Wednesday 21 October 2015


A question to start with.

These days I don’t have the patience to read books that I’m not getting along with. I may discard as many as a quarter of the books I begin because I’m not enjoying them enough. I guess that means that if I take the time to review something, it’s going to be a fairly positive reflection. It’s not that I love all the books I start, it’s more that I only finish the ones that grab me.

Last week I began Mignon by James M Cain. He’s written some of my favourite pieces and so I know he’s a complete talent. The thing with Mignon is that I don’t buy it from the off. I can’t accept the lead character throwing over his life for this sultry beauty. I’m not even entirely sure what the post civil war racket is all about. It bugged the hell out of me. I’d rather sit down to watch the Minions movies in a triple-bill (that actually sounds like fun) than finish the Cain book. That said, I’m worried I might be missing out on a gem if I don’t keep going. Which is my question. Will my life be improved if I take this back down from the shelf or do you think it’s better off left where it is? Any thoughts welcome.

And now to a book I took a lot of delight in completing, The Girls of Bunker Pines (US) by Garnett Elliott.  

‘He looked about as worried as a houseplant.’

Jack Laramie lives in a horse box and carries around his grandfather’s gun as a companion. He stumbles into Joe Crews at a prayer meeting. Crews is an alcoholic veteran of the Korean War and he’s been invited to sell an investment into bomb-proof underground shelters to ex-servicemen. Laramie immediately smells a rat and sees the long con that Crews has been sucked into.

What lures the detective into digging deeper into the con is the need he feels to protect a fellow survivor. We learn more about Laramie’s wartime experience as a gunner in a US bomber and as a prisoner of war in sections of the story that are neatly woven into the tale.

It’s not long before the heavies behind the Bunker Pines operation are uncovered and they’re not people to be messed with. Unfortunately, Laramie can’t help himself.

This story is really well handled. The hard edges of the action are complimented by subtle layers of sentiment and bags of atmosphere. Most impressive is the depth of character created within a fairly short space.

This one’s for fans of detective fiction, particularly those who hanker after work from a golden age. A really strong novella.  

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