill of life or death situations. Then for Reacher to travel the worlds war zones and getting involved – a fighting version of Grahame Greene.The Hard Way sees Reacher come to England –it’s interesting to see how Child writes this as he is an Englishman living in America. There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot – possibly less than book one. I did like the way Reacher got a lot of it wrong early on. This is shown nicely through the use of the third person narrative used here.Both books are neatly planned out. This one is better written than the first (the first isn’t badly written but there are a few clangers in there). I can see why they are best sellers. I have read the three Stieg Larsson books make for better reading. Larsson however was trying to bring to light some problems in his society. Child is writing in the pure escapism. I felt Larsson failed because he became too distracted by sexual perversion and petty details which are reiterated too often. Child’s writing is clean and his stories are to the point. They could be shorter but they don’t repeat themselves in the way that entire paragraphs in Larsson do. I think I’ll read some Jo Nesbo before I read the next Reacher book.

The Bastard Hand

The Bastard Hand - Heath Lowrance This is a seedy, dirty, book with enough bastards to populate a small town – which they do, Cuba Landing. Heath Lowrance gets disconcertedly into the mind of Charles Wesley, the mentally ill narrator, and takes us to some dark places. We start with muggings in Memphis and end up with beatings, shootings, and … and you’ll have to read it to find out what it escalates too.Wesley hooks up with a preacher and joins him on a trip to Cuba Landing. The preacher is taking over at the Free Baptist Church there. On first meeting the preacher we know little about him, except he likes smoking and drinking and most of all fucking. In fact he points out that it doesn’t really matter what he’s doing, if he had the option, he’d rather be fucking.Cuba landing is a small town with all the small town tensions. The women folk like to flirt with the new pastor. And it doesn’t take too long for him to get them into bed. He uses his pulpit to stir up trouble in the town. That trouble sees Wesley being drawn into plots to expose the preacher. Wesley keeps himself occupied by shacking up with the sister of the previous preacher whilst heading up to Memphis to rob crack house with a gang that mugged him early on. All these unlikely events are held together well through a neat, sparse, prose that kept me turning the pages – even when I should have been getting off the bus. Even when I should have been sleeping.I enjoyed this book from start to finish. There were no lapse in character voice or dialogue which brought me out of it. From the moment I started reading I was locked in. It must have taken a lot of planning and a lot of crafting to write this book – but none of that shows. The text flows with ease, at a good pace, through the sordid, desperate world of Charlie Wesley. I’m looking forward to reading more of his books as soon as he can write them.

The Coffin Trail

The Coffin Trail - Martin Edwards This book was selected for the Isle of Man Crime Book Club read. I always feel I read the book s for this more harshly than I would if it were a book I’d selected myself. I had been thinking of reading a book by Martin Edwards as my future boss mention him in my job interview. He’s also coming to the Island on the 25th of June – If I am I’ll have to go a long to the Crime Evening he has organised. (as it turned out that was the day I left the Island so I missed this)As for the book… It didn’t quite grab me. There were a lot of elements I really liked but there were too many inter-relationships. Nearly every character seems to have had an affair at some point and I felt this diluted the tension between the two main characters. There were some lines I really liked: ‘she had been pretty once, even her passport photograph couldn’t conceal that fact.’ And lines I didn’t: ‘…he couldn’t quite believe he’d taken things so far. Thank God their love for each other was so strong.’ There were a couple of times where a character notices that someone is sweating or red faced etc from a long distance away. As I read that it made me stop and think – can you really tell if beads of sweat are breaking out on someone’s forehead at a distance of twenty feet?I made the mistake of reading the blurb on the front cover: 'A first-rate complex Thriller.' It is not a thriller in any shape or form. When I’d gotten about a hundred pages in I stopped expecting the thrills and started to read it for what it is – a modern day cozy. A slightly genre bending cozy but cozy non-the-less. It really felt like an episode of Midsomer Murders. Cozies aren’t really my thing but I like to read the odd one.The way Edwards has set this up is nice. There are two main characters – an ex-Oxford don and a cop. The cop is working a cold case so and her ex-boss is the don’s late father. Her respect for his father means she (the cop is female) tolerates him more than she would otherwise. A cold case means there is no crime scene to be trampled over and gives scope for a non-cop to get involved. The location – a small village in The Lakes gives you an enclosed set of suspects. And Edwards plays by the rules of the Detection Club – no clues are withheld, no seemingly sane person turns out to be crazy (so not too much like Midsommer Murders) and he does not rely on co-incidences.I pretty much worked out who had done it and why at about the half-way point. The line that gave it way for me came on page 190 of the 299 page novel. It wasn’t a line related to the crime and I don’t know why it triggered the reaction it did but as soon as read I knew what had happened. In fact I was only about 75% correct. It made reading the rest of the book different. It didn’t spoil it at all, I became interested in how Edwards would misdirect people. It was like watching a magician when you know the trick – you can still admire the skill and dexterity of the performance.If you are into Whodunnits then this is right up your street.Martin Edwards has a blog here: http://doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com/ which I recommend. He is very knowledgeable about crime fiction and has good taste in films.

