Tag Archives: books

My favourite book

Sam "Remember the Alamo!" Houston - who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

Sam “Remember the Alamo!” Houston – who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

I think the sequence of my favourite books may have gone something like this…

The Biography volume of the Childcraft Encyclopedia (or was it Cyclopedia?) – the obscure pasts of famous Americans.

Followed by Ulster, A Sunday Times Insight Investigation – oh look, they’re writing about us.

For a while it was… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I found it in an odd place. “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard‘.”

Then it was… Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis – happy endings, but don’t read while hung over: “He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police.”

It is (and has been for a while)… A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor – robust and exquisite. (And I want part 3 for Christmas.)

But the best books I’ve read lately are The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I was late getting to both of them. Both arrestingly good. (Never mind the reviews to which I’ve linked.)

But if I really really have to choose one, from the very very many I value and return to, it would be Continue reading

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Retribution

No good deed goes unpunished…

good deed…but carry on anyway.

That sums up my thoughts on the topic of retribution today. But who said it and was it worth saying?

Two candidates for the first part. The late great Oscar Wilde – whose shoulder I pat whenever I pass his statue on Adelaide Street in London. (Other passersby keep him in fresh cigarettes.) And various Americans, including Clare Boothe Luce.

The second part is me.

But was it worth saying? Yes, back then, for the truth of it.

And now? Less so. But repeating it may let me escape retribution from Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, MaxiPadmumShackman and The Old Fossil  – the other members of the Loose Bloggers Consortium, for failing to post on this week’s set topic. But if you’re disappointed with this meagre offering, I have something exciting coming soon.

In the meantime – girls, music and books.

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Reading list: Tudors, Nazis and Detectives

reading in the showerTime off = reading. Though to be honest, with me, any time = reading. Including in the shower. (Aah, maybe that was an admission too far. Anyway…)

All this time reading, when I should be WRITING, DAMMIT! But hang on. All is not lost. Stephen King is riding to the rescue of my beaten, bedraggled, often ignored but unbowed writer’s conscience.

In his excellent and useful book ON WRITING – A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, Stephen King says this:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. there’s no way round these two things thast I’m aware of, no shortcut.

I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft: I read because I like to read.

Phew! I’m at least halfway to being a writer. And this is what else I’ve been reading in the past fortnight and recommend to you.

ALONE IN BERLIN, first published in 1947 as JEDER STIRBT FUR SICH ALLEIN by Hans Fallada (real name Rudolph Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen). He died the same year. The story is of a couple who, when their son is killed on the Russian front, begin to write and drop postcards attacking Hitler across the city.

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don't be this guy.)

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don’t be this guy.)

An insignificant gesture of resistance perhaps, but one that provokes a concerted Gestapo campaign to find and kill them. It’s an exciting and moral story and paints a vivid picture of Berlin and Berliners during their days of complacency and then anxiety as the war begins to turn against Germany.

It also addresses those questions like – What would I do? What could anyone do? What did anyone do?

We don’t tend to hear much about the small ordinary acts of heroic resistance by Germans to Nazism. Perhaps because it conflicts with the idea that all Germans were complict – along the lines of Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen. Or perhaps because it undermines the defence that the masses were swept along, ignorant and innocent of the evil deeds of a few – along the lines of the film The Nasty Girl (Das schreckliche Mädchen). People did know – some acted with honour and humanity. Bit like today.

An inspiring read.

I also enjoyed RATLINES by Stuart Neville, who also wrote the ingenious Ghosts of Belfast (published as The Twelve in the UK). I’ve clearly got Nazis on the brain, because this is about Nazis and their fellow travellers who have fled defeat and holed up in the Republic of Ireland. And now someone is hunting them done and killing them. It could wreck the upcoming visit of President John F Kennedy. It’s clever, imaginative and pacey.  The author’s note at the front had me hooked:

These things are known to be true: dozens of Nazis and Axis collaborators sought refuge in Ireland following the Second World War; in 1957, Otto Skorzeny [the German paratroop leader who dramatically rescued Mussolini]  was welcomed to a country club reception by the young politician Charles Haughey; Otto Skorzeny purchased Martinstown House in Kildare in 1959; in 1963, in response to a question by Dr Noel Browne TD, the Minister for Justice Charles Haughey told the Irish parliament that Otto Skorzeny had never been resident in Ireland.

The rest is just a story.

And it’s a good story Continue reading

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The Devil made me do it

How often do you encounter – or read – something completely fresh?

Rarely, I’d say.

This is fresh. Or to be more accurate – it’s sulphurously original. Continue reading

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What a writer’s room should look like…

This is what a writer’s room looks like… Post-it notes papering the walls, a map, files, open reference books, photos…

I imagine there are teettering towering piles of books just out of the picture too.

This is the room in which Will Self wrestles with and writes his stories.

He says he tries to break free from traditional constraints.

The man himself – Will Self – wondering has he written enough to justify pausing for a cup of tea.

My ideal writer’s room is full of light, with lots of desk space and a view over fields.

The real one was cramped with books written by other people, shaded and prone to interruption.

These days the kitchen is the place. I perch Continue reading

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Cool Dog 100k

Cool Dog – Alfie – Deptford, London

COOL DOG is here to mark a small Blackwatertown landmark. You – dear readers – have visited this blog 100,000 times and brought the comment total above 5,000.

Thank you.

You’re as cool (if not even cooler) than Cool Dog.

Meanwhile, thank you also to anyone who has downloaded a copy of my ebook The Obituarist. I don’t know who you all are – but I’d love to hear so that I can thank you personally – so let me know if you do – email me at paulwaters99 AT hotmail.com

But I can thank Michael J Lawrence (author of The Aphrodite Conspiracy) for this review:

Got absolutely no work done that afternoon as I opened the first page and the story just kept me engaged until I finished it. Tally ho chaps, bandits at twelve o’clock. A ripping yarn! Continue reading

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The art of Muslim flirting

She’s definitely winking. Picture from a post about Muslim TV sex counseller Heba Kotb on a different blog. (Warning – Some of the comments are graphic. But you’ll be quite safe on Nadia’s blog.)

The art of Muslim flirting. Such a great title. Sounds better than – here’s a round up of interesting blog things. Which is what this really is.

But it begins with Muslims flirting. Nadia El-Awady reveals all here and gives some top tips. Don’t be creepy, but do try arm wrestling Continue reading

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