Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1) by Robert McCammon

 

Description: The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies – and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel’s innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal….
Evil Unveiled
After hearing damning testimony, magistrate Woodward sentences the accused witch to death by burning. Desperate to exonerate the woman he has come to love, Matthew begins his own investigation among the townspeople. Piecing together the truth, he has no choice but to vanquish a force more malevolent than witchcraft in order to save his beloved Rachel – and free Fount Royal from the menace claiming innocent lives.

4* Gone South
CR Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1)

Somewhere down below there is a comment that this was written by a mid-life crisis guy who wasn’t having his bedroom needs resolved. Probably nearer the truth than said author would care to acknowledge. You can’t get away from the fact that this is written purely from a male POV, and some of it right from the playground and it would fail the Bechdel test in fine style.

However.

This was an eye-scorcher of epic proportions that at times felt rather long-winded and at other points I was breathless with anticipation. Quite the nail-biting period-piece murder-mystery.

Supernatural? No.

Horror? Hell no.

Just a riveting story that could have been a five star if McCammon shown more style, and have dropped a couple of scenes that were graphic and pointless.

Four Spanish coins from the belly of a turtle.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

bookshelves: fraudio, summer-2014, published-2014, north-americas, mystery-thriller, casual-violence, contemporary, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, giftee, hackers-and-computers, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, racism, recreational-drugs, recreational-homicide, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, those-autumn-years, chocolate-references, dog-steals-the-show, incest-agameforallthefamily, washyourmouthout-language, poison, suicide

Read from June 27 to 29, 2014

 

14:22:29 Narrated by Will Paton

Description: In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands. Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

In the gloomy pre-dawn hours of a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of unemployed hopefuls are lined up for a job fair. Without warning, a merciless driver plows through the crowd in a roaring Mercedes. Eight people are killed; 15 are wounded. The killer escapes into the early-spring fog never to be seen from again. Until now…

Detective Bill Hodges is a battle-hardened and streetwise crime fighter originally assigned to the Mercedes killings. Now retired, Hodges has lost his way in boredom and depression craving the thrills of taking down the region’s most notorious criminals. When a disturbing letter from the Mercedes Killer arrives at his door, Hodges soon finds himself uncontrollably drawn into a cat-n-mouse pursuit with stakes beyond comprehension.

A locked car problem, according to Jerome,‘a nigger kid with a white name’, is a four pipe problem.

Really enjoyed this flawed but engrossing eye-scorching read. Bill Hodges is adorable as a retired cop with old school values and a legal pad always to hand. Jerome is a local lad who is scorching hot on all things computer, which, as it turns out, is an asset because there is a meeting in The Blue Umbrella chatroom with Mr Mercedes in the offing…

Special credit goes to Jerome’s dog, an Irish setter, who survives a death plot in favour of a more deserving target.

Good solid three pipes here; totally enjoyable romp where I feel glad this was a weekend encounter so the straight fourteen hours+ didn’t really impact on anything urgent.

3* Joyland
3* Mr Mercedes
4* The Shining
3* The Stand
4* It
5* Misery
3* Carrie
5* The Gunslinger
3* Pet Sematary
4* 11/22/63
3* ‘Salem’s Lot
3* The Green Mile
3* Needful Things
3* Cujo
4* Different Seasons
3* The Drawing of the Three
3* Firestarter
5* The Waste Lands
3* Wizard and Glass
4* Insomnia
2* Dreamcatcher
3* Desperation
4* Four Past Midnight
2* The Tommyknockers
4* Dr Sleep
2* The Mist
4* Hearts in Atlantis
3* Rose Madder
4* Full Dark, No Stars
3* From a Buick 8
3* Just After Sunset
3* Blaze
3* Storm of the Century screenplay
1* UR
3* Children of the Corn

McX: A Romance of the Dour by Todd McEwen

bookshelves: paper-read, one-penny-wonder, published-1991, britain-scotland, fife, palate-cleanser, amusing, summer-2014, tbr-busting-2014, teh-demon-booze, racism, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, giftee

Read from March 04 to June 27, 2014

 

Description: A fretful inspector of weights and measures, McX is unhealthy, unsightly, unloved and, to top it all, he comes from Fife. His grim existence centres on the Auld Licht, a dank, maloderous public house haunted by the dank, maloderous and dreadful McPint; a man unstintingly devoted to beer, peanuts and pornography. McX, meanwhile, dreams of fair women and requited love in a rural idyll – a Scotland without rain, without repression, and without McPint. He resolves, quite simply, to escape.

