Research by Philip Kerr

 

Quercus Books

Dedication:

For Harry Armfield

Description: If you want to write a murder mystery, you have to do some research… In a luxury flat in Monaco, John Houston’s supermodel wife lies in bed, a bullet in her skull. Houston is the world’s most successful novelist, the playboy head of a literary empire that produces far more books than he could ever actually write. Now the man who has invented hundreds of best-selling killings is wanted for a real murder and on the run from the police, his life transformed into something out of one of his books. And in London, the ghostwriter who is really behind those books has some questions for him too…

Opening: It was the American novelist William Faulkner who once said that in writing you must kill all your darlings; it was Mike Munns – another writer, but like me, not half as good as Faulkner – who made a joke out of this quote when he telephoned my flat in Putney that Tuesday morning.

Ironical it is that this story is published ~ nine months after Prayer. The blurb for ‘Research’ includes this: a book factory publishing many bestsellers a year – so many that he can’t possibly write them himself. Heh.

‘Research’ is a standalone book with unsympathetic, two-dimensional characters and the ugliest cynicism towards the written word and mentality of readers I have ever encountered. I can’t work out if it is full-on satire or just partial but the outcome is the same, readers will be insulted.

Every behaviour has its impact.

Mainly this is an attack on all those combo authorships of test-tosh thrillers that churn out many books a year, yet Kerr is in his own firing line, two crap books in a year.

I took time out half way through just to pick up other stories to reassure myself that some authors still feel passionate about writing and care for their readers; what a breath of fresh air.

Although technically this is marginally a better book than ‘Prayer’ purely because it doesn’t bring Old Scratch out to play, ‘Research’ flat-lined out of any enjoyment factor. There wasn’t enough good stuff to make a feedback sandwich so I’ll just deliver the line: cynicism, snark, distain for readers, and authorial career suicide is not a pretty thing to witness.

3.5* March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
3.5* The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
3.5* A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
3.5* A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
1* Prayer
1* Research

Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald

Dead Men's Bones (Inspector McLean, #4)

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, mystery-thriller, series, newtome-author, e-book, fife, britain-scotland, ipad, casual-violence, contemporary, cults-societies-brotherhoods, execution, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, gangsters, gorefest, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, net-galley, ouch, recreational-homicide, revenge, sleazy, superstitions, suicide, twist-on-a-theme

Read from August 02 to 03, 2014

 

Description: Dead Men’s Bones is the fourth novel in James Oswald’s phenomenal Inspector Mclean series set in Edinburgh.

The body of a prominent Scottish MP is discovered outside his home, a remote house in North East Fife. In a horrifying attack, Andrew Weatherly has killed his wife and two young daughters, before turning his gun on himself.

The question on everyone’s lips is why would this successful and wealthy man commit such a gruesome crime?

Inspector Tony McLean is surprised to find himself at the centre of this high profile investigation. The deeper he digs, the more McLean realizes he is being used in a game between shadowy factions from the world of power and privilege.

Pressure is on to wrap up the case. That would go against everything McLean believes in . . . but to carry on will threaten the lives of his closest friends and colleagues.

Opening: The pain is everywhere.
It pulses through his head is if there’s a hole in his skull and someone is squeezing his brain in time to his heart beat.

Several pals have reported that series is incredibly good and given this, my only foray so far, proves them right. It is the marvellous tone of the proceedings that makes this book stand out: the backdrop of Scotland in referendum year, the police coming to terms with Police Scotland and all the insecurities roiling in the wake of these issues. A lot of space is given over to ex-soldiers being unable to connect or settle down to civvy life after the horrors of Afghanistan and Iraq, so they become foot soldiers in the army of the homeless; a stark look at how Community Care fails in the bigger picture.

Inspector McLean is a man with recent injuries and who has to attend physiotherapy and counselling sessions and I mean to backtrack to the previous books to find out the answers to some of my questions, however this works well enough as a standalone.

The middle section of this story was eye-scorching, nevertheless, slight cracks started appearing towards the end; a supernatural element was alluded to on several occasions that seemed at odds with the story that had gone before. It could be posited that this was excellent police procedural for a good three quarters and then it seemed to change genre and leave some unresolved issues. For these issues Dead Man’s Bones loses glister where more patience in the fine-tuning would have made all the difference.

Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but with the above caveats. Three and a half bowls from Bobby’s soup kitchen.

‘The Bull’ Roslin Glen

Roslin Glen, cup and ring marks

————————————————————

James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels. The first three, Natural Causes, The Book of Souls and The Hangman’s Song are also available as Penguin paperbacks and ebooks. He has written an epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which is published by Penguin, as well as comic scripts and short stories.

In his spare time he runs a 350-acre livestock farm in North East Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland Cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep.

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.

