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Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.
“Jesus, that was a dark and disturbing slice of French noir,” says Tom Mooney, who has been reading The Executioner Weeps by Frederic Dard:
Daniel, a French artist, is on a break near Barcelona. Driving down a road one night, a young woman throws herself in front of his car in an apparent act of suicide. When he goes to the body, however, he realises she is still alive. Fearful of the consequences, he takes the girl back to his hotel. She awakes with severe amnesia, remembering nothing of her previous life. Daniel then becomes obsessed with her, instilling himself as her boyfriend and the central character in her new life. But, as he delves deeper into her forgotten past, he discovers the real, shocking reason she threw herself in front of his car.
Grisly, grim and weaving from noir into horror, this is a very effective and highly creepy novel.
I have no connection to the River Thames but her description of the many stages of the river and the folk who live along its banks is captivating. The mystery of how a 4-year-old girl ended up in the river and was rescued and where she came from are central and I can’t wait to find out.
This morning, I finished the third in the series – Flash for Freedom – and am now about to start Flashman at the Charge. I think Royal Flash is by far the weakest of the series (though still brilliant) and Flashman and the Redskins the best. I urge you all to have a go at reading them if you haven’t already. As well as being extremely funny, they work as a highly entertaining history lesson – even down to the way people spoke in the mid-to-late nineteenth century
Crime fiction set in 1950 in Atlanta when African Americans have just joined the police force. The crime part is great but what is really interesting is how society is shifting and changing. The three main characters are well drawn and all making compromises between the law, their ethics and their families.
A vast, strangely ambiguous tale of people who find themselves in a dreamlike frontier town in China. Of all of her books, this one felt most like a collection of folk tales, run through with mysticism, and strange natural phenomena- for all its modernity it felt like discovering an ancient text.
A memoir about his father, Herman Roth, and his death from a brain tumour. Roth has a straightforward way of telling the story of father and son, eschewing prose fireworks, as so far has all of his books I’ve read. It is poignant, and at times wryly funny. A commenter on Goodreads said that Roth showed how to be a good son. That despite Roth junior, or perhaps because of, being so keen to leave home and Roth senior, and establish his independence, he is able to loop back, and be there for his father later in life.
I quite like being the last possible reader of a paperback – I bought the orange-banded Penguins that Margery Allingham wrote during wartime (it was a sudden interest) and, like the blitz-zones of London, Coventry, etc, they cracked at the spines, shedding pages, or clumps of them, as the reading progressed. The desiccated glue, that powders your fingers as you brush it’s scales aside, has a faintly seaweedy smell, I noticed. They’re still on a shelf, albeit lain flat (they wouldn’t hold together stood upright – ah, it comes to us all).
Me, I buy second-hand cloth-bound hardcovers if I can and almost always throw the dust jackets away at once. What I like to read most is an old hardback that’s long lost it’s jacket, and has, at some point in its long life, been left skew-whiff on a pile near a window for a summer or two – so that the sun-bleaching of the cloth on the front cover is a rhomboid ghost-margin to its darker interior. Preferably in Trafalgar Blue, as it was called. It adds a spiritual dimension. Well, I find it does.
An asylum-seeker has won Australia’s “richest literary prize”, but has been “barred” from entering the country.
“My private model for intersubjectivity, or communication by speech, or conversation, is amoebas having sex.” Ursula K Le Guin on the magic of human conversation.
And here’s Le Guin’s daily writing routine.
What is Marlon James reading?