Little know you of the hearts
I have hidden here. Hogg

Opening: Consider a long and famous river, it teems with salmon and story. Winds majestic through the most various of Scottish shires. Where it passes under several bridges and reflects a suggestion of Georgian elegance, sad tales begin.

Although this was published in 1991 it does read like an out-in-the-sticks 70s offering, I’m sure that the hugely offensive terms ‘wogs’ and ‘niggers’ had long been shown the door by everybody else’s 1990s.

Take no notice of the Aberdeen-esque chunterings from other dour reviewers, this is ladishly pithy, gloomily pawky, and a fat satirical prod at lowlanders in general and Fifers in particular: I’m sure Ian Rankin would have had a chuckle.

The sun is known in Scotland, but chiefly through myth and legend.[..] Appearance of chicken flesh at the first jerk of the thermometer: Scots in the sun. What need to brown yourselves? You’ll be roasting in Hell soon enough. Page 103

Good enough as a palate-cleanser.

Dancing on the Edge by Stephen Poliakoff

bookshelves: summer-2014, film-only, play-dramatisation, published-2013, music, racism, cults-societies-brotherhoods, nazi-related, journalism, mystery-thriller, period-piece

Read from May 30 to 31, 2014


Description: The series follows a black jazz band’s experiences in London in the 1930s. Made up of talented musicians and managed by the compassionate yet short-tempered Wesley Holt, the band gets a gig at the Imperial Hotel, by the way of the cunning journalist, Stanley Mitchell. They prove to be a hit, and become a success at the hotel. Countless aristocrats—and the Royal Family—ask the band to play at parties. The media rush to interview and photograph the band—including the ambitious American businessman, Walter Masterson and his enthusiastic employee, Julian. The band’s success spirals, they’re being offered record deals. But tragedy strikes, setting off a chain of events that may wreck the band’s career.

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Matthew Goode
Angel Coulby
John Goodman
Anthony Head
Jacqueline Bisset
Composer: Adrian Johnston

(view spoiler)

That ending – there is a sequel in the pipeline, dontcha fink? Excellent fayre.

Dancing On The Edge: Mel Smith and Matthew Goode

My Poliakoff Past:

3* Shooting the Past
TR Blinded by the Sun
4.5* Playing With Trains
5* She’s Been Away
4* The Tribe
3* A Real Summer
5* Dancing on the Edge
2* Soft Targets

My Tibetan Childhood: When Ice Shattered Stone by Naktsang Nulo, Angus Cargill (Translation)

bookshelves: e-book, net-galley, translation, tibet, nonfiction, autobiography-memoir, history, spring-2014, buddhism, bullies, casual-violence, censorship, colonial-overlords, families, gangsters, ipad, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, politics, rid-the-world-of-tyrants, true-grime, published-2007, racism, religion, bucolic-or-pastoral, execution, superstitions, tragedy, war

Read from May 08 to 11, 2014


Translation provided by Angus Carghill and Sonam Lhamo

Including a foreword by The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

Description: In My Tibetan Chldhood, Naktsang Nulo recalls his life in Tibet’s Amdo region during the 1950s. From the perspective of himself at age ten, he describes his upbringing as a nomad on Tibet’s eastern plateau. He depicts pilgrimages to monasteries, including a 1500-mile horseback expedition his family made to and from Lhasa. A year or so later, they attempted that same journey as they fled from advancing Chinese troops. Naktsang’s father joined and was killed in the little-known 1958 Amdo rebellion against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the armed branch of the Chinese Communist Party. During the next year, the author and his brother were imprisoned in a camp where, after the onset of famine, very few children survived.

The real significance of this episodic narrative is the way it shows, through the eyes of a child, the suppressed histories of China’s invasion of Tibet. The author’s matter-of-fact accounts cast the atrocities that he relays in stark relief. Remarkably, Naktsang lived to tell his tale. His book was published in 2007 in China, where it was a bestseller before the Chinese government banned it in 2010. It is the most reprinted modern Tibetan literary work. This translation makes a fascinating if painful period of modern Tibetan history accessible in English.

The author and his brother in Chinese clothing at their first government school.

Opening to the Prelude: It was hot at noon that day. We were making our way wearily across a river when we heard guns firing repeatedly from up ahead. We had no idea what was going on, but we were all frightened. Everyone dismounted except for me. Some Tibetan gazelles, startled when they saw us, sprinted to the top of a mountain. I rode over and looked down to the road beneath. It was a Chinese military column, so long that you couldn’t see the beginning or the end of it. They were on horseback.

