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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 28, 2012 - 05:07 pm:   

Four nicely varied novels on the go at the minute:


'The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket' (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe – Something about this book, for all its effective passages, has me stalling for long periods after every chapter. I’ve never found Poe’s archaic language a problem before but this book, with its episodic shifts in tone and painfully long drawn out detailing of haphazard events rather than one straight narrative really is a hard slog. The author even admits the failings of the story in his own intro and I can’t help feeling that were it not for his fame resting on the excellence of his shorter writings the work would have been long ago consigned to the dustbin of history. Yet those moments of horror, when they do come, are undeniably powerful and, at nearly two thirds through, I still hold out hope for a memorable resolution. Having dusted off 'A Voyage To Arcturus' at long last I'm determined to finally finish this one as well in the next few days.


'Waltz Into Darkness' (1947) by Cornell Woolrich – One of those timelessly iconic stories that is thoroughly predictable from the start but so well written and constructed that one can’t help being drawn into the Faustian mechanics of the plot. Louis Durand has to be the most unsympathetic protagonist in crime fiction and “whoever she is” the most beguiling villainess. This guy deserves everything that’s coming to him, imho, being the most gormless bloody fool imaginable – and a rich sex-starved fool at that. I see him played by a young gawky Jimmy Stewart and the vamp by Veronica Lake at her most inscrutably sultry. This is gonna end only one way and all the fun is in getting there.


'Starman Jones' (1953) by Robert A. Heinlein – Another iconic tale of timeless simplicity and irresistible pull from the greatest storyteller of the 20th Century. The story of an abused boy who runs away to fulfil his dream of becoming a space explorer and the multitudinous adventures and life lessons he has along the way, including his adoption of the most memorable alien lifeform Bob possibly ever created –

“The only extra-terrestrial among Max’s charges was a spider puppy from the Terrestrian planet Hespera. On beginning his duties on the Asgard [on discovery he was given the most menial job they had, mucking out the animals in cargo] Max found the creature in one of the cages intended for cats; Max looked into it and a sad, little, rather simian face looked back at him. ‘Hello, Man’.

Max knew that some spider puppies had been taught human speech, after a fashion, but it startled him; he jumped back. He then recovered and looked more closely. ‘Hello, yourself,’ he answered. ‘My, but you are a fancy little fellow.’ The creature’s fur was a deep, rich green on its back, giving way to orange on the sides and blending to warm cream colour on its little round belly.

‘Want out,’ stated the spider puppy.

‘I can’t let you out. I’ve got work to do.’ He read the card affixed to the cage: ‘Mr Chips’ it stated, Pseudocanis hexapoda hesperae, owner: Miss E. Coburn, A-092; there followed a detailed instruction as to diet and care. Mr Chips ate grubs, a supply of which was to be found in freezer compartment H-118, fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked or uncooked, and should receive iodine if neither seaweed nor artichokes was available. Max thumbed through his mind, went through what he had read about the creatures, decided the instructions were reasonable.

‘Please out!’ Mr Chips insisted.

It was an appeal hard to resist. No maiden fayre crying from a dungeon tower had ever put it more movingly. The compartment in which the cats were located was small and the door could be fastened; possibly Mr Chips could be allowed a little run – but later; just now he had to take care of other animals.

When Max left, Mr Chips was holding onto the bars and sobbing gently. Max looked back and saw that it was crying real tears; a drop trembled on the tip of its ridiculous little nose; it was hard to walk out on it. He had finished with the stables before tackling the kennel; once the dogs and cats were fed and their cages policed he was free to give attention to his new friend.

He had fed it first off, which had stopped the crying. When he returned, however, the demand to be let out resumed.

‘If I let you out, will you go back in later?’

The spider puppy considered this. A conditional proposition seemed beyond its semantic attainments, for it repeated, ‘Want out.’ Max took a chance.

Mr Chips landed on his shoulder and started going through his pockets. ‘Candy,’ it demanded. ‘Candy?’

Max stroked it. ‘Sorry, chum. I didn’t know.’

‘Candy?’

‘No candy.’ Mr Chips investigated personally, then settled in the crook of Max’s arm, prepared to spend a week or more. It wasn’t, Max decided, much like a puppy and certainly not like a spider, except that six legs seemed excessive. The two front ones had little hands, the middle legs served double duty. It was more like a monkey but felt like a cat. It had a slightly spicy fragrance and seemed quite clean.

Max tried talking to it, but found its intellectual attainments quite limited. Certainly it used human words meaningfully but its vocabulary was not richer than that which might be expected of a not-too-bright toddler.

When Max tried to return it to its cage there ensued twenty minutes of brisk exercise, broken by stalemates. Mr Chips swarmed over the cages, causing hysterics among the cats. When at last the spider puppy allowed itself to be caught it still resisted imprisonment, clinging to Max and sobbing. He ended by walking it like a baby until it fell asleep

This was a mistake. A precedent had been set and thereafter Max was not permitted to leave the kennel without walking the baby.

He wondered about the ‘Miss Coburn’ described on the tag as Mr Chips’ owner. All of the owners of cats and dogs had shown up to visit their pets, but Mr Chips remained unvisited. He visualised her as a sour and hatchet-faced spinster who had received the pet as a going-away present and did not appreciate it. As his friendship with the spider puppy grew his mental picture of Miss E. Coburn became even less attractive.”

You can guess the rest but you can’t imagine how bloody entertaining it is... To call this book influential is a decided understatement. When boys in the 1950s were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and answered “an astronaut” I can see this book being the one that had fired their imaginations - including a few who actually made it. It is the most memorable such tome I have read since ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and every bit as dark edged and oddly haunting. No boys own romp this one but a tale of harsh lessons learned the hard way on the path from green boyhood to experienced young man of the world. A sense of wonder and of horror too, action, adventure, death, betrayal, love, humour, unshakeable friendships forged in dire need, abandonment, sworn enemies fired by jealousy, compelling melodrama, acts of lip quivering loyalty, convincing detailing of the "realities" of space travel and stirring fortitude in the face of unimaginable peril are all grist to Heinlein's mill. Absolutely fantastic entertainment!!


'Indecent Exposure' (1973) by Tom Sharpe – Halfway through and this black comic fantasy set at the height of apartheid in South Africa is every bit as nightmarishly depraved, unpredictable, violent, sexually explicit, shockingly un-PC, viciously satirical and pant-wettingly hilarious as its predecessor, ‘Riotous Assembly’ (1971). Sharpe was never as witheringly scornful again in his career at times reaching levels of righteous mockery that fairly scorch the page. Not for the easily offended but a bloodily effective deconstruction of a barbaric regime, in all its lunatic savagery, I’d rank this as one of his most memorable novels – and certainly among his most outrageous.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, May 28, 2012 - 05:23 pm:   

You know, people should not be allowed to read four books at once. It's unseemly....

It looks like Waltz Into Darkness was made into a film in 2001. It's called, Original Sin, and stars Angelina Jolie, and Antonio Banderas. Do those two come off to you, Stevie, as credible main protagonists for the novel?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 28, 2012 - 05:41 pm:   

These days I'd have cast Andrew Garfield as Louis Durand and, hmmm, is there a voluptuous blonde sex siren of ambiguous morals around these days? Part winsomely naive, part venomous bitch... with eyes to match. It's all in the eyes, Craig.

Jolie & Banderas seem decidedly miscast from my reading of the novel!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 28, 2012 - 05:59 pm:   

Visually Scarlett Johansson is probably the best actress around today for the part of "Julia" but could she be convincingly evil enough? Coquettish certainly but diabolically evil would take an actress of real personality and talent.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 12:34 pm:   

You know the novel was filmed before as 'La Sirène du Mississipi' (1969) by François Truffaut with Catherine Deneuve perfectly cast as "Julia", imo, and Jean-Paul Belmondo an interesting choice as Louis. I'd far rather see that one than the 2001 Hollywood version. Jolie & Banderas are both too blandly attractive and lacking in personality for the roles. Louis should be weak and make the viewer want to smack him one, for all his decency, while "Julia" has to make us drool over her and admire her guile for all her evil intentions... think Linda Fiorentino in 'The Last Seduction' (1994) - great movie - only blonde and innocent looking on the outside, like a naughty schoolgirl with a dagger hid behind her back. I like this character!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:41 pm:   

I loved THE LAST SEDUCTION! But no, Scarlett Johansson cannot be convincingly evil, to me, ever. Just like Anne Hathaway, to me, cannot convincingly play bitter and cynical (item: her miscast role in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN).

