45 Following


Currently reading

The Two O'Clock Boy
Mark Hill
Three Men In The Dark
Jerome K. Jerome, Robert Barr, Barry Pain, Hugh Lamb
Progress: 221/311 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 6 out of 237 pages.

Back to the Coast - Laura Vroomen, Saskia Noort

a woman flees Amsterdam, to a “house by the coast”, after she is targeted for persecution for having an abortion. it turns out her sanctuary isn’t any safer, and the psychological attacks start to threaten her mental stability...


a few notes: this will be my intro to Saskia Noort, who dominates Crime novel sales in the Netherlands. apparently her massively popular second novel, The Dinner Club, was published in English translation ahead of her debut effort, which is this one, Back To The Coast. and there’s no doubt The Dinner Club sounded intriguing (though “the Dutch answer to Desperate Housewives” blurbs lessened my interest). but...Maria’s plight in Back To The Coast ultimately struck me as potentially more moving, more frightening and disturbing, and so it’s the debut Noort Thriller that I’m going to. excited, and a bit scared where this book is going to take me. a woman stalked and terrorized for having an abortion - I hope we get some turnabout, and she kicks some ass!

Reading progress update: I've read 329 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

going to try and finish this up tonight; if that doesn’t happen, tomorrow morning should do the trick. next will be either Back to the Coast which is very tempting (very popular Dutch writer of Psychological Suspense), or The Intrusions which is also tempting (Eleven Days, by the same author, was superb, and apparently Intrusions is even better...though it seems that after I read it, I will be scared to go on the internet!). after one of those, almost certainly Night Soldiers, by Furst.

Reading progress update: I've read 253 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

Gabriel and Clancy integrate themselves into society on Terrina - in one of the flourishing cities - and things are going well, until Gabriel has a tense encounter at Bertram's informal reception. Gabriel is worried; the incident, dangerous for a moment, seemed artificial, forced upon him to initiate someone's hidden agenda. And he has yet to encounter Saigo...


Perhaps not destined to be an all-time favorite SF novel of mine, but I'm enjoying it a lot. We'll see how good it is in the second half.

Reading progress update: I've read 208 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

the Aristoi, Gabriel included, are in shock over what Saigo has been creating. but Gabriel is compelled to land himself , feet first, in Saigo’s savage reality.

The Eiger Sanction (Jonathan Hemlock #1) - Trevanian

About 24 hours before writing this review, I watched the 1975 film version of The Eiger Sanction...and actually, just before that, I had watched Atomic Blonde, which means that it was really a Spy movie double-bill, and a highly enjoyable one at that.


But this is meant to be a book review, so I’ll mention two things: (a) gosh, I would love to do an Eiger Sanction, Atomic Blonde comparison right now (the films are actually quite similar in a number of ways...especially in the not-so-subtle hint that Spy Games can have an element of numbing pointlessness to them, even if that can only be realized with hindsight, and when murders and betrayals factor in, it says something brutal about the human capacity for violence rationalized, violence ultimately for nothing); and (b) I did of course read the novel The Eiger Sanction very recently, for the first time (my movie double-bill featured two re-watches), so I’m not faking it - it’s just that I had meant to see the film again right after finishing the novel, and I ended up leaving about a week’s lag-time before revisiting the film.


But now I’m caught up - have got the Eiger film and book fairly fresh in that brain of mine - and...I have to say, I don’t quite know what Trevanian had against the film version. Offhand, I can’t think of a book where the film version is so strikingly similar. I would swear that Clint Eastwood only got permission to film this thing by promising to film 98% of the novel as lifted right from the novel’s pages. What this means is, I thought all the polItically incorrect stuff - the real cringe-worthy, offensive trappings of the film - got added by Clint Eastwood and his screenwriters, producers. Here is what I thought could not possibly be in the novel: the African-American woman named Jemima; the characterization of Miles Mellough; the name of Miles Mellough’s dog; the scene at the beginning with the student who would do anything to get a good grade on her exam; let’s say between five and ten out-of-date jokes or comments, including one, or two, relating to rape, which just don’t count as funny any more - not they really ever did; gosh, some horrible shit got passed off as funny, back in the day - and leave a sour taste.