This autobiography opens out with Nulo’s early memories when there were many battles between the tent peoples, or nomads, on the grassy plains: one chiefdom or clan against another, and retributions sought. Another hazard was the nightime roving of armed bandits.

Written from the memory and onto the page, My Tibetan Childhood is a straight forward and compelling look at old Tibetan customs being smashed to pieces under the Chinese wrecking-ball. There are no hysterics here, nothing mawkish to clutch at pearls and weep into embroidered hankies about – the plain facts are too awful for that sort of pantomime. Just a plain recounting through a young man’s eyes.

Pranks, adventures, superstitions and some tears before bedtime: the story of youth everywhere. It was enjoyiable to read about Nulo’s young escapades and the hazards that life on the grassy plateau threw at him. However, as the Chinese troops come nearer the read becomes darker and infinitely vicious and some parts are tough to read.

This is an important book, one of the defining reads that makes one want to say ‘if you haven’t read this, then we have little in common.’

Sky burial details, murder and torture may disturb, not least because the words are unembellished, however the squeamish can quickly skim over the facts.

The Northeastern part of Amdo was where our author was born. Today, The Han-Chinese is a majority in the eastern part of Qinghai and the provincial capital Xining.

A Tibetan Intellectual, Naktsang Nulo, Shares His Thoughts on Self-Immolations in Tibet (from Jan 2013)

About the author: Naktsang Nulo (born in 1949) worked as an official in the Chinese government, serving as a primary school teacher, police officer, judge, prison governor, and county leader in Qinghai province, China, before retiring in 1993. Angus Cargill was formerly a Lecturer in the Department of Tibetan Language and Literature at Minzu University of China, Beijing.

Trivia: Coral plays a great part in Tibetan culture. It must be that at one time Tibet must have been covered with ocean.

“With little comment or condemnation, [My Tibetan Childhood] records the price paid in lives and lifestyles by the author’s family and community for their incorporation into modern China. . . . In many senses, it is a naive story, the chronicle of a world seen through a child’s eyes. But to readers within Tibet, it was a revelation. It told of epochal events that had rarely if ever been described before in print.”— Robert Barnett, from the introduction.

“As Naktsang tells it, the 1950s were a time of tremendous change: violence, war, exile, survival, and life and death defined so much of the everyday in Amdo and indeed across much of the Tibetan plateau. Told from the perspective of a child, his tale takes us into the complex and at times violent world of Tibetan clans and chiefs. We travel with him and experience the dangers faced on the road: bandits, soldiers, ferocious storms and cold fronts, and hungry wolves. . . . [And we] learn much of the violence that accompanied the ‘peaceful liberation’ of Amdo and the subsequent ‘reforms’ in the late 1950s.”—Ralph A. Litzinger, from the foreword.

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The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

bookshelves: autumn-2012, slavic, nonfiction, ouch, nobel-laureate, fraudio, epic-proportions, autobiography-memoir, boo-scary, bullies, execution, gangsters, holocaust-genocide, lifestyles-deathstyles, philosophy, politics, published-1958, racism, recreational-homicide, true-grime

Read from September 08 to October 28, 2012


blurb – The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn’s attempt to compile a literary-historical record of the vast system of prisons and labour camps that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 and that underwent an enormous expansion during the rule of Stalin from 1924 to 1953. Various sections of the three volumes describe the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag’s victims by Soviet authorities over four decades. The work mingles historical exposition and Solzhenitsyn’s own autobiographical accounts with the voluminous personal testimony of other inmates that he collected and committed to memory during his imprisonment.Upon publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was immediately attacked in the Soviet press. Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West, he was arrested and charged with treason on February 12, 1974, and was exiled from the Soviet Union the following day.

Map of the Gulags

Image: An abandoned guard tower in one of hundreds of gulags (prison camps) across the Soviet Union, remains as a symbol of profound human suffering. First instituted by Lenin to imprison priests, political opponents, and common criminals, Stalin was then responsible for sending 12-15 million people to these camps. The prisoners were used as forced labor to work on massive industrial projects. As more laborers were needed for bigger projects and those falling behind schedule, Stalin justified the arrests of more people to be sent to the gulags. Millions were executed in these camps or perished as they labored on massive modernization schemes. It is said of the Siberian railroad project that the work was never done, nothing was achieved and it went nowhere. (credit: Jonathan Lewis)

Gruelling yet important; shocks one to the very core. Some books are best left unrated.

Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers

bookshelves: spring-2014, music, nonfiction, north-americas, chicago, published-2014, history, biography, racism, newtome-author

Read from April 06 to 11, 2014

 

Description: A definitive account by Thomas Brothers of Louis Armstrong, his life and legacy, during the most creative period of his career.

Nearly 100 years after bursting onto Chicago’s music scene under the tutelage of Joe ‘King’ Oliver, Louis Armstrong is recognized as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. A trumpet virtuoso, seductive crooner, and consummate entertainer, Armstrong laid the foundation for the future of jazz with his stylistic innovations. But his story would be incomplete without examining how he struggled in a society seething with brutally racist ideologies, laws, and practices.

Reader: Colin McFarlane
Abridged by Eileen Horne
Produced by Clive Brill
A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4

Around 1850 there probably lived 300 African Americans in Chicago, in 1920 they were 182,000 – and quite a lot of them were Blues musicians.

Episode 1: ‘Little Louis’ Armstrong makes the long journey north from New Orleans to Chicago to join his mentor, ‘King Oliver’ – and a new jazz era is born.

Episode 2: As his career in Chicago continues to blossom, Louis grows close to Lil Hardin, a beautiful pianist, and starts to distance himself from his long-time mentor, Joe ‘King’ Oliver.

Episode 3: Louis is offered a big break with a jazz band in New York and, although he much prefers life in Chicago, his New York adventure will bring a whole new dimension to his music

Episode 4: Louis brings his new style back to Chicago, making some of his first great recordings and also moving into a new entertainment sphere – working and playing in the theatre.

Episode 5: Louis befriends Al Capone. He’s singing and dancing for white audiences, and embracing the popular big band sound, but is he selling out?

Listen here

I’ll Be Glad When Youre Dead You Rascal You

Old Kentucky Home

Louis Armstrong – When its sleepy time down south

I Got Rhythm

Mandy Make Up Your Mind

Fletcher Henderson – Everybody Loves My Baby (Vocal)

Cake Walking Babies From Home

Heebie Jeebies

Absolute Beginners

published-1959, london, lifestyles-deathstyles, britain-england, winter-20132014, racism, radio-4, fradio, cults-societies-brotherhoods, music, recreational-drugs, art-forms, prostitution, gangsters, glbt, under-500-ratings, young-adult, casual-violence, period-piece, bullies

Read from January 12 to 19, 2014

 

BABT

Colin MacInnes’s cult classic about teenagers, style and racial tension in 1950s London.

Description: London, 1958. “I swore by Elvis and all the saints that this last teenage year of mine was going to be a real rave.” The eighteen-year-old narrator of Colin MacInnes’ cult classic is determined to declare his independence from earlier generations, as he roams the city with his camera and a sharp eye for the stylish and the subversive. In the smoky jazz clubs of Soho, the coffee bars of Notting Hill and the cheap rooms of Pimlico the young and the restless – the absolute beginners – are revolutionising youth culture and forging a new carefree lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Meanwhile the Teddy Boy gangs are staging internecine battles, and a generation of Black immigrants is struggling to make a life in a hostile city. The definitive account of London life in the 1950s and what it means to be a teenager, this account of a young man’s coming of age captures the spirit of a generation and the changing face of London in the era of the first race riots and the lead up to the swinging Sixties.

Read by Joel MacCormack Abridged and produced by Sara Davies.

Theme tune: Laurie London – He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands – 1958

1. Last year as a teenage for our protagonist, and in Notting Hill too.

2. Mr Cool reports trouble brewing on the streets, the Fabulous Hoplite brings news of a party at Dido Lament’s, and Suzette won’t be persuaded out of her impending marriage.

3. The teenage narrator of Colin MacInnes’s cult classic sets about making some serious money in an attempt to win back the love of his life, and there’s a worrying visit from Mr Cool.

4. The teenage narrator is still shocked by Suzette’s marriage to Henley. Determined to try and woo her back, he takes the opportunity of a boat trip up the Thames to pay her a visit.

5. The teenage narrator finds himself caught up along with his friends in the violence that erupts on the streets of his home patch in Notting Hill.

Unsuprisingly, because of the parentage, MacInnes is at home with his subject matter and the writing is accomplished.