Faceless Killers (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

Faceless Killers - Henning Mankell, Steven T. Murray The first few pages are written from the point of view of an elderly farmer who discovers his neighbours have been brutally attacked. Wallander is called in to investigate. The rest of the book is written from his perspective. Wallander’s perspective is tired and singular. Outside of work he is a pathetic man whose life is falling apart. His wife has left him, he has no relationship with his daughter. He eats crap food and dedicates himself to his work – because then he doesn’t have to think beyond the case he’s working on.My first impression of Wallander was of Martin Beck updated. In fact this book felt like a Martin Beck book – as if Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö had passed the baton on to Mankell. This isn’t really fair but there are a lot of similarities. Both Beck and Wallander are police inspectors, they both have the feeling of lonely isolation about them. Wallander is getting a divorce – for Beck the divorce comes later in the series. They both feel detached from their family life and the world around them. In this book Wallander complains about getting a sore throat and an impending cold – something Beck does too in Roseanna.Wallander feels social change more than Beck. He also sympathises with the conservative anti-immigration sentiment prevailing at the time – although he also dreams about sleeping with an unknown black woman. Wallander makes fumbling attempts to get the public prosecutor into bed – these scenes are cringe worthy. We also have a running theme where Wallander is dealing with his increasingly senile father – from the two Beck books I’ve read so far his personal life is further in the background.The case follows a relatively straight course – a lot like Rosanna this is boring police work where the case is solved over a length of time. They go up the wrong track, they make mistakes, they get there in the end. I do like this style of book. I enjoyed the small details tucked into short paragraphs as we move between scenes. I like the scene of hopelessness in the book – that events are bigger than Wallander and one day he’ll be overwhelmed by them. The most recent book came out recently. It is the tenth in the series and Mankell has said it will be the last Wallander. There were ten Martin Beck books too. I think I will finish the beck books before I read the rest of the Wallander ones. Although I imagine I won’t be able to resist picking up book two: The Dogs of Riga.

Beyond Reach (Di Joe Faraday)

Beyond Reach - Graham Hurley I read this book as part of the Isle of Man Crime Book Club reads. It isn’t one I would have chosen myself for two reasons; I’m not really into police procedurals (books that is, I don’t mind them on TV) and this is number ten in a series featuring the main characters. From what I can gather they seem to follow on. However, I did enjoy it. There were themes I felt I was missing because I haven’t read the previous books I don’t think this mattered – this book was a unit in its own right. It actually felt like a feature length, very gritty, episode of The Bill – from the days when The Bill was good.The book is set in Portsmouth in 2008. The main non-police characters are the extended family of an ex-gangster turned legitimate business man, named Baz. The first part of the book is taken up with a hit and run. Other themes are the police’s attempts to convict Baz – for any crime by whatever means (although they are sticking to real rather than jumped up charges) . The real aim is to be able to seize his wealth – fired by a form of jealousy along with a genuine desire to show that crime does not pay.The main cop DCI Faraday is burnt out. He no longer believes in what he is doing. He’s seen too much of the bad side of life to believe in the good side any more. He and ex-DC Winter – who now works for Baz – are the series main characters. The book hangs together well as do the characters. Characters are extreme, yet believable. Except for one thing: a character called Mo Sturrock who gains a larger role as the book progresses. He is a social worker, Winter is trying to recruit for a charity run by Baz. In his first scene Sturrock meets Winter in a Portsmouth pub. He asks the landlady for veggie food as he is a veggie. This is all plausible – he is a caring person and is a vegetarian. The next time we see him eat, a good 150 pages later, he states that he doesn’t want prawns as they are in garlic and his kids hate the smell of garlic. OK, vegetarians don’t eat prawns but some people who eat sea food call themselves vegetarians, so still feasible. On the next page he eats a shoulder of lamb and on the following page he eats a bacon sandwich. Both of these are with Winter, who was with him at the pub when he claimed to be a veggie. I really think Hurley made a slip and forgot that he’d even mentioned the vegetarianism.There is also a cold case, the book begins with it in the prologue. All the action in the book ends and there are about 60 pages left to go. Faraday has been given the cold case – a rape. You might as well have hung a big light on the culprit and the slight twist. I won’t say anything more in case it does spoil it for you but it is flagged up well to early. It doesn’t add anything to the novel, in fact it detracts from it. The final twists are OK but not worth the extra 60 pages of reading. The book should have ended sooner, but it lacked a suitable resolution. This was a weak point in what was an enjoyable read. If you like procedurals this is worth the read – although I would start at book one.

