Wednesday 30 September 2015


If you’re able to get access, check out this small article on Flash Fiction (Smoke-Long Stories) at BBC Radio 4’s Open Book. It includes a tasty piece by Ian Rankin and some thoughts on the origin of the Hemingway six word tale

And now to Post Office (US).  

“I went to the bathroom and threw some water on my face, combed my hair. If I could only comb that face, I thought, but I can’t.”

It can be really interesting re-reading books that made an impact in youth. There’s a different perspective offered and the book's that little bit older.

Post Office was a real treat to read, but carried a lot less of the sense of romance to it this time around. Whereas I might have wanted to be like Chinaski at one time in life, the prospect of living from bottle to bottle, woman to woman and race to race seems a much less attractive one these days. On reflection, I guess that I can say I gave my early ambition my best shot. I can no longer gamble because of my addiction and had to give up the booze and the rest when my children came along. As for the women thing, I guess that a messy and turbulent phase finally settled when I straightened out. And that’s another story that I’m not going to share anywhere.

The book is an interesting work, with some really strong prose. In many ways, it feels like a gathering of short stories that come together to form a novel of sorts. This brings advantages and disadvantages.

On the negative side, there’s rarely the energy at the end of one chapter of Chinaski’s life to give it enough momentum to catapult a reader into the next.

As a positive, the strength with which Bukowski puts into nailing a moment, phrase or rounding-off is huge. Pieces often finish with hammer blows that express a huge amount in the smallest of spaces.

The story is very simple. A man takes a job with the post office. It’s a tough life. He needs drink. Likes sex. Dislikes authority. Enjoys a gamble. He has tough bosses and difficult rounds. Each episode is told in a matter-of-fact way. Even the most extraordinary events are told plainly. There’s the sense of rhythm of the run-of-the-mill and a feeling that this life is anything but.

Well worth checking out if you’ve not been there before. If you like it, when you’re done make sure you read some of Bukowski’s poems. That’s where he really excels. 

Wednesday 9 September 2015


Maigret Afraid is an interesting work for fans of the series.

The plot itself is fairly standard. He rolls into town, there have been murders and there are more to come. Maigret takes a back seat and watches everything, from the process of the law to the main suspects and eventually does put all the pieces together in the way we have come to expect.

Included is a fairly heavy dose of class analysis and our detective provides an excellent filter through which to see the world as is always the case. The subtle and the obvious are all pointed out as he wanders between the homes of the rich and poor and the roles of the women are of particular interest.

What I found to be more engaging than the plot was Maigret’s personal reflection. He’s returning from a course where the young pups have made him feel his age. He also happens to be staying with an old university friend who is the town’s Examining Magistrate. By watching his friend, he draws parallels with his own life. We get to see into the distant past and into the very real present of a man who really just wants to go home.

Worth reading for any crime fiction fans, but especially so for admirers of Maigret who like to collect nuggets about his personal life and history. 

Sunday 6 September 2015


It’s slightly odd reading a book about characters who are so known in their television incarnations. I found it hard to separate the Morse and Lewis of the page from their counterparts on the screen. I did, eventually, become engrossed enough in the plot that I barely noticed the issue.

The Dead of Jericho (US) has a somewhat implausible opening. Morse happens to chase up and old acquaintance on the day she is found hanged in her kitchen. When the case is finally presented to him, he’s already been dabbling to try and find out what happened. From that point on, this became a solid police procedural.

Morse and Lewis form a great partnership and play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses until the case is solved.

Another death thickens the plot and the ring of suspects are used nicely so that each of them remains as a spinning plate in the process until the last possible moment.

Parallels to a Greek tragedy are played out and just at the point where this becomes a too silly the plot veers off in another direction.

Dexter doesn’t hammer home the final nail in the coffin until the last pages where everything is wrapped up neatly with all the skill of a master craftsman.

I enjoyed the read more than I expected. Some of the references and quotes were way over my head and did impede the flow at times.   Even so, I would happily read another in the series, especially as holiday entertainment. I will, however, look forward to further TV episodes of Lewis and Endeavour with some enthusiasm.