Funny how Jimmy Stewart, except for maybe CALL NORTHSIDE 777, avoided "film noir" (I don't count Hitchcock's films, which are larger than noir—are their own artifacts altogether). Though he did star in one of the strangest horror (yes, not comedy: horror) films ever, HARVEY....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:48 pm:   

For you especially, Stevie: Good lengthy article in The Nation on Vonnegut....

http://www.thenation.com/article/167921/i-was-there-kurt-vonnegut

(note the delicious bit beside the byline: "This article appeared in the June 4 2012 edition of The Nation")
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 04:07 pm:   

Now this is what I really love about Heinlein's fiction! At two thirds through the narrative has taken a shocking turn with Max and all the other characters I have grown to love - and love to hate - plunged into a hopeless scenario that makes the plight of the Robinson family in 'Lost In Space' (not to mention what happens in 'Star Trek : Voyager') pale into insignificance. The chapter "Anywhere" is one of the greatest lurches into danger in popular sci-fi literature and completely changes the tone of the book from one of peril to utter hopelessness - panicking passengers, mutiny, forced landing on a hostile world, the whole shebang.

Bob worked out the mathematical odds of the situation he has dealt his lovingly created fictional family and left them to sink or swim for themselves with NO CHANCE of rescue. I am staggered at his effrontery in a book ostensibly aimed at children!

This book ruthlessly points the way forward to the adult tests of character of 'Tunnel In The Sky' and 'Farnham's Freehold' and marks the author out as one of the most unflinching champions of teaching children the difference between right and wrong, without talking down to them, that I have encountered in fiction. As great a writer as C.S. Lewis was he could always resurrect Aslan but we cant'... <choke>

I fear for these characters as much as the crew of the Vanguard. I really do.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 04:13 pm:   

Stewart could have played Louis Durand to perfection, Craig.

His multi-faceted talent as an actor is too often underplayed in favour of his all-American good guy charm. Think the journey he takes in the first half of 'It's A Wonderful Life' without the angel to rescue him but instead a devil in angel's form to drag him down into the darkest, coldest waters of Hell...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 04:58 pm:   

Finished 'Starman Jones' and its another of Bob's lump in the throat endings with things panning out poignantly and not quite how one would have expected heightened by real regret at having to say farewell to these characters. I can only hope that some of them may recur in later books as Bob was wont to do - another literary trick that Stephen King picked up from him and that makes reading both men's works even more satisfying. Goodbye, Max.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 03:23 pm:   

Decided on the first part of Gene Wolfe's Soldier Trilogy next, 'Soldier Of The Mist' (1986), just as soon as I've mopped up the rest of 'Arthur Gordon Pym'.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.208.118
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:10 pm:   

You've not been chopping people up in your kitchen again have you? You know how messy that is
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:10 pm:   

Ah, you will enjoy it, Stevie! If only I could remember it all....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:26 pm:   

**** STARMAN JONES SPOILERS ****

Can't help thinking about the final third of 'Starman Jones' and its unexpected lurch into Wellsian alien horror. The weird non-technological civilization that the survivors of the Asgard fall foul of on that unnamed forest planet was Heinlein's answer to the final Island visited in 'Gulliver's Travels', the country of the Houyhnhnms (how the hell do you pronounce that), and its infamously misanthropic message.

Where Gulliver, as an individual, identified with the Houyhnhnms and their domination of the human-like Yahoos, essentially giving up on his fellow man as disgusting barbarians, Max Jones and his beleagured comrades react as any group would when faced with the threat of becoming just so much livestock to the grotesque dietary habits of those shark-toothed things and their disturbingly simian cattle - with initial panic and fragmentation followed by the strongest and the born organisers rising to the surface to rally the troops and defend humanity. The final chapters are immensely stirring for all their poignancy and it is this essential faith in human beings to rise to the occasion in time of need and not to give up in the face of insurmountable odds, his belief that we are intrinsically honourable in our social endeavours and that dire necessity reveals not just the worst in us but the best as well, and that only the best have the unselfishness to triumph over the individual's base survival instinct and accept self-sacrifice as a moral duty, that makes the author and his liberal/libertarian politics so hard to pin down and easy to misinterpret.

In 'Starman Jones' Bob is both praising Jonathan Swift's storytelling abilities and strenuously arguing against what he sees as Gulliver's weak-willed capitulation of honour and integrity, his suicide of the soul. Once again I tend to agree with him... we really aren't that bad as a species when you consider all we have achieved and all of our future potential. Just this lunchtime, watching the News, I was amazed to see surgeons waving their hands at screens on a wall and manipulating minute tools deep inside a patient's body, saving a life as if by magic. It's the problem of how to realise all that wondrous potential in the face of dwindling resources and spiralling overpopulation that led to many of Bob's most controversial ideas and novels - and to much of the later short-sighted criticism levelled against him. There are no easy answers but there is likewise no other option but to persevere... humanity demands it.
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Matt_cowan (Matt_cowan)
Username: Matt_cowan

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 98.253.169.141
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:27 pm:   

I'm reading IN SILENT GRAVES by Gary A. Braunbeck. I hadn't read any of his work before until I recently read his short story "What Happened to Me" in the haunted house anthology HOUSE OF FEAR. I thought it was a tremendous tale and so now I'm going to give his novel a look.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:32 pm:   

You've not been chopping people up in your kitchen again have you?

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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.209.198
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 06:03 pm:   

At least use the bits to feed the dog.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Friday, June 01, 2012 - 02:32 am:   

Kittens, man! I fed him to my kittens. Where's your sense of evil ffs!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, June 01, 2012 - 01:28 pm:   

Couldn't resist starting 'Soldier Of The Mist' (1986) and it certainly is a demanding read. I thought the first chapters of 'The Overnight' were a tad disconcerting but this one really will take some getting used to - and a lot of concentration.

The narrative is written down in sections by the lead character, Latro, as his only way of remembering what happened the previous day due to suffering from anterograde amnesia (i.e. the same condition Guy Pearce's character had in Christopher Nolan's 'Memento') following a head injury in battle.

He actually starts the story afresh each day having skimmed over what he had previously written and forgets things from even just a couple of days before meaning the reader is constantly having to remember for him, or try to. Not only that but the reality Latro perceives is different from those around him, due perhaps to hallucinations from the injury, with supernatural entities being visible only to him and with whom he appears to physically interact.

So we have a madman who speaks to the Gods and doesn't have a clue who he really is (Latro is merely the word for "soldier"), where he came from or what his goal should be other than that he was a warrior with a sword and armour in strife-torn Ancient Greece, and was felled during the Battle of Plataea, fighting for Xerxes, in the year 479 BC! Perhaps he has died and doesn't realise it yet? Fascinating stuff with an intricate level of painstakingly researched historical detail already evident and a feel for the times that puts me in mind of Robert Graves (on acid). Where the story is going or if it is to be a meandering picaresque adventure (ala 'Barry Lyndon') is anyone's guess!
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 121.219.126.94
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2012 - 12:05 pm:   

Approaching the end of 'The Passage' - only forty pages to go. A stunning novel, one that I would highly recommend. Has anyone else read this? - I haven't seen any mention of it here.

Have also been dipping into 'It Knows Where You Live', by Zed. The first story, in particular, is a belter, so hopefully the rest of the collection is of the same quality. I'm sure it will be, I've never felt let down by Gary's fiction.

Keen to read more Karl Edward Wagner, so I think I'll tackle the latest offering from Centipede Press next.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2012 - 01:20 pm:   

Karl Edward Wagner is an exceptionally gifted writer of dark fantasy with all the pulp energy and vivid imagination of Robert E. Howard. I can't recommend his 'Kane' stories enough, both as sword-and-sorcery & horror. I plan to complete the collection and read them all in order as one of my up-coming projects.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.27
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2012 - 02:31 pm:   

Hear hear, Stevie.
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2012 - 09:23 pm:   

Agree on Dr. Wagner. He was one of nearly discoveries in genre fiction, after Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ramsey, and Charles Grant.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, June 07, 2012 - 10:22 pm:   

I will third Stevie. I hearken back alone to the story I just (re-)read a few months back, Wagner's "Sing A Last Song Of Valdese," in DAW's The Year's Best Horror Stories, V. It glimmered there like a gigantic blazing jewel, amidst tiny karat diamonds (because those others were good stories, too). Wagner shone in horror and fantasy, brightly. His Kane series was optioned by Hollywood not too long ago (though sadly, I doubt it will be made into a film). Can't praise him enough....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2012 - 03:27 pm:   

Just finished 'Indecent Exposure'. A completely insane black comic fantasy that climaxes with the wonderfully apocalyptic scenario of the South African Police Force being transformed into an army of "cross-dressing homosexuals" by Dr Von Blimenstein's radical aversion therapy to try and stamp out miscegenation in the ranks. 'A Clockwork Orange' meets 'Monty Python' with exploding ostriches to boot! If only it could have happened in the real world, sigh...

And now about to start Ray Bradbury's 'Death Is A Lonely Business' (1985) as my own meagre tribute to the great man. I can feel a long overdue Bradbury marathon coming on...
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 62.254.173.13
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2012 - 03:41 pm:   

A bunch of stuff, really. But I've got Peter Ackroyd's History of England: Vol 1, FOUNDATION, on the go, and that's taking up most of my time.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 62.255.207.128
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2012 - 08:08 pm:   

I like Ackroyd a great deal and am still puzzled and darkly bemused by "Hawksmoor" which is one of the most brooding and malevolent works I have read. His biography of Dickens was riveting.

