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books - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-03-26 22:56
Subject: books
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:calmcalm
Music:jethro tull
Next up is Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith. Another Renko novel, natch. I don't know how accurate Cruz Smith's depiction of Russia is - Rose, his thriller set in Victorian Lancashire (and that has to be a genre of one) almost worked - but to me it rings true. I've been a fan ever since Gorky Park, and although the books since then have been of varying quality - to my mind Red Square is his best - he's never less than entertaining. Renko himself is becoming almost a mythical figure, existing without sleep, living on vodka and cigarettes, surviving enormous trauma, a sounding board for Russia. Like Alan Furst, another great favourite of mine, Cruz Smith has been becoming more and more impressionistic with each succeeding novel, and I think there is some very good writing here. Elegant, touching. Much recommended.

And then there's Bad Luck And Trouble by Lee Child. I have to admit to being a huge Child fan ever since his first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor. There's an urgent sense of directness about his books that I like. You can't read them back to back because it's like being repeatedly hit with a sand-filled sock, but one every year is fine, and I've actually started looking forward to them. Of course, they're modern Westerns. Reacher is the Man With No Name (except he has a name) who lives beyond society and rides into town and rights wrongs, usually through violence. It won't be to everyone's taste, but Child works very hard and is very good at what he does, which is why he's so successful. It's fast, stripped down, full of detail, and I stormed through it in about five days. There's no room for grey, no moral ambiguity. Reacher is not like Renko. Personally, I prefer Renko.

And finally for this update I offer you Don't You Know Who I Am? by Piers Morgan. I read Morgan's previous book, The Insider, last year. That was his memoir of his time working in newspapers in London, and from my point of view it had a certain value, although I felt as though I needed a very hot shower after I'd finished it. Don't You Know Who I Am? picks up the story after he's been sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror and carries us into the nightmare that is...oh, I can't even be bothered to remember what it's called. American Idol? America's Most Desperate To Be On Television? It masquerades as a book about Morgan's journey into Celebrity and a critique on that journey, but really, like the previous volume it's just an excuse for name-dropping. No page goes by without at least one (preferably more) mention of Someone Well-Known, and it does wear you out after a while.
So why did I read this atrocity? I hear you cry. Well, Morgan, for all his faults - and they are legion - was a bloody good editor when he was at the Mirror, and I was one of those who hoped he wouldn't have to resign over the faked Iraqi abuse photos. In his chosen field, Morgan is actually a talented journalist, and it breaks my heart to see him doing this kind of stuff. Of course, he has every right to wave his latest royalty cheque at me and tell me to sod off. And of course I have every right to advise you not to read this book.
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RealThog: morgan brighteyes
User: realthog
Date: 2008-03-26 23:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:morgan brighteyes

"I have to admit to being a huge Child fan"

Ditto. I think he's our current leading practitioner of the pure action thriller.

As you say, you have to leave a bit of a gap between one Reacher novel and the next, and I always find I have a bit of reluctance to start reading a new one because I remember being pummelled by the last, but as soon as I start . . . well, put it this way, usually takes me a lot less than five days, even without commuting, to get through it.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-03-27 00:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I always compare Child to Cornwell. You can read a Sharpe novel every year quite happily, but if you try and read them back to back - as I did a few years ago - you wind up with a colossal headache and all the books start to look very samey.
He's just very good at what he does, and I wish him all the luck in the world. I guess it's a mark of how much we enjoy the Reacher books that even though we remember being pummelled by the last one we keep coming back for more. Child's research seems to be faultless, and I like that. But I do wish he'd go back to the first person; I thought Reacher worked better that way.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-03-27 00:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

"He's just very good at what he does"

Precisely. At the moment, so far as I know, there's no one doing it better.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-03-28 21:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Certainly not anyone I've read, anyway.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-03-28 10:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I love those Child-Preston books. I think Agent Pendergast is one of the great creations of thriller writing - although he's been getting a bit baroque in recent novels. Incidentally, the early Pendergast books, Relic and Reliquary, were released over here as by Preston Child. Or maybe it was Lincoln Preston. I can't remember. Anyway, they've stopped doing that now.

Edited at 2008-03-28 10:54 am (UTC)
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-03-28 21:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I never thought of Pendergast as Capote before, but now you mention it... ;-)
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Kat: british accents
User: artykat
Date: 2008-03-30 01:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:british accents
America's Got Talent is the name of the show he has been on. That's how I was introduced to him, and I have found him to be very arrogant. Too bad he is gifted as an editor and slogging around in the television show.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-03-30 19:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
He is arrogant. I strongly suspect he's a total arsehole. But he did good work at the Mirror. I doubt very much whether he'll go back to newspapers now, though; he's making too much money and getting too much `celebrity' on the telly.
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