Tag Archives: books I dislike

What I Am Reading 26th September 2009

  1. The Boy Who Followed RipleyPatricia Highsmith. Refreshing assumptions of amorality, selfishness and ruthlessness. I’ve not found Highsmith’s short stories so enjoyable, and the Ripley series, of which this is the fourth, tails off a bit too. But it’s still fun. And Ripley as a character strongly reminds me of a good friend of mine. More for reasons of style and decisiveness than a total lack of moral compass. (Nor does my friend emit the startling flashes of anti-semitism that trouble me in Highsmith’s Ripley books.)
  2. The One from the Other: A Bernie Gunther MysteryPhilip Kerr. Ex-cop, ex-SS man, current private investigator Bernie Gunther is still poking around the affairs of Nazis, this time as they try to flee to new identities in 1949, post World War Two defeat. Always best when bringing Germany vividly to life pre, during or post war. This one, so far, flags only during a trip outside that familiar territory to Tel Aviv & Cairo, along with Adolf Eichmann of all people. (To be fair, in A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Mystery, Gunther’s wanderings round Nazi haven Argentina were convincing.) Hard boiled Chandleresque.
  3. Still reading:The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big OneDavid Kilcullen. (See previous reference to jihadist v. takfriri.) Kilcullen quotes a Chinese Colonel Qiao: “The first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” Apparently he said that strong countries would not use “unrestricted warfare” against weak countries because “strong countries make the rules while rising ones break them and exploit loopholes… The United States breaks UN rules and makes new ones when those rules don’t suit its purposes, but it has to observe it own rules or the whole world will not trust it.” This was in the context of US complacency about threat levels pre-9/11.
  4. Finished: Death at the President’s Lodging (Classic Crime)Michael Innes. One of those attractively presented Penguin Crime Classics. Thankfully a lot less annoying than The Moving Toyshop (Classic Crime), but still far too contrived. The solution is revealed thanks to the injection of “the unexpected aid of three precocious undergraduates.” In other words, after much brow furrowing and erudite conversation, a new eye witness appears near the end of the story with vital evidence, making most of what has gone before irrelevant. Er, isn’t that cheating?

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Reading on September 7th, 2009

I love to read. I’m an addict. But what if I get unduly influenced by someone else’s writing? How do any writers out there preserve your own unique voices when exposed to the excellent prose of a master?

My book is a thriller. So should I really be reading a classic like The Long Goodbye byRaymond Chandler? Taut,  terse, terrific. Thank you to Bob on the library bus for bringing it my way.

Before that I was underwhelmed by The Moving Toyshop (Classic Crime)by Edmund Crispin. I admit to being seduced inside Oxfam in Stockbridge in Edinburgh by the crisp green Penguin cover, one of the Classic Crime series. But inside there was just no sense of urgency.

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