I have just discovered the most unsettling monster I have encountered in literature for a long time. Ralph (call me Rafe) Gorse. I'm halfway through the second book in Patrick Hamilton's Gorse trilogy - "Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse" - which follows on from the heart-breaking yet completely addictive "The West Pier" and loving every sentence. Gorse is a fantastic creation, his absolute heartlessness and overwhelming charm are unsurpassed. I do remember Nigel Havers playing him in "The Charmer" a decade or so ago (probably longer than that!) and it is Havers who I visualise when I read the books. Thoroughly recommended.


Cheers
Terry
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.214.176
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2012 - 08:46 pm:   

Halfway through Iain Banks' Transition, and loving it.
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 94.197.127.65
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2012 - 10:26 pm:   

I read Hawskmoor and found myself wishing James Herbert had written it, Terry. Ackroyd's book got a lot of critical acclaim but I'd've prefered some more structure and narrative drive. The city was the real protagonist of the book.

Is Banksy back on form, Mick? I've not really enjoyed one of his without being disappointed since Excession. I quite fancy Stonemouth.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 121.219.126.94
Posted on Sunday, June 10, 2012 - 01:37 pm:   

Finished 'The Passage', brilliant - can't wait for 'The Twelve'.

Started 'In a Lonely Place', by Wagner. The first two stories were new to me -'In The Pines' and 'Where the Summer Ends'. Loved both of them. The next story is 'Sticks', which I have read but don't remember much about it.
I have a feeling Wagner is about to become one of my favourite authors. Such a tragedy what happened to him.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 04:56 pm:   

'Death Is A Lonely Business' (1985) has to be one of the weirdest crime novels I have read with the incidents and characters encountered all seeming to be conjured from the first person narrator's imagination as he is writing his "Great American Novel" and simultaneously investigating the death of an anonymous old hobo, found washed up on the shore. The prose is sublime poetry of the highest calibre and the feel for place - a seaside resort in 1940s LA - is pungently nostalgic and atmospheric. Not sure where the plot is going yet and the surreal style is redolent of the bewildering opening chapters of Bardin's 'The Deadly Percheron' (1946) but I have no doubt all will be made clear in time, as with that descent into the maelstrom. This really is fine writing - warm and touching yet melancholy and suffused with the wreak of decay!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 12:52 am:   

One of my favorite single-author collections ever, Lincoln, is In A Lonely Place. And "Sticks" is one of the best stories in it. Just thinking about the book, makes me happy... weirdly enough, since it's all pretty much dark black horror....
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 123.98.136.29
Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 05:26 am:   

Yeah, it's fantastic Craig. Rare that I read a single author collection cover to cover, but I'll be doing that with this one. Then maybe straight onto 'Why Not You and I'!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 07:30 pm:   

Why Not You And I? has some wonderful stuff in it, but the bar is so high with In A Lonely Place, that it simply can't compete.

Other best-of-the-best single-author horror collections:

Any by Ramsey (but especially Dark Companions and The Height of the Scream)
Tales from the Nightside by Charles Grant
The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre, published by Del Rey in 1982 (doesn't matter if it's one of a number of selections done years later: this is still imho the best collection of Lovecraft's best shorter work)
The Books of Blood by Clive Barker (any of them)
The Specialty of the House by Stanley Ellin (the original edition; enough of them cross the line between crime and horror, that it certainly qualifies as horror)
Skeleton Crew, by Stephen King
Heroes and Horrors by Fritz Leiber (the "Horrors" part)
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.40.253.7
Posted on Friday, June 15, 2012 - 02:53 am:   

Still on with Ackroyd's History of England, primarily, but with wee little things here and there to keep me distracted. One-read crime novels mostly. (Who writes a book to be read only once? Strange. But still, folk do it: engine books designed to do nothing but make you turn the page...)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, June 15, 2012 - 04:40 am:   

I believe I'm reading a "one-read" crime novel right now, Mark (i.e., I believe it classifies as such a novel—I'm damned sure I'm actually reading it): Death Notes by Ruth Rendell. This last year or so, I've been sampling novels here and there by more well-known crime/mystery authors whose longer works I've neglected. So, now, it's Ms. Rendell's turn. So far so good, if pretty conventional....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, June 15, 2012 - 08:35 pm:   

Very enjoyable so far, Death Notes; quick read, and some excellent writing (which I knew already from some of her short-stories). Ruth Rendell's style is more Graham Greene introspective, than Christie's comedy-of-manners, or Doyle's ratiocination. Never encountered Inspector Wexford before: unlike Poirot, say, Wexford's is a continuing storyline, but Ms. Rendell makes prior knowledge superfluous to the novel's pleasures. The great joy to me here, is that she's doing an all-out homage (in setting and plot) to Ross McDonald—and in the course of it, a fish-out-of-water satire—as cozy small-village Englishman Wexford and his wife take a vacation (halfway through the novel) to California, Santa Monica specifically then a trip up the coast. The storyline and characters keep you invested and intrigued. Thumbs up.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 - 03:07 pm:   

Finding that Jules Verne novel has done the trick and I'm motoring through the final third of 'Arthur Gordon Pym' now.

It is already clear that this climactic story of South Seas exploration forms the most gripping section of the novel - being redolent more of Arthur Conan Doyle's later fantasies or even William Hope Hodgson than sub-Robert Louis Stevenson high seas adventure - and has reinforced my opinion that it really should have been separated from the rest of the book and published as a stand alone novella.

As for the rest; the stowaway story, the mutiny story, the Flying Dutchman story and the cannibalism story would all have benefited from the same treatment, forming perfect little short stories in their own right but badly crippling tha 'Narrative' as any kind of cohesive novel.

For now, I'm on board the schooner Jane Guy with them as they sail ever further into uncharted waters... a cracking yarn!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.147.142.0
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 12:02 am:   

WEll I'm most of the way through The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay and it's turning into one of his best.

Unusually for a high fantasy adventure there's no clear cut good guys and bad guys. Even the viking type raiders who form such a strong section of the narrative have one of the book's lead protagonists and all round sympathetic character in their midst.

It's impossible to say who's going to live or die before the end of the book. One character who was looking like he'd be at the very heart of the final confrontation (in whatever form that takes) was killed off with no respect for the reader's expectations. A trick more writers should learn.

I'm not a fan of high fantasy normally but I always make an exception for Kay.

Stevie - you wouldn't even be breaking your 20 year rule if you started reading Kay with the Fionavar Tapestry - the trilogy was finished in 85 - 27 years ago!!! I reread the full trilogy pretty much back to back last year and it was easily as good as I remembered - with at least one character death that made me cry real tears and some of the best battle sequences ever committed to paper.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.129.59.216
Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 11:30 pm:   

It was indeed a rollercoaster of a ride to the end of that book, except a rollercoaster with multiple tracks so you never knew which way it was going to throw you. A definite contender for one of this year's books of the year.

Not one of the deaths among the lead characters was expected, several I thought would die for certain lived, while some of those I thought were in it for the long haul didn't. And he was really showing off his writing style in this one. Poetic, sad, funny, just generally a great book.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Friday, June 22, 2012 - 02:10 pm:   

Finished 'The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket' (1838) last night, and 'The Complete Tales Of Edgar Allan Poe' (1938) along with it - and it only took me a year and a half!

The final section of AGP is one of the author's great masterpieces of weird fiction. I was gripped totally and thoroughly enjoyed it after all the ups and downs of getting there. In fact I would say he virtually invented pulp genre fiction with that tale. The dated journal format and the narration growing ever more desperate, yet curious with it, the fast pace of the action, at last, and breathtaking way he had of despatching whole swathes of characters with grisly abandon in a single thrilling paragraph, the great scenes of exploration, flight and battles with the natives, the mystifying archaeological oddities discovered, the feeling of being sucked ever deeper into inescapable weirdness the closer they got to the South Pole and that final irresistibly tantalising mystery of the giant white figure and those strange white birds calling Tekeli-li. Truly thrilling writing, energising even, that belies the often turgid first two thirds of the "novel".

My own theory as to the unfinished mystery of the book is that the white figure was clearly a huge warning statue pointing North or, in other words, this is your last chance to turn back. Behind the statue one imagines the entrance to some weird Lovecraftian universe in which the colour white means terror, explaining the native's fear of the colour, to the extent of even daubing their teeth black. The birds perhaps ravage the islands, explaining the terror of their cry as repeated by the natives, carrying off unfortunate victims back into their ultradimensional realm, never to be seen again. The boiling nature of the sea surrounded by ice and with that strange white ash falling seems to indicate a world of dry ice to me, rather than the natural sort, and this perhaps ties in with the odd nature of the water on the islands. Not like H2O at all! And those gigantic heiroglyphics of some long lost ancient language meant to be read by giants, it would seem, perhaps the models for that statue, remain the most tantalising unexplained element of the story. See what I mean? Wonderful storytelling in which Poe was clearly fired up and really enjoying himself, until... what happened to leave the manuscript unfinished? Hmmm...

Now about to start into Jules Verne's highly thought of sequel, 'The Sphinx Of The Ice Fields' (1897), to get another great master's take on the mystery. We're cooking again!!

