the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

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Reading, July/August

Catching up on the past 2 months' reading... including a stash of books from a charity shop and some I've had for a while.
Passenger To Frankfurt, by Agatha Christie

You see an Agatha Christie novel on the shelf, you buy it, expecting good things. Instead you get a novel written in 1970 when the poor lady must've been about 135, sadly and obviously impoverished of faculties and ability to fathom the modern world, yet blessed (or cursed) with a literary legacy and overly indulgent publisher. This book is a confused, misguided, implausible ramble about the world's "youth" being taken in by some Hitlerian superhuman feller and kids the world over rising up across continents, armed with bombs and guns and chemical weapons. And on drugs. Don't forget the drugs. It ends with some geezer being commissioned to drop happy gas onto everybody. I'm not joking. What a dreadful book.

(The novel actually marked her 80th birthday, what a sad way to go out).

The Fourth Inspector Morse Omnibus, by Colin Dexter (The Way Through The Woods, The Daughters of Cain, Death is Now My Neighbour)

I enjoyed but wasn't blown away by the TV series, and so took my time before starting on this. What a revelation, though. Colin Dexter is, apparently, a cryptic crossword compiler and clearly a right proper educated dude. Chapters are short and plentiful, eclectic in style and content, each starting religiously with some or other quote apropos to what follows (how on earth a single human being have such a vast store of them at hand or mentally noted, I don't know). The man delights in words. This is a taste:

With a sort of expectorant 'phoo', followed by a cushioned 'phlop,' Chief Superintendent Strange sat his large self down opposite Chief Inspector Harold Johnson. It was certainly not that he enjoyed walking up the stairs, for he had no pronounced adaptability for such exertions; it was just that he had promised his very slim and very solicitous wife that he would try to get in a bit of exercise at the office wherever possible. The trouble lay in the fact that he was usually too feeble in both body and spirit to translate such resolve into execution. But not on the morning of Tuesday, 30 June 1992 when ...

Perhaps you had to be there, but I chuckled on the train when I read it. As with all good detective novels, the stories are somewhat secondary to the style and the telling of the chase. The books are a celebration of real ale, cigarette-smoking, being cerebral, slightly grumpy and at odds with a world which is nonetheless pretty enjoyable to be in.

The other thing I loved is that the novels are set in Oxford, and having worked there for 9 months, many of the names and places come to life all the more. I really do miss Oxford.

As for each of the novels themselves, 'The Way Through the Woods' is about a body being found in the woods with twists and turns, obviously. Morse also goes on holiday to the coast, I aspire to British holidays at hotels in Cornwall. 'The Daughters of Cain' has a prostitute and a battered wife and someone with a terminal disease, and someone dying who deserved to. 'Death is now my Neighbour' sees a mistaken identity murder with machinations for some or other honorary position at an Oxford college. Morse gets very sick, Morse finds love, and on the final line of this, the final Morse novel, you learn Morse's first name.

As mentioned, the first 3 Morse Omnibii are in the post as we speak. I'm sorted on the train for some time to come.

I'll leave it at that for now, more to come.

{2011.08.31 - 21:41}


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