So, with my theory being that Eastwood added all kinds of dubious (certainly today) crass crap - Eastwood touches that just seemed sooo Eastwood, at least from that era, the 1970s, where very similar dialogue and attitudes are on display in Dirty Harry movies - and that all that stuff was the reason Trevananian despised the film version...imagine my utter friggin’ astonishment when I finally read the book and saw that all those unlikable facets are right there in the book! I was shocked. “I can’t blame Eastwood any more”...and what the hell was Trevanian all pissed off about?! They basically filmed his book. The only differences I can see are: the movie opened in Zurich, not Montreal (not exciting enough, I guess?); vomit is a clue to something, in the novel, but that is out, when it comes to the movie; Hemlock’s motivation for hating Miles Mellough is re-tooled a bit for the film, in terms of when something happened; a revelation that comes quite late in the movie, meant to shock the audience, is actually revealed quite early in the novel, both to the reader, but also to a character...perhaps because Trevanian saw such a “surprise” as really not that surprising if you understand why certain things are done in the world of Espionage (this all relates to that pointlessness, that “mission first, no matter who has to be sacrificed” aspect of the Great Game) BUT the average film-goer, less of a Spy story fanatic, can get ambushed with one extra shocking revelation if she or he hasn’t come to expect certain brutal “twists” amongst all the betrayals. 


So, if it’s not clear from my remarks yet, this 1972 Spy novel has a healthy spattering of the kind of stuff that gets, I would guess, a fair amount of Did Not Finish, or Stopped at 18% (or whatever), or Hated It, or How Can Anyone Like This?! comments and reviews.


Okay, I’m offended by some shit in this book, make no mistake, but I’ll be honest, I see a 4 Star spy plot, here. This novel is loaded with tricky twists, unpredictable turnabouts, delicious “with friends like these does he really need enemies!” firecrackers going off practically every chapter, and of course all the harrowing climbs - not just on the Eiger. I’m aware of the fact that appreciation for the film version - merits somewhat obscured by the weird-crap bits - has slowly grown since its initial reception, and looking at it in comparison to what has come later, and what is good about what comes later, in Spy fiction, Spy Action Thrillers...this can be run beside, well, Atomic Blonde, or The Bourne Identity, or Mission: Impossible, or even OHMSS (okay, that came earlier, but hey, that’s the king of Spy movies that have gone from being shunned to cherished; Eiger hasn’t quite experienced that level of positive reevaluation - more like Osterman Weekend, with its surveillence/media-as-manipulator prescience)...and still register as pretty damn impressive. A great plot that serves its genre well, is undeniable. If Trevanian felt the whole thing worked as more of a spoof...well, he wrote it so he gets to say what he wants.


I don’t think some of today’s readers - maybe a good many -would be too thrilled with some aspects of this book (remember, blame the book, not the movie - hunh, who knew?!). But I want to thank Themis for sending it to me, because I enjoyed finally getting to the original material, I think it’s a classic Spy Thriller with, say what you want, a very distinct personality (a little stuck in the 70s, but that’s the way it is...), and surprises galore, action galore, but no...you know what, I was gonna do a certain Goldfinger reference here, but y’know, I don’t think I will.

Reading progress update: I've read 190 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

this one is turning out to be pretty cool; at this point, it seems fair to say that I like this SF novel more than the last five or six SF novels I read that were basically in the same subgenre. challenging and complex, but not frustrating.

Reading progress update: I've read 102 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

just one chapter, this morning, but a tense one: just what has Saigo been up to, and how much of a danger is he to...Everything?

Reading progress update: I've read 82 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

okay, I think that, overall, I’m going to like this - at least get some enjoyment out of it. the first chapter seemed like it set the stage for a very confusing SF future scenario, but I had to allow for the fact that the author just wanted to drop me into something immense, and way beyond where our technologies and societies are now, and not spoonfeed me. so I said to myself: “this has to do with patience, has happened before, and goes two ways: in two or three more chapters it will be worse and things will be boring and confusing pretty much throughout...or, a few chapters will let me get my bearings, slowly explain terms and concepts as they get used more and more, and meanwhile get some kind of story moving, with confusion evaporating as enjoyment starts setting in, wanting to read more instead of regretting the book choice.


thankfully, that second circumstance has kicked in, and though I know from experience with SF novels that I’m not out of the woods yet, I don’t think this one is going to turn on me. it’s challenging and initially a bit intimidating...and now it’s become quite interesting.