'Waltz Into Darkness' (half way through), 'Soldier Of The Mist' (third through) & 'Death Is A Lonely Business' (quarter through) have been set aside only temporarily. Verne, at his best, is a writer one always flies through, I find.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.130.103.73
Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 01:32 pm:   

Just finished this review of A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT by Peter Bell (Sarob Press). I think the book as a whole is possibly the best
example yet of Ghorror (as defined).
http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/a-certain-slant-of-light-peter-bell/

ely
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 02:18 pm:   

Flying through 'The Sphinx Of The Ice Fields' and finding it an entertaining romp more in the rip-roaring mould of Doyle's Professor Challenger novels and all but devoid of the doomladen melancholy of Poe. It reads, so far, as one of those thrilling adventure yarns for juveniles but Verne has to be congratulated for the originality of his solution to the Pym mystery. It covers all the bases and makes logical sense while foreshadowing the theories of Erich Von Daniken by some 70 years. A fine example of pulp sci-fi/horror at its most solidly entertaining.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.18.174.156
Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 04:36 pm:   

I believe I have just read one of the greatest passages of literature of its era: Chapters 38-43 of 'Waltz Into Darkness' (1947) by Cornell Woolrich. What was an entertaining mixture of high melodrama and crime noir has been elevated, at just over halfway, to the level of Shakespearean tragedy. In particular, Julia/Bonny's all too plausible and heartbreaking explanation for her monstrous actions and Louis's (as well as my) buying of it. The harrowing mental struggle Woolrich puts his protagonist and reader through in those pages is nothing short of wizardly! This is writing the equal of Dostoevsky or Greene, imo, but with all the free flowing narrative excitement of Dickens. I can see this being a contender for my "Read of the Year"!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 03:30 am:   

Found recently at my liebary an old hardback of Best New Horror: 4 ed. by Stephen Jones and our fearless leader here. Some of the stories herein I've read, but not the marvelous one I'd like to give a shout out to, Joel's "And Some Are Missing." Chilling, beautifully written, and it's rare (at least, in the shorter form) to read something that's firmly in the horror gene, but that's also poignantly positive—dare I say, that has a happy ending (because the protagonist at the close is spiritually redeemed). It actually raised my spirits: just wonderful.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 01:21 pm:   

Craig, you're very kind. And yes, there is a note of redemption in the expression of solidarity at the end. Readers often don't see that in my stories (whether I think it's there or not), so it's nice to have that affirmed.

The anti-people make a comeback in a forthcoming story of mine, 'Without a Mind'.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 01:25 pm:   

Stevie, I'm a big Woolrich fan but I think WID is high-camp nonsense that only works as parody – for example, in the contraditions of a wordview in which a single man who screws prostitutes is a 'gentleman' but a woman who smokes is an offence against nature. Don't wanna spoil your enjoyment of it though, as the best is yet to come.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.38.57
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 02:44 pm:   

Been catching up with some Woolrich short story collections recently: Rear Window, The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich and The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich. Not read any of his novels yet but I've got the Black Box omnibus -- Phantom Lady, Waltz Into Darkness, The Bride Wore Black -- waiting on the bookshelf.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 06:51 pm:   

Stu, I think the first and second collections are superb, but the third disappointing – Woolrich wasn't good at full-on supernatural horror, though he excelled in psychological horror so offbeat you feel the supernatural must have been at work somehow.

Of the omnibus, the first novel is an exhilarating and ironic demolition of complacency, the second is (to my mind) an overcooked historical melodrama and the third is a hard, concise study in madness and violence. Three absolutely different books. Woolrich never found a commercial formula. If he had, his later life might have been a lot more comfortable.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 07:26 pm:   

I'm surprised you hadn't returned to the anti-people earlier, Joel! They're finely sketched, and leave the reader wanting (and dreading) to know more. I'm reminded of the more sinister—maybe, ambiguously natured?—creations of Keith Haring; often whose seemingly blissful and delightfully energetic "people," could easily be interpreted in other ways (some of his art can be blatantly horrific).
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.42.5
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 07:40 pm:   

Joel, so far the only story I've read out of the Fantastic Stories is Papa Benjamin. That was okay, although not quite as good as some of the other stuff I've been reading by him. There is some cross-over between the contents of Fantastic Stories and at least one of the other collections but I can't remember which stories offhand.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 08:31 pm:   

"Rear Window" (orig. "It Had To Be Murder") is so good, that despite knowing the film backwards and forwards, it still had me riveted to my seat and gnawing my fingernails, worried about the main protagonist. I kind of regret reading that one first, because the few shorter works I've encountered by Woolrich afterwards—though perfectly fine and thrilling themselves—couldn't reach those sublime heights of suspenseful tension. But then there's so many stories and novels by him yet to be explored....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, June 30, 2012 - 02:53 am:   

2/3's of the way through Ed McBain's He Who Hesitates (1965), an 87th Precinct novel (more like a novella), though so far they feature as peripheral background at best. I've really taken to McBain (Evan Hunter) in what little I've read so far, and this one's just taut: I'm distantly reminded of some of Ramsey's protagonists, because here we're locked (3rd person) in the mind of Roger Broome, a 20-something visitor to the big city, who's clearly hiding some kind of recent awful event that's gnawing away at him. As the story progresses, we're thrown from feelings of pity and empathy for Broome, to fear and loathing, as his psychoses become slowly (exquisitely so) evident... and as suspicion mounts, that they might truly be deranged, and deadly.

McBain's work is effortless to read, but contains Hemingway-depths: it's more than clear why he was so universally acclaimed. I do hope someday soon to get to the present day in my reading... nah, that's a lie, I really don't care if I ever do....
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.61.103
Posted on Saturday, June 30, 2012 - 02:46 pm:   

Am re-reading The Name of the Rose. Great book. Can't wait to get at the interrogation scene which I've always found a literary tour de force.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2012 - 04:38 am:   

Well, got sucker-punched with a pitch black ending to that novel. As a chaser, I polished off McBain's short-story, "Sadie When She Died" (1972), where I was also treated to a dark crime tale with a pitch black ending. Hell, I thought detective fiction was supposed to end with the good happily, and the bad unhappily?... Feel like I need some uplift reading: coming out from under these two, even Lovecraft'll do.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - 04:46 pm:   

But three chapters in to Ramsey's The Count of Eleven, and already greatly intrigued. (Albeit, I am struggling a bit, having no idea on Earth what a "blowlamp" is....)
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.61.103
Posted on Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - 04:48 pm:   

A blowtorch?
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 62.255.207.128
Posted on Thursday, July 05, 2012 - 11:19 pm:   

"Woman in White" - a little spoiled by one of those massive coincidences so beloved by 19th century novelists. But it has engaged me...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.210
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 08:01 am:   

"Hell, I thought detective fiction was supposed to end with the good happily, and the bad unhappily?"

Don't read Dennis Lehane, then! (By which I mean do!)
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.152.62.175
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 10:30 am:   

Craig - someone said books set in the past help us see our present world more clearly.

I haven't read Lehane, but Gone Baby Gone was a stunning film. Talk about bleak.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.210
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 11:19 am:   

As is the book, certainly!
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Christopher Overend (Chris_overend)
Username: Chris_overend

Registered: 03-2012
Posted From: 217.33.165.66
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 12:46 pm:   

I saw The Wicker Man for the first time the other day. But it all depends on perspective: if I were a pagan, I would have thought it a perfecly happy ending.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.210
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 01:24 pm:   

Not all pagans would, surely.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 05:11 pm:   

Let's just hope The Count of Eleven ends happier (I'm 1/3 of the way through so far)... I like Orchard and his family, and am increasingly distressed to see how he's degenerating, mentally... I mean how he's mentally degenerating, not me being redundant—hell, now I'm turning into Orchard!...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.24.215
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 11:00 pm:   

It's a comedy, Craig!
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 213.106.77.123
Posted on Friday, July 06, 2012 - 11:21 pm:   

Lehane is brilliant, though I always thought Gone, Baby, Gone was how the Kenzie and Gennaro series was meant to end- Prayers For Rain} wasn't a bad novel by any means but felt like one he'd had to write because no-one wanted it to end like that. Moonlight Mile was good, though.

I have his novel The Given Day also, though I haven't read it yet. Lehane seemed to drop off the radar for several years; glad he's back.

Have you read any of Mo Hayder's work, btw, Ramsey? She's written some extraordinarily dark and bleak crime fiction- The Treatment, in particular, is harrowing almost beyond words.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 62.255.207.128
Posted on Saturday, July 07, 2012 - 12:30 am:   

Peeping Tom Number One which came out in 1990. Second story is a very early Conrad Williams! I'm re-reading the whole lot because I'm hoping to publish a Peeping Tom compilation. And it is already an astonishing, nostalgic and fascinating experience.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, July 07, 2012 - 02:19 am:   

A comedy?! But the book has a picture of letters bleeding on the cover, it all but screams horror, with the cover-quote saying it "takes us right inside [a serial killer's] head." I make a point of not reading the back cover, for fear of ruining the novel, but... a comedy?!