Roger’s Version by John Updike

bookshelves: one-penny-wonder, paper-read, hardback, hackers-and-computers, published-1986, summer-2014, abandoned, next, sciences, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, religion, sleazy, room-101, tbr-busting-2014

Read from November 26, 2013 to June 12, 2014

 

withdrawn from Kilmarnock College Library

4 opening quotes and I pick this one: god the wind as windless as the world behind a computer screen – Jane Miller, “High Holy Day”

Description from the inside front cover: As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a divinity school professor, is visited in his office one day by Dale Kohler, a young computer hacker who believes that scientific evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating.

Opening: I have been happy at the Divinity School. The hours are bearable, the surroundings handsome, my colleagues harmless and witty, habituated as they are to the shadows.

Did you hear this hit the wall? Doesn’t matter where in the world you are, if you didn’t hear the crash you would have felt the vibration. I want my trash reads to be clearly discenable as trash not couched in literary blurb so it is mistaken for a worthwhile encounter.

4* The Witches of Eastwick
AB Roger’s Version

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.

Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

bookshelves: film-only, published-1995, spring-2014, biography, cambridgeshire, britain-england, nonfiction, washyourmouthout-language, amusing, betrayal, bullies, casual-violence, gulp, lifestyles-deathstyles, medical-eew, newtome-author, ouch, recreational-drugs, sleazy, slit-yer-wrists-gloomy, suicide, tbr-busting-2014, tragedy

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: MBP
Read on May 03, 2014

 

Description: In this extraordinary book, Alexander Masters has created a moving portrait of a troubled man, an unlikely friendship, and a desperate world few ever see. A gripping who-done-it journey back in time, it begins with Masters meeting a drunken Stuart lying on a sidewalk in Cambridge, England, and leads through layers of hell…back through crimes and misdemeanors, prison and homelessness, suicide attempts, violence, drugs, juvenile halls and special schools–to expose the smiling, gregarious thirteen-year-old boy who was Stuart before his long, sprawling, dangerous fall.

Shocking, inspiring, and hilarious by turns, Stuart: A Life Backwards is a writer’s quest to give voice to a man who, beneath his forbidding exterior, has a message for us all: that every life–even the most chaotic and disreputable–is a story worthy of being told.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the author, Alexander Masters.

The Music: You’re Gorgeous – Babybird

Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum

The Style Council – Head Start for Happiness

cliff richard sings Here Comes Summer

The Jam ~ Eton Rifles

The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys by Lilian Pizzichini

bookshelves: spring-2014, biography, under-500-ratings, published-2009, teh-demon-booze, mental-health, books-about-books-and-book-shops, sleazy, london

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 26 to May 03, 2014


R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kcr2q

Lets see what Pizzichini has uncovered about this author-of-the-winge.

Description: Pooky Quesnel reads from Lillian Pizzichini’s biography of the author Jean Rhys, best known for the 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea.

Episode 1: Jean will one day lead a dramatic and colourful life in Paris, Vienna and London, but life begins for her on the Windward Island of Dominica.

Episode 2: Arriving from the West Indies at the age of 17, Jean is sent to a chilly girls’ school in Cambridge.

Episode 3: Jean becomes a chorus girl in Edwardian London and learns about love the hard way.

Episode 4: Now married but still penniless, things start to look up for Jean when she moves to Vienna in 1920.

Episode 5: It is now the 1930s and Jean has become an established writer, but it will be 30 years before she delivers her best-known work.

Flowery rendering made for a squirm-ridden encounter. It didn’t help Pizzichini’s corner that two superbly written biographies were on my desk at the same time:

The Valley
Wedlock

Penguin Lost by Andrey Kurkov

Kiev

Description: When last we saw Viktor, in the final pages of Death and the Penguin, he was taking his seat aboard the Expedition to Antarctica plane, fearing for his life. Meanwhile, Penguin Misha was left abandoned in a clinic recovering from a heart transplant. Now, in Penguin Lost, we join Viktor for his brief stay in and escape from Antarctica to discover that, characteristically, he has fallen on his feet. Visiting, on his return to Kiev, Penguinologist Pidpaly’s grave, Viktor mistakes an elusive child in white shirt and black shorts for Misha on funeral duty. He is first interrogated and then befriended by a Mafia boss who, while burying his contract-killed son-in-law, is also running for election as People’s Deputy. Viktor helps in his campaign, and is rewarded with introductions to those able to further his desperate search for Misha, said to be in the zoo of the murderous Chechen Khachayev. For Viktor, it is both a quest and an odyssey of atonement; for the reader, an experience as rich, topical and black-humouredly illuminating as Death and the Penguin.

Opening: It took Viktor three days to recover from the four spent crossing Drake Passage. In which time, the scientists who had sailed with him from Ushaia in the Horizon were already acclimatized and working fast to complete measurements and analyses before the onset of the polar night.

