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Showing posts from June, 2016

The Moonshine War by Elmore Leonard

I borrowed this book from a colleague at work and as such can't quote directly from the text, or even go back to prove I've not made a whole heap of stuff up–darned memory is playing up these days yes siree and so forth. But as near as I can remember, this little ripper is set in prohibition-era [insert redneck country town here], and is the story of one man who, thanks to strongly held principles and damned ornery stubbornness, goes to war with bootleggers over his father's not-so-secret stash of eight-year-old moonshine whisky. And that's pretty much it.

Of course, if you dig a little you'll come to realise it's a perfect example of Leonards own rules of writing. Nothing is extraneous; each sentence pushes the narrative onwards through the dramatic crisis and explosive finalé. No-one expounds, anguishes, gasps or grumbles; they merely say what they have to say. Characters are never described except by other characters. And at no time does it ever sound like wr…

Acts Of The Assassins by Richard Beard

Enthralled as I was by the re-telling of the Lazarus story, from the viewpoint of the titular resurrectee, one of the most entertaining tales I've read affectionately appropriated from the Christian Bible, I was bemusedly unprepared for Beard's latest reimagining: for I hadn't clicked that this was the story of what came after the ascension of Jesus.

Thankfully so! Having read a review by Philip Hensher in the Guardian where he points out the absolute futility of transmogrifying the crucifixion and resurrection story into the popular crime procedural form, it probably would have put me off in a small way. However, blundering in blindly, I twigged pretty quickly but it was a very pleasant surprise and made me want to find out if Gallio could figure it all out before everyone died. I can only imagine my sigh of disdain had I known this up front. I am, after all, sinfully disdainful.

Instead I was treated to a wryly amusing novel, situated both in the present and the past, an …

The Development by John Barth

I have a great deal of respect for John Barth. Even casual readers of these pages might notice the regularity of his appearances, generously spaced as befits a writer whose words require some significant effort of his readers. His insouciant love of wordplay, of use of subtext, and the meta-meta-meta [ad infinitum]* nature of some of his fiction makes me giggle with delight.

But on with the story! Or nine stories to be exact, and each is a window into life at a fictional but easily identifiable tidewater settlement of retirees, in which those seeking towards-end-of-life sanctuary find themselves in an awkwardly contrived and flimsy community at the turn of the century and indeed the millennium. There's a peeping tom (or is there?), spouses die, children are killed, an octogenarian stabs himself before his friends gas themselves in the garage, and of course there are innumerable community meetings and dinners and toga parties. Over it all hovers the opaquely implied threat of Tidewa…