Well, actually, so far, no one's died. And in comedies, horrible things happen, with no real harm resulting. I wonder now....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, July 08, 2012 - 04:19 pm:   

Halfway through The Count of Eleven, and yes indeed, seeing now, Ramsey, this is shaping up to be a black—light-hearted, but black—comedy indeed....

Meanwhile, I started another book: I had an idea for a script involving a hypnotist, and then I saw (weirdly) in my latest Entertainment Weekly a write up of this thriller novel involving a hypnotist, of which the second book is about to appear. It's a Swedish novel titled They Hypnotist, by "Lars Kepler"—not really, it's been revealed (in 2009, the year it was published, though they continue to publish under the pseudonym) that the actual author is a husband-wife team, Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril. So I downloaded it to my Kindle to see if it was treading on similar territory as my concept.

Okay, like Stevie, I don't read anything without some thorough research on, or previous awareness of the author/s; some kind of recommendation. And I'm reminded again now why again: The writing here is so bad, and I mean SO bad, that it really shades into a whole other realm altogether. Perhaps all can be blamed on the translator, since this was originally in another language; if I didn't know better, someone just plugged it through goolge/translate and didn't give a shit.

But surely this can't be just translation issues: it's not possible. Every single aspect of this story, characters plot sentence-structure dialogue and on, is so utterly without merit, that it is a crime against humanity not only that this was published, but that it has become some kind of best-seller with a film already being made. It is just plain unfair and wrong and more evidence of a cruel and heartless universe that this gets attention (the 2 full-page EW write up alone, with headshots of these smugly sanctimonious pouting fucking morons oh God for a passing car in a rainstorm splashing muddy gutter water all over them...) and other better greater hell just plain competent work gets no notice at all... it's enough to make one weep....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, July 13, 2012 - 03:44 am:   

Less than 1/4th left of The Count of Eleven, and I find Jack Orchard now both funny, and deeply unsettling. The image in my mind of him, with his blow lamp (realizing its importance to the novel, I've since looked it up to find out what one is), going around "randomly" killing people like that... I must say, that's pretty darned ghastly, Ramsey....
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.152.62.175
Posted on Friday, July 13, 2012 - 08:21 am:   

My missus cried at the end. It's the only Ramsey she's read.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 08:34 pm:   

Finished The Count of Eleven. I'm not sure I'd be crying at the end of this, Tony... Jack Orchard kind of deserved more than he got. I'm reminded of the series "Breaking Bad," also with your average suburban protagonist who's all the way along driven to do the right thing, who instead goes over completely to the dark side. Awesome stuff. Again, like other Ramsey novels, why isn't this a movie?!

Having done my detective work on the "Old Peculiar" thread, I'm off to locate the crime novel Ramsey liked so much. God, I'm so dying for a great contemporary dark crime novel! Especially after the tripe that is The Hypnotist, and with me so utterly leery of trying anything too new... being as hesitant, particular, suspicious and finicky reader as I am....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.211.120
Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 08:54 pm:   

Check out the ritual by Adam Nevill. Scariest thing i've read in years.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.108.152
Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 09:30 pm:   

With a two or three book interval in the middle of it, I just finished Embassytown by China Mieville.

It was a difficult one to get into, the world described this time is so alien that getting the hang of the situation was awkward. But once the story really got going it was really very very very good, if not excellent.

Just starting on the Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark. From the opening chapter I'm not quite sure yet if I'm going to like this one...
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.178.159.240
Posted on Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 10:58 pm:   

Check out the ritual by Adam Nevill. Scariest thing i've read in years.

Yep, great book. I'm now a quarter of the way through his "Last Days" and I'm loving it.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 04:00 am:   

I've read tantalizingly little of a synopsis of The Ritual—it sounds more like a horror novel. I'm on a thriller/suspense/mystery kick of late... I actually read Ramsey's The Count of Eleven as a break, and it oddly and serendipitously turned out to skirt a fine line with thriller/suspense.* Not that I have to read that, and don't want to go back and read horror and other genres... anyway, what is Nevill's novel?

*I've been thinking to myself, what does make The Count of Eleven a horror mostly, and thriller/suspense only secondarily? One could write a whole book critiquing such. But I'd say the main elements are (spoilers): (1) Jack Orchard's split into two personalities—though it does happen late in the novel; (2) Jack Orchard, despite often displaying all the hilarious traits of a bumbling film comic—Laurel & Hardy, etc.—always succeeds quite well in the course of his crimes: traditionally to the other genres, such things go various stages of no-success awry; and (3) his string of tasks taken all together, despite various quirks and reveals (like his daughter's breaking down [near the end] the unlikeness of the letter's efficacy sheerly by the numbers), succeeds without a chink. But then... gee, isn't all this sort of like The Talented Mr. Ripley? Going by the movie, not the novel, at least (I've not read)—and one would never call that horror. Hmm... I dunno, I'll have to go over this again....Maybe it's not horror—sure feels like it!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 05:23 pm:   

Want to mention a screenplay I read: ATM, by Chris Sparling, who wrote the script for Buried with Ryan Reynolds. This too is a contained thriller (no, this is much more like horror), all taking place in an enclosed ATM: three people who stop there to get some quick cash are instead trapped inside by a mysterious menacing man. So, here, we are enclosed in an ATM, as in Buried we were trapped in a coffin.

I had heard of ATM for a while, being a "hot spec" going around. I finally secured a copy, and read it straight through: it's quite well-written, fast-paced; dumb in spots, and ends lamely, but definitely qualifies, for me as a script reader, as a "great script." Though I was ultimately unsatisfied, it is is a script I'd pass up the chain, anyone would. I had no idea it was already made (!!!—that was a surprise for me, Gary!), and so looked up the reviews on imdb... WOW, but pretty much everyone who saw this film hated it. I mean, they friggin' hated this film.

But I saw an online interview with this screenwriter, who's talking about what makes a good script, what qualifies as a good script, good writing, etc.—his views as such, are considered more important than others on the subject. His script here made really lame leaps in logic, yes; and it was ultimately unsatisfying even reading it, since (not really a spoiler—readers/viewers should be warned about this) the reason/s for the killer's attack is never, not even peripherally or slightly or tantalizingly, explained.

So, it's really a sucky script. But, it's also a great script, no doubt, and I still would pass it around, professionally. But, it still bothered me. And, it ended up being a film apparently people detest and everyone wants to forget. And yet, the writer's utter failure here, doesn't change the fact he'd be the guy to go to above 1000s of others who might have better movies in their scripts. And, even after feeling ultimately let down by this ATM, even I'd want to read another script by this guy, over someone else....

Which is all to say: Jesus, Hollywood and everyone in it's fucking screwed up.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.108.202
Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 05:32 pm:   

The Ritual is out and out horror. It doesn't stop from the first page onwards. It manages to keep the intensity almost consistantly high for the full length of the book.

Its excellent.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.108.202
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2012 - 12:35 am:   

Another Stevie Update

Death is a lonely business was brilliant. The ultimate deconstruction of crime noir.

He's now a third of the way through From the Teeth of Angels by Jonathan Carroll and is as enthralled as ever. Good to see Finky Linky get his day in the sun. (He clearly hasn't got through to the nasty stuff that happens...)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2012 - 01:21 am:   

I downloaded a sample of The Ritual to my Kindle Fire, so I'll give it a try, Weber. Always looking for good stuff to read.

Uh-oh. Stevie thought Death Is A Lonely Business "brilliant"? Well... I suppose, considering what he's been going through, we'll let that pass....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.184.108.202
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2012 - 01:39 am:   

I thought/think it's brilliant too.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, July 16, 2012 - 01:42 am:   

Gosh. I do love Bradbury, but I just don't think that novel's brilliant, by any means.

Not that that means anything; I'm not even going to claim I'm any more than personally affected this way, for some reason, as far as this novel's concerned. But people do love it. Must be me.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 188.221.155.202
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:02 am:   

It was brilliant and surprisingly Campbellian imo - all those half glimpsed shadowy figures, the seaweed left on doorsteps and similarly subtle intimations of encroaching doom. Bradbury used the familiar tropes of the crime noir genre to tell an oddly haunting and surreal horror story that consistently confounded the reader's expectations. The actual murder mystery and even the world weary detective character he had us primed to think would be the hero were ultimately incidental to the plot. I found it a compelling and beautifully written rumination on death, the end of old dreams and the beginning of new ones.

'From The Teeth Of Angels' is fabulous!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.19.23
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:49 am:   

Well after nearly a hundred pages the Muriel Spark book isn't improving. Thenarrative voice it puts in my head is a stern schoolmarm - with irritatingly precise language. This might work for the chapters talking about a spinster school teacher, but not for the chapters dealing with the young man about town civil servant.

As my car needs to go to the car-doctor for minor surgery (hopefully minor) and I can't afford to take it till Thursday - it means I'll be missing the book group this month. HOwever taht means I'm free to give up on the Muriel Spark book and read something good instead.