Reading progress update: I've read 168 out of 311 pages.

Three Men In The Dark - Jerome K. Jerome, Robert Barr, Barry Pain, Hugh Lamb

a couple quick tales - ‘The Woman of the Saeter’ by Jerome, and ‘The Green Light’ by Pain - both decent efforts, Jerome topping Pain this time, but neither were, for me, the best entries on offer. still, it remains a fun collection.

Reading progress update: I've read 8 out of 448 pages.

Aristoi - Walter Jon Williams

getting off the Crime & Mystery train for at least one book - I do love the cover on this book, and this will be my first experience with this author...let’s see what happens.

Reading progress update: I've read 26 out of 165 pages.

Man in Lower Ten - Mary Roberts Rinehart

murder on a train, so of course I’m hooked. this one is short, and I should finish it tomorrow when next I sit down with it. the back cover informs that this was Rinehart’s first novel...and the “first detective novel to crack national bestseller lists”. pretty neat!

Reading progress update: I've read 146 out of 311 pages.

Three Men In The Dark - Jerome K. Jerome, Robert Barr, Barry Pain, Hugh Lamb

gosh, I love leaving the coffee shop having had a thoroughly enjoyable time reading...in this case, the last 100 pages of No Mortal Thing, and then a few short stories from this collection. first Terror tale was ‘The Vengeance of the Dead’ by Robert Barr (who surprised me by having an in-your-face supernatural element to his excellent story, whereas I was expecting ‘just’ twisted Crime tales from him; “duhhhh, Tigus! did not the title of the story give you a clue?!...”.). when I finished the Barr entry, I felt like maybe enough pages had been done, and everything had been fun and entertaining, and barely enough coffee left in the cup left to dribble down my chin (done!), so probably time to pack the books up and leave...


but, took a peek, and saw the next story, ‘Smeath’, was by Barry Pain, who was proving to be my author of preference in this collection. the downside was the page count for ‘Smeath’, 30 pages, whereas I was more of a mind for “quick 10 pages or less, dribble the coffee down face to shirt, and hit the road”. but I turned the downside into an upside, with some clear thinking: “your favorite Horror stories have almost always been 30-40 pages, the ones with room to expand and sprawl a bit with lots of cool developments, not gimmicks. soooo READ IT!”. glad I did; ‘Smeath’ rounded off a satisfying reading jag fabulously.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 165 pages.

Man in Lower Ten - Mary Roberts Rinehart

this is so short that I’m gonna sneak it in just ahead of the SF novel I said I would read next; actually, I mentioned two SF possibilities as being next, and though I’ve gone to Rinehart instead, Aristoi is definitely what’s coming after The Man In Lower Ten, which will not take me long.

Reading progress update: I've read 313 out of 408 pages.

No Mortal Thing - Gerald Seymour

big surprises - this book is unpredictable!


even if I read more of it tonight, it’s unlikely I’ll finish the whole thing then...so, I foresee a morning finale.

Reading progress update: I've read 274 out of 408 pages.

No Mortal Thing - Gerald Seymour

not for everyone, no doubt — but I’m really impressed. it’s certainly bleak and disheartening, if it in any way resembles the true state of affairs in terms of crime families extending from Italy to Germany, but I haven’t read a book like this in a long time. unique.

"He heard the light knock on the outer wall of the container, scrambled across the interior and unfastened the makeshift doorway. Fresh air engulfed him as he held the boy who was his future, the dynasty’s.

They hugged, the clasp of two men, one old, one young, who had for each other the love that kept the family alive and was its strength. He remembered when he had struggled with his hands on the man’s throat and had called his fifteen-year-old grandson to his side, shown him the grip and had him finish the strangulation. He hadn’t seen him for six months. He had missed him. Now his grandson led the way. Bernardo switched off the lights, closed the inner door after him and started the long crawl up the sewer pipe."

No Mortal Thing, by Gerald Seymour (copyright 2016; quote is from page 101 of the Hodder & Stoughton trade paperback edition, 2016).