This Must Be the Place: Memoirs of Montparnasse by Jimmie "the Barman" Charters, As Told to Morrill Cody

This Must Be the Place: Memoirs of Montparnasse by Jimmie "the Barman" Charters, As Told to Morrill Cody - Morrill Cody, Hugh D. Ford, Jimmie Charters I finished reading This Must Be The Place, an autobiographical book by Jimmie Charters yesterday. I read it quickly – mainly because I was off work and also it is short and easy to read. To the lay person this is a boring book. The stories he could have told he boasts about not telling – this was written in 1934 when discretion was something to be valued. So who was Jimmie Charters and why did I read his boring book? To me it wasn’t boring. Jimmie was a bar man in Paris from the early twenties until the early thirties. He worked mainly in Montparnasse. He was from Manchester and being English gravitated towards the bars which catered for Anglo-Saxons. So Jimmie poured beers for Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Isadora Duncan, Aleister Crowley, and many more. We don’t get any real inside information on these people – although Hemingway wrote the introduction and used it to take a serious dig at Gertrude Stein.What I got from this was a series of sketches of Paris, and Parisian bars, as they were in the thirties. I’ve used these bars an amalgamated them into one for the Salazar books. In my current Salazar WIP there are a lot of scenes in The Dingo Bar (one Jimmie worked in, also the place Hemingway met Fitzgerald) My Dingo bar is not the real Dingo though – mine is also The Jockey, The Falstaff, and every seedy bar I’ve ever been in (and I’ve done some serious research in this field). This book was worth reading, some of the sad stories are really interesting. It was released as a bit of a cash-in on the fame of Montparnasse and the clients Jimmy had in his bar. That does come across but doesn’t spoil the book too much.

Eight-ball Boogie

Eight Ball Boogie - Declan Burke I really enjoyed this book: it’s dark, it’s gritty, and it’s funny. The main character is a detective (by any other name) hired to spy on a man’s wife. He is also trying to dig the dirt on a murder to get a scoop in the press. He gets more than his fair share of beatings and more than his fair share of one liners.As you settle into the book it’s the humour which first gets you. It feels like reading a novel by Raymond Chandler – had he stayed in Ireland rather than going back to The States (and lived for another 60 years or so). This is an Irish book set in modern-day Ireland (of a few years ago) The country is riding the end of a boom, the politicians are feathering their own nests – whilst shitting in everybody else’s – the cops are more likely to dish out a beating than write out a ticket. In that way Burke’s Ireland is much like Chandler’s L.A. The plot of this book hangs together through the twists and turns (there is a nice ending – a nice Noir ending that is). The main character is well-developed; behind the cocky wise cracks he knows he’s gone in too far and is genuinely scared that he won’t be getting out again.I don’t want to say anything else about the book in case I spoil it for you, because you will be buying it. If you can be arsed to sit there and read this post then you can click on the link below and buy yourself a copy – you won’t regret it. ‘If I fell into a barrel of tits I’d come out sucking my thumb’ – that line alone is worth the entrance fee.

Paris Was Yesterday

Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939 - Janet Flanner, Irving Drutman From the back of the book: In 1925 Janet Flanner began dispatching her famous New Yorker ‘Letters from Paris’, from which most of the pieces in this collection are drawn. I read this book as I wanted to get some idea of what American ex-pats of the time thought of Paris. The second Salazar book features Americans in particular. There were also a lot of them in Paris: there numbers started to dwindle after the stock market crash of 1929 but many remained until the War of 1939.This book did give me what I wanted – although these would be ex-pats who don’t need to work. Or their husband’s work in well paid jobs and their wives don’t need to think too much about money. They don’t need to, but they think about it all the time.At first I quite liked it. Flanner does have a good way with words. Then it started to grate. Perhaps because, as the years moved on from the 1920s to the 1930s there was no sense of the poverty or the sheer hard work of life. There is a piece on Chanel from 1932 admiring her brilliance in encouraging people to wear real diamonds. This brings a bit of glitz to these otherwise desperate times. And so we might imagine the washer woman in Saint-Denis scrubbing the factory floors dressed in a tiara and weighed down by sparking ear-rings.Then there are the clowning obituaries of the Grand Old Dames of the last century who are choosing the mid-1930s to finally give up the ghost. Flanner will wax lyrically about their taste, charm, and style, and their elegance. These old ladies were so much more refined than today’s women who wear trousers and smoke cigarettes in public. The old ladies are not so very much behind the times though: The anti-Semitism of these anti-Dreyfusards is very much still in vogue and becoming much more popular just across the border.