I'll be reading Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce - which hooked me morre in the first page than Muriel managed in 100.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:10 pm:   

I tried a Murial Spark omnibus a few years ago and she irritated the hell out of me. I never bothered with the second omnibus.

Give me dear old Daphne du Maurier, Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch any day.

Cheers
Terry
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:20 pm:   

I loved Death Is a Lonely Business as well – indeed only Fahrenheit 451 surpasses it among Bradbury's novels for me.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.79
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:20 pm:   

Ah! I assume Chris Sparling has never read my tale "Digging Deep".
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.158.156.168
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:35 pm:   

Craig - I didn't enjoy it either.
Muriel Spark - I think I tried to read her once. Beryl Bainbridge can be tricky sometimes, too, but not always. She moves between being a favourite of mine and being completely unreadable.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.79
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 01:42 pm:   

Muriel Spark's early work reminded me quite a bit at the time of Evelyn Waugh, but didn't make me laugh so much.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 06:01 pm:   

For all the novel's wonderful Bradbury writing, I felt Death to be too sentimentally concerned with itself; too preciously fawning over its lead character, whose consciousness is so self-absorbed and dramatic, he's almost insufferable by the end. Now, Bradbury perhaps is the ultimate artist, giving a no-chinks accurate portrait of just such an individual; who's indeed young and idealistic and perhaps therefore wildly melodramatic, in the face of a whole host of other characters who are clearly world-weary and jaded/faded, therefore beyond connection (or even the ability to connect) by this narrator (and Bradbury's narrator does indicate this story took place in the narrator's past; implying such "understanding" never came but in the novel's never-seen present). If all that's so, the experiment didn't work for me... for one thing, if indeed so, it failed in convincing me that that was so....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 06:06 pm:   

The new Graham Joyce is a fantastic read. A worthy leap straight onto the top of anyone's TBR pile.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 05:24 am:   

Started Ruth Rendell's A Judgement In Stone (1977). Anyone read this?

I have also re-started Of All The Bloody Cheek (1967), the first in his three "novels" about suavely evil WWII-era hired-assassin Augustus Mandrell, by Frank McAuliffe (there was a fourth, published posthumously, just a couple years back). Each of McAuliffe's three novels (the other two are Rather A Vicious Gentleman and For Murder I Charge More) are actually four semi-connected novellas (Bloody Cheek is three novellas, plus a very short introductory story that's been reprinted in at least one anthology elsewhere: "The Dr. Sherrock Commission"). They are byzantine affairs, with recurring characters that refer and connect and hark back and forward to each other... to describe them further is to rob them of their joy: they're comic, exceptionally well-written works of raucous genius, and that Mr. McAuliffe (who died in 1986) is not better remembered, is an injustice. I got through the first two books years back, and neglected to hit the third... I'd start there, but like I said, the novels are so interconnected and dependent, that well.... Yes, I can say, do find them and enjoy them.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.129.60.64
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 09:36 am:   

But they've got violence in them Craig! Do you not think that that's going to turn you into some kind of crazed psycho killer? After all, you're arguing on other threads that a film is apparently as responsible for an atrocity as the man who commited it.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.158.157.153
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 12:29 pm:   

The film did play a part, just as the strikes the other year made a girl missing school get killed by a falling tree branch. It's awful, but it *did*. A jigsaw is made up of separate pieces, and it needs all of them to happen.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 03:30 pm:   

We don't want to muddy these threads, Weber.

But it's just plain unscientific not to see a link between this Holmes, and the Batman films. There is a link. What is it? Accidental? But there's never been an accidental link between the Star Wars films, say, and such a crazed eruption of violence. One doesn't burn beer bottles in effigy after a drunk driver kills a pedestrian... but one doesn't simply ignore all factors in trying to prevent further tragedies....

The man needs to be thoroughly psychologically dissected, to see what happened in his mind, as closely as we can. To see how lunacy, if it is that, imbibed its strange brew.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 147.252.230.148
Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 05:37 pm:   

"But there's never been an accidental link between the Star Wars films, say, and such a crazed eruption of violence."

Au contraire...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98bRbgQpcGE
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.158.157.153
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 11:46 am:   

I like Jeffrey Dahmer. He's not like other killers. It always made me sad Poppy Z. Brite said he should have been executed, yet kept a brick from his house in hers.
This interview is remarkable;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErB0R4wlB64&feature=related
I have to say, as time goes by I don't think there is such a thing as mental illness. I think people have emotional illnesses instead.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.158.157.153
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 12:06 pm:   

'I like Jeffrey Dahmer'
- if you know what I mean, not the putting-heads-on-spikes way. He seemed in the end to show and feel genuine remorse, wanted to figure himself out.
Admittedly he could have done it a bit sooner...
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.158.157.153
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 12:06 pm:   

Anyway, this is hijacking a thread.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 58.165.37.202
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 01:07 pm:   

Nearly finished 'Occultation', by Laird Barron - this is a must read collection. His linked 'Black Guide' stories have been the highlight for me.
Catching up on Ramsey stories that I have missed - at the moment I'm picking through 'Waking Nightmares', then I'll get stuck into 'Just Behind You'.
Picked up all four volumes of 'Best Horror of the Year', ed. by Ellen Datlow. Good way to check out some new (to me) authors like John Langan and Allison Littlewood.
Doesn't seem to be much 'horror' reading going on at the moment, by members - why?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.129.137
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 01:34 pm:   

Well I've got 2 Adam Nevill's, 3 MacMahaohns and a ton of other horror stuff hovering close to the top of my TBR pile.

Just finished Graham Joyce's latest which is borderline horror. i still thing the facts of life is his best book.

Currently on a quick reread of Karin Slaughter's Fractured. After that I'll be reading Little Star by Lindqvist.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 05:36 pm:   

A Judgement In Stone so far (about halfway through, a short novel) is just riveting: a psychological portrait of an illiterate housekeeper who commits a mass-murder (the books starts there, then takes us back to the events that lead up to it). Rendell's such a fine writer, that enjoying her effortless, luxurious prose is like getting a nice long sensual massage... albeit this particular book doesn't seem geared towards any happy endings....

And is she the Joyce Carol Oates of Britain? Her list of books published is staggering!
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.158.157.153
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 05:39 pm:   

She's patchy. sometimes she reads like wood. But more often - ESPECIALLY in her short stories - she's fantastic. Get her short stories for her best, I think - they're among the best I've read by anybody.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 05:54 pm:   

That's where I first discovered her, Tony. The few short-stories I read all blew me away. Again, I'm reminded of Oates, a master of short-stories and... well, I guess these writers can't be on-target all the time. I'm still knee-jerk leery of Oates by her sheer monumental output... despite the fact she's almost never let me down once, not in anything I've yet read by her!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 - 05:56 am:   

Finished A Judgement In Stone, and what I expected to be a superior mystery, instead must surely prove to be a minor classic of the last century. I think this one has the power to stay. I'd like to see the two films based upon it now (one Canadian from the 1980's, the other French from the 1990's).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.53.147.46
Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 - 11:56 pm:   

I finished my reread of Fractured by the aptly named Karin Slaughter. A really easy read with a gruesome murder and kidnap at the centre of the story.In a couple of books time I'll pick up my copy of the next book in the series - Genesis - where she links the Will Trent books (of which this was the second) into the Sara Linton/Grant County books. They may not be literary greatness but they are effortlessly entertaining reads.

Starting on Little Star By John Lindqvist. I'm hoping it's better than Harbour - which started well but lost it later on.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.25.81
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 07:38 am:   

Steve Mosby's Dark Room, which has already engendered several kinds of disquiet in the opening chapters.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.184.63
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 08:47 am:   

Craig, you really must read Rendell's dark masterpiece A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES, as well as THE BRIMSTONE WEDDING, published as Barbara Vine. Magnificent. Amd the BRIDESMAID is superb, too.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.5.43.148
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 11:54 am:   

Darkness, Take my Hand by the rather excellent Dennis Lehane (thanks for the recommendation last time we met, Ramsey!)
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.25.81
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 12:46 pm:   

Hey, my pleasure, Z! But come on, folks - given that it's free, is nobody reading the Lamblake Heinz book except me?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.210.119
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 12:48 pm:   

Little Star has started fantastically well. The most instant hook so far into any of his novels. Lennart is a somewhat disturbed - not to mention disturbing- central character. If the book keeps up this standard it could be his best to date.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 05:13 pm:   

Thanks, Gary! Like any time you try something new and like it, you want to keep experiencing it. And with so many Rendell novels, I was unsure about which one to try next. So I'll definitely go with either of those you mention as my next one, more than likely be the next thing I'll read. I was actually looking for Mosby's Black Flowers before I started Judgment, but could find no hard copies anywhere in my area (and if I at all can, I avoid reading on my Kindle Fire), and was too impatient to wait for the mail to bring it to me. I'm a very impatient reader when it comes to that.

As to revisiting that one, Ramsey...? Honestly, I still have so many of your "Amazing Rubbish" posts I'm still trying to work my way through. I can only read so many things at once.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.5.43.148
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 07:15 pm:   

Steve Mosby is brilliant. I bought Dark Room yesterday. Still Bleeding is one of the most extraordinary crime novels I've read.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.208.239
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 10:09 pm:   

But come on, folks - given that it's free, is nobody reading the Lamblake Heinz book except me?

