Tag Archives: Philip Kerr

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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Favourite books (as of today)

If I thought too much about this my head would explode, so, as if leaping over the alley between two rooftops five floors up, I don’t pause and…

1. A Ride on the Whirlwind (African Writers Series)Sipho Sepamla (Fiction – tales of a revolutionary cell in apartheid South Africa.)

2. A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople – From the Hook of Holland to the Middle DanubePatrick Leigh Fermor (A memoir of his eighteen-year-old self walking from the Hook of Holland to a bridge over the Danube between Slovakia and Hungary in 1933. The next part of his journey to Constantinople is described in the sequel, Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland – The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates.)

3. Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)Kingsley Amis (Fiction – the funniest book ever)

4. E: A NovelMatt Beaumont (Fiction – a clever concept, written entirely in emails, very funny with it. Sequels include The e Before Christmas and E Squared – though the idea is getting less and less fresh.)

5. You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the ImaginationKatharine Harmon (A wonderful collection of maps of the mind, imagination, the world, heaven, hell and other points west. Just a gorgeous book to hold.)

6. The Forging of a Rebel – Arturo Barea (Autobiography – this is a trilogy, so is it cheating to include it? The three volumes are The Forge [ The Forging of a Rebel Book 1 ] (Flamingo), The Track (Flamingo) and The Forging of a Rebel – The Clash – childhood in Madrid and Castile, action with the Spanish army in the Rif War in Morocco, marriage and children, and finally his part in the Spanish Civil War.)

7. Ulster (A Penguin special) – The Sunday Times Insight Team (Reportage/History – an account of the outbreak in the late 1960s of the most recent “Troubles” in Ireland. As a “child of the Troubles”, this book made a big impression on me when I read it as a young ‘un. And while we’re on the subject, isn’t the “Troubles” an odd term to use to describe periods of general mayhem, localised civil war, military curfew, murder gangs roaming the streets, and widespread fear and loathing. It’s on a par with that other useful phrase – “a wee bit of bother” – as in: “Oh, I’d suggest you take the other road this evening, there’s been a wee bit of bother over beyond.” The WBB a euphemism for, say, the blowing into a ditch of a passing armoured personnel carrier and the killing of those inside. But moving right along…)

8. The Blue TangoEoin McNamee (His imagined version of the real life murder of Patricia Curran in 1952. It was the main pre-Troubles crime celebre in Northern Ireland, never satisfactorily solved. He’s done another interesting version of the death/killing of Princess Diana, called 12:23: Paris. 31st August 1997, but I prefer The Blue Tango.)

9. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945Tony Judt (History – Post World War Two history of Europe.)

9 1/2. For Whom the Bell TollsErnest Hemingway (Fiction – you may have heard of this Spanish Civil War tale.)

10. Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for AfricaDambisa Moyo (Well argued polemic – She lays out the reasons the West should suspend development aid to Africa, for the good of Africa. She’s Zambian. I bought the book in Durban, South Africa.)

Phew! I was worried for a moment that I wouldn’t fit it all into a top ten. And appallingly I have failed to include anything by Andrea Camillieri, Henning Mankell, Roddy Doyle, Maurice Leitch, Brian Moore, Chuck Palahniuk, MJ Hyland, Philip Kerr, Iain Banks, Michael Dibdin, Martin Cruz Smith, Andrew Marr or Ian Rankin. Or any poetry at all. Disgusting.

And that previous paragraph means I’ve cheated three times. Rubbish.

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