As you can see, this book starts off where the first one finished. Neat!

Vernadsky Base: (page 7)[..]after losing 16 men and two supply aircraft, the British had presented it [the base] to Ukraine.

Chechnya

Vernadsky Station, a Ukrainian base which was formerly the British ‘Faraday’ base.

3.5* Death and the Penguin
CR   Penguin Lost

SUPPORT UKRAINE

Turning Crimea into ‘Putinland’?
From Andrey Kurkov, Special for CNN
April 9, 2014 — Updated 0311 GMT (1111 HKT)

“Under pressure from the Kremlin, Russian airlines — the only ones now flying to the peninsula — have slashed prices on flights. I think Russian oligarchs will soon receive an order from the Kremlin to buy holiday packages to Crimean sanitoriums and resorts for their employees.”

Read more

Kiev Zoo Under Fire For Shocking Number Of Animal Deaths And Disappearances

Valley of the Dolls

bookshelves: radio-4x, recreational-drugs, spring-2012, classic, chick-lit, doo-lally, eye-scorcher, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, north-americas, ouch, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, sleazy, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, re-visit-2014, play-dramatisation, women, winter-20132014, published-1966, new-york

Read from April 07, 1968 to February 07, 2014

 

** spoiler alert ** Description: Sex and drugs and shlock and more — Jacqueline Susann’s addictively entertaining trash classic about three showbiz girls clawing their way to the top and hitting bottom in New York City has it all. Though it’s inspired by Susann’s experience as a mid-century Broadway starlet who came heartbreakingly close to making it, but did not, and despite its reputation as THE roman á clef of the go-go 1960s, the novel turned out to be weirdly predictive of 1990s post-punk, post-feminist, post “riot grrrl” culture. Jackie Susann may not be a writer for the ages, but — alas! — she’s still a writer for our times.

Jacqueline Susann drama with Madeleine Potter.

1. Anne heads off to the dazzling lights of post-war New York in search of a career. Jacqueline Susann drama with Madeleine Potter.

2. One of New York’s richest men has proposed marriage to Anne.

3. Anne meets famous torch singer Helen, and Neely understudies the lead in a new musical.

4. Anne’s relationship with Lyon grows passionate, and Neely gets her big break.

5. Anne’s fallen for Lyon Burke, but her friendship with Helen is put to the test.

6. Set on showbiz careers in New York, Anne, Jennifer and Neely move in together. Jacqueline Susann drama with Barbara Barnes.

7. Jennifer is keen to marry Tony, and Lyon visits Anne’s family home in Lawrenceville.

8. New bride Jennifer visits Neely, who has become a big Hollywood star.

9. Jennifer is invited to star in French films and Anne gets work in the new medium – television.

10. Neely has won an Academy Award, but her second marriage is already on the rocks.

11. With Anne’s help Neely agrees to perform on TV, but this creates big problems.

12. Just as Jennifer finds love and happiness, tragedy strikes.

13. After the tragedy, Neely gets agitated and Anne gets a visit from an old flame.

14. Lyon is back and Anne still has feelings for him, despite being engaged to Kevin.

15. Betrayed by Neely and with Lyon becoming more distant, Anne turns to the dolls

This is just as bad as I remember it. Love me some trash. Isn’t it a shame that more of the rich and famous didn’t read this before their worlds imploded under their own addictions and vanity. Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson etc etc

Theme tune: Dionne Warwick

Morvern Callar

bookshelves: film-only, winter-20132014, impac-longlist, published-1995, britain-scotland, recreational-drugs, suicide, music, sleazy, spain, books-about-books-and-book-shops, travel, teh-demon-booze, washyourmouthout-language

Read from January 30 to 31, 2014

Description: Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern’s reaction is both intriguing and immoral. What she does next is even more appalling. Moving across a blurred European landscape-from rural poverty and drunken mayhem of the port to the Mediterranean rave scene-we experience everything from Morvern’s stark, unflinching perspective.

Morvern is utterly hypnotizing from her very first sentence to her last. She rarely goes anywhere without the Walkman left behind as a Christmas present by her dead boyfriend, and as she narrates this strange story, she takes care to tell the reader exactly what music she is listening to, giving the stunning effect of a sound track running behind her voice.

In much the same way that Patrick McCabe managed to tell an incredibly rich and haunting story through the eyes of an emotionally disturbed boy in The Butcher Boy, Alan Warner probes the vast internal emptiness of a generation by using the cool, haunting voice of a female narrator lost in the profound anomie of the ecstasy generation. Morvern is a brilliant creation, not so much memorable as utterly unforgettable.”

Someone one on one these booksites has very recently read about mixed tapes (Eleni? Jema?), any way, this story is all wound around a mixed tape made for Morvern by her dead boyfriend.