I tried to get it but whichever format I go for the website says "this file could not be downloaded". I'll email them during the week...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.5.43.148
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 10:12 pm:   

Sorry, it doesn't interest me.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.208.239
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 10:56 pm:   

Sorry, it doesn't interest me.

Nor I, but I feel I ought to try some of it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.149.35.184
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012 - 01:01 am:   

Even free I think he's charging a bit too much.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 58.165.37.202
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012 - 01:06 pm:   

'Holding the Light', by Ramsey. Really, really liked this one - highly recommended.
Ramsey, is this set in a real location?
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.23.149
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012 - 01:12 pm:   

Thanks very much, Lincoln! It was suggested by a real location, but in Rhodes. It's now a tourist attraction, and by the time I'd walked through it I had the basis of the tale (originally planned for a Halloween reading).
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 05:45 am:   

Polished off The Book of Kane, a 1985 limited collection of five of Karl Edward Wagner's Kane stories. Read 'em all before, of course, but it's been many years since; and was whetted by recently reading "Sing A Last Song of Valdese," still the best one inside. The longest is the relatively weakest, "Reflections on the Winter of my Soul," though it's probably the earliest. "Raven's Eyrie" is a good sort of "western" set in the fantasy world of Kane; "Misericorde" and "The Other One" are further fine reveals of the darker side of Kane. Excellent collection, in sum.

Found A Sight For Sore Eyes (1998) by Ruth Rendell at my local library, at Mr. Fry's recommendation. I have no idea what it's about—I won't even read the jacket, I'll just dive in. Looking forward to it!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.216
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 11:32 am:   

You won't regret it, sir.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.208.182
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2012 - 11:25 am:   

Two thirds of the way through Little Star and still loving it. Some real curveballs in the narrative - I can honestly say I have no idea how this story will circle round to the events of the prologue. There have been a few massive shocks and it's just such an easy read. If it keeps going like this it could easily be his best book to date.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.153
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2012 - 05:48 pm:   

A brief recap of all I've read since last being on here:

Finished 'Waltz Into Darkness' (1947) by Cornell Woolrich - the first time I've read the man and I was very impressed. He writes with all the style, subtlety and strength of characterisation of great 19th Century literature but the story was as suspenseful and entertaining as any of the great pulp noir thrillers. A gothic-tinged and highly stylised romantic melodrama/psychological thriller of no great originality but peerless execution and featuring probably the most memorable femme fatale in fiction.

Finished 'The Sphinx Of The Ice Fields' (1897) by Jules Verne - a rollicking pulp fantasy adventure that works as a solidly entertaining sequel to 'The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym' while lacking the power and strangeness of Poe's tale.

Finished 'Death Is A Lonely Business' (1985) by Ray Bradbury - I would rank this the best of Bradbury's novels I have read to date. A weird and unsettling horror fantasia cum murder mystery that deconstructs the crime noir genre while paying homage to its classic era and familiar tropes. The writing is breathtakingly beautiful throughout, pure prose poetry, and I found the slow accumulation of disturbing details and mounting dread to be surprisingly Campbellian in tone. A modern masterpiece, imo.

Finished 'From The Teeth Of Angels' (1993) by Jonathan Carroll - a sublimely written, as ever, and intensely moving conclusion to Carroll's great fantasy/horror sextet. Individually they are all haunting stand alone reads with the power to stagger the reader but collectively this is probably the single greatest achievement in modern genre fiction. A gigantic puzzle box full of unfathomable mysteries that sear their way into the reader's consciousness and demand to be re-read. I know I will. For the record I'd rank them; 'Outside The Dog Museum' (1991), 'Sleeping In Flame' (1988), 'A Child Across The Sky' (1989), 'From The Teeth Of Angels' (1993), 'After Silence' (1992) & 'Bones Of The Moon' (1987).

Finished 'Mysteries' (1892) by Knut Hamsun - my new Read of the Year so far. This is one of the most brilliantly original and frighteningly timeless (it feels like it was written yesterday) works of great fiction it has been my pleasure to experience in a lifetime of seeking such things. What we have here is a deeply unsettling psychological crime novel of the power and majesty of Dostoevsky at his greatest but with all the verve and unputdownability of great 20th Century popular fiction. Everything from 'Red Harvest' to 'Bad Day At Black Rock' and 'The Dollars Trilogy' sprang from here. An eccentric stranger arrives in a small Norwegian fishing village and becomes fascinated by a recent tragedy - the apparent suicide of a young man after being spurned in love by the local beauty. Deciding to stay at the town hotel he digs into the private lives of the locals, befriending a much abused hunchback dwarf as his eyes and ears, and uncovers tantalising mystery after mystery while drawing steadily closer to the inscrutable "innocent virgin/femme fatale" at the centre of the story. Everyone in this town has something to hide and Hamsun here perfects the theme of an outsiders eye shedding light on the hypocrisies of conservative society. The writing is so beautiful it takes the breath away and the aching humanity of the characterisation, the awe inspiring psychological depth of these creations of the writer's imagination and the stark honesty of his ambition as communicated through his autobiographical protagonist is more spine-shiveringly powerful than possibly any other writer I have encountered. Even Graham Greene's 'Brighton Rock' or 'The Heart Of The Matter' didn't have such a heart-stopping emotional wallop as this great, great work. Johan Nilsen Nagel now lives in my soul as indelibly as Raskolnikov. This really is one of the imperishably great works of world literature, imho. A murder mystery, a love story, a scathing social commentary and a devastating portrait of psychotic obsession - you must read it!

Finished 'Space Cadet' (1948) by Robert A. Heinlein - another effortless classic by the greatest genre storyteller of the 20th Century. This reads like a juvenile forerunner of 'Starship Troopers' as it follows four raw young cadets (the earnest man of action, the thoughtful one, the joker, the rebel) through basic training and into service with the peacekeeping Interplanetary Patrol. Written more for thrills than as a political statement the action never lets up for a second, the characters are as memorable and charismatic as ever (one always finishes a Heinlein novel with a real feeling of loss) and the grasp of the hard science and practicalities of space travel are astonishingly prescient. Such is Bob's mastery that even the training and male camaraderie sequences are as gripping and entertaining as the later action/adventure scenes in deep space and on a brilliantly imagined planet Venus, populated by wonderfully bizarre alien lifeforms. Another fabulous yarn!

Nearly finished 'Soldier Of The Mist' (1986) by Gene Wolfe - I have to admit to having found this a bit of a hard slog after the brilliance of 'The Wizard Knight' & 'An Evil Guest'. The writing is as assured as ever and the sense of history coming alive in intricate detail is the most impressive element of the book but the characters and meandering pace of the action haven't gripped me as much and I've found the narrator hero, Latro, frustratingly hard to relate to due to the often confusing amnesiac device. This book demands almost masochistic levels of concentration and checking back from the reader and I fear I haven't had the patience for it of late. For all that I want to finish it and certain scenes and actions have a curious way of popping into one's mind at a much later date with sudden flashes of clarity. An odd one and maybe a grower...

Two thirds through 'Deep Water' (1957) by Patricia Highsmith - she has me hooked again! This is a seriously brilliant, wonderfully unpredictable and utterly gripping domestic crime thriller that breathes whole new life into the old "jealous husband plots murder" theme. Victor Van Allen has to be one of her most sympathetic anti-heroes and the nerve-shredding tangle he gets himself into, following an impulsive lie, is one of her most ingeniously constructed. I only hope he gets away with it!

Picked up at the weekend and just started 'The Complete Short Works Of Herman Melville' (1969) which includes the tales: "The Town-Ho's Story" (1851), "Bartleby, The Scrivener" (1853), "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!" (1853), "The Encantadas" (1854), "The Two Temples" (1854), "Poor Man's Pudding And Rich Man's Crumbs" (1854), "The Happy Failure" (1854), "The Lightning Rod Man" (1854), "The Fiddler" (1854), "The Paradise Of Bachelors And The Tarturus Of Maids" (1855), "The Bell Tower" (1855), "Benito Cereno" (1855), "Jimmy Rose" (1855), "I And My Chimney" (1856), "The 'Gees" (1856), "The Apple Tree Table" (1856), "The Piazza" (1856), "The Marquis De Grandvin" (1888), "Three Jack Gentian Sketches" (1888), "John Marr" (1888), "Daniel Orme" (1888) & "Billy Budd, Sailor" (1891).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.208.216
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2012 - 09:37 pm:   

100 pages to go and the sense of dread is escalating horribly (in a good horror story way) with no sign of letting up. I think I can finally see where the story is going and I hope i'm wrong. Awesome book.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.79
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2012 - 10:41 pm:   

Stevie, can you email me at the address given on the site?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.128.209.116
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2012 - 11:58 pm:   

And only a few pages later he's thrown another curveball and I'm back to wondering how he's going to circle back to the prologue...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 01:15 am:   

"The Town-HO's Story"?!? (Hell, while we're at it... "COCK-A-Doodle-DOO"?!?)

I've read the most famous ones there—"Bartleby the Scrivener," "Benito Cereno," Billy Budd"... excellent tales all....

Me, I'm halfway through Rendell's A Sight For Sore Eyes. Wonderful writing, excellent character development (it's all character development)... not quite sure where the story's going, or if certain questions will be answered (the murderer Francine saw? to be revealed, or not?), but the ride's the thing here... thanks for rec-ing it, Gary!

Also want to put a shout out to a spec script I just read that recently sold, titled GARDEN DISTRICT. Written by Anthony Jaswinksi, who scripted one produced film so far, a horror no one apparently saw called Vanishing on 7th Street (2010). This one jumps on the "found footage" band wagon, about three "myth hunters" scrounging New Orleans for evidence of vampires. But, I gotta say, this one's surprisingly taut, actually managing to be, even on the page, pretty scary—it takes the tired-as-all-hell vampire genre, and manages to breathe new and chilling life into it. Impressive. Hopefully, it'll be a film soon, and as good as the script is. (If anyone wants a pdf of it, you know where to find me.)
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.128.209.116
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 02:42 am:   

Well I'll certainly never listen to Abba in quite the same way...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.21.83
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 10:24 am:   

"... a horror no one apparently saw called Vanishing on 7th Street..."

I did and rather liked it.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 124.180.166.156
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 12:19 pm:   

My copy of 'Four for Fear' turned up yesterday, so I read Ramsey's contribution, 'The Callers', last night. Another excellent tale. This, and his other recent story, 'Holding the Light', have been outstanding reads.
I still have a couple of stories to go in the Laird Barron collection 'Occultation'. The longer pieces have been the best, and the scariest! 'Broadsword' and 'Mysterium Tremendum' my favourites.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.209.9
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 01:37 pm:   

Just started on Great House by Nicole Krauss, this month's book club read. Luckily it's far better so far than last month's read was - the spark book that i gave up on - 20 pages in and i actually give a damn about the narrator. Not much has happened except she's been given a desk by a chilean poet who she later found out was killed a couple of years later. Now his daughter has phoned to ask for it back. Despite the mundaneness - mundanity? - of the events it's a really good read. She's an interesting character and i want to know how things pan out. The style of writing borders on poetic without losing readability. Hopefully the rest of the book will continue like this.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.112
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 02:31 pm:   

Emailed you Ramsey. Thanks!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.102
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 02:48 pm:   

Craig, "The Town-Ho's Story" is apparently the short story from which 'Moby Dick' sprang and was included within the finished novel as a story-within-the-story narrated by Ishmael to his crewmates. It tells of the whaling ship Town-Ho's earlier disastrous encounter with the monstrous white whale and is as fine a piece of gothic horror/adventure as anything penned by Poe or Hawthorne.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 03:56 pm:   

Whoops. Shouldn't have assumed, Ramsey, because I'd never heard of it.... And I'll look for it, too, if it's even half as good as what I read; because I finished GARDEN DISTRICT, and it really does make for a vivid and terrifying vampire tale—hopefully so, a film—and who thought "terrifying" and "vampire" could be in the same sentence anymore?!

I wasn't aware of that, Stevie! I knew that Town-Ho rang a bell... er....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.125
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 10:31 am:   

Just finished 'Deep Water' and found it Patricia's most emotionally affecting book yet. The subtly measured portrayal of Vic Van Allen's gradual mental deterioration from decent family man trying to do the right thing to righteous rage killer is infinitely sad. I found the relationship with his child daughter, Trixie, to be particularly well observed and poignant while the costant baiting by his super-bitch wife, Melinda, is as painfully accurate, upsetting and fascinating as a heated argument heard through the wall from next door. Highsmith's greatest talent is in the precision detail of her psychological characterisations - her patience and respect for the reader's intelligence in this respect is astonishing. Sometimes I think she must have been a mind reader absorbing the most disquieting inner secrets from all those around her and spinning them effortlessly into great works of literature. As far as quality, longevity and consistency goes... no one comes close in the crime genre.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.61
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 10:45 am:   

As an aside, this is also the third story of Highsmith's I have read that explicitly features snails as an object of horror (along with the short stories "The Snail Watcher" & "The Quest For Blank Claveringi"). I wonder did she have a phobia?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.211.108
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 12:15 pm:   

No, she bred them. I ain't kidding for a change.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.196
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 03:51 pm:   

Yes, that makes sense, Weber. The way she describes their life cycles and, in particular, their sexual practices shows as much affection as it does horror. What a wonderfully weird girl. I'd love to have met her.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.196
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 03:54 pm:   

I wonder did she ever see Lucio Fulci's 'Aenigma'? It features a brilliantly gross death by snails that could have come straight from one of her stories.
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Arresteddecay (Arresteddecay)
Username: Arresteddecay

Registered: 08-2012
Posted From: 71.67.181.19
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 11:27 pm:   

About half way through Lord Of The Flies b William Golding. A classic I didn't get to till just a day ago, I'm enjoying it greatly.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.208.239
Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - 11:44 pm:   

That's a great book - I read it for my English Lit o-level!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 12:25 am:   

I've still not read it.

Nor Catcher in the Rye, another high-school standard. And the same goes for To Kill A Mockingbird.

But I did read The Scarlet Letter. Do I get points for that?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.144.35.36
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 12:44 am:   

Lord of the Flies is an easy pick for one of my top 3 books of all time. I didn't have to read it for school for which I'm eternally grateful. I've met several people who hated it because of the over-analysis of every word, comma and full stop that comes with studying it for exams.

I used to have the book on tape - read by William Golding himself. An interesting point about that was the introduction, where Golding talked about writing it. He claimed that the reason there were no girls on the crashed plane was so that the topic of sex wouldn't "rear its ugly head".

That makes me think he maybe wasn't quite the authority on teenage boy behaviour that he thought he was...

Other than that though, it is, as I already stated, one of my all time favourite reads.

The book I read for my GCSE's was To Kill a Mockingbird - which I hated at first. Going through it with the class, discussing why the writer chose to phrase this sentence that way or the deeper symbology of the ham costume etc... I hated it.

Then I picked it up at home and started reading ir just for the story and something miraculaous happened. I loved it. The prose was flowing and easy, the characters were full of life and the story compelling, by turns funny, scary and deeply moving. It's another book that's easily in my top 5. I reread it last year and cried all over again at the death of the accused.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.144.35.36
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 12:46 am:   

I hated Catcher in the Rye though. Easily readable but almost completely devoid of any story. He runs away, doesn't get into any trouble except in one chapter where he nearly gets into a fight - and then he goes back to home or school or wherever.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 01:13 am:   

Someday I'm meaning to get to these books, Weber. You've convinced me.

Though it's hard to, with Mockingbird. I SO hated the movie... and yes, I know I'm in the vast minority on this, but...

I have read Pincher Martin by Golding, the plot of which is similar to Flies. I did greatly enjoy that one.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.77
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 02:04 pm:   

William Golding has been my "favourite author" since being captivated by 'Lord Of The Flies' in school. I've read most of his other novels since and reread LOTF more times than any other work (I believe it's 5 and counting). It is my favourite novel of all time and its thematically linked follow-up 'The Inheritors' is second. The final chapter of both books never fail to move me to tears every time and seem to grow more personal and profound after each reading. All his books have that quality but those first two... phew!

'Pincher Martin' was great, Craig. All his works have genre elements but that one is probably his most fantastical.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.77
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 02:14 pm:   

Can I here recommend the finest contemporary answer to Golding's much-imitated masterpiece that I have read: 'Tunnel In The Sky' (1955) by Robert A. Heinlein in which the same children only scenario is played out on a hostile alien planet, girls are included and sex doesn't just rear its head but leads to babies. There's one catch, they were deliberately stranded there with one weapon apiece in order to kill each other as part of a merciless military selection process. 'Lord Of The Flies' meets 'Battle Royale' and every bit as great a read as that implies.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.74
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 02:46 pm:   

Finished 'Soldier Of The Mist' (1986) by Gene Wolfe with mixed feelings. The story ends without any real resolution and I do want to know what became of Latro and find out where he was originally from, so I'll be seeking out 'Soldier Of Arete' (1989) anon. But Latro's meandering adventures through Ancient Greece, in which he is constantly forgetting whatever he has learned due to anterograde amnesia making the quest for his roots somewhat self-defeating, reads more like a painstakingly researched travelogue back in time, a stylistic exercise in bringing the distant past to life at the expense of a compulsive narrative and engaging characters - they felt more like ciphers to me. I have to say I have my doubts about this one for all the beauty of Wolfe's prose.

Picked out two books at random for my next reads and they both turned out to be horror classics; 'The Stepford Wives' (1972) by Ira Levin & 'Dark Gods' (1985) by T.E.D. Klein - neither of which I've read before. Just about to start the Levin.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.61.103
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 03:01 pm:   

Dark Gods is a treat! If you've never read "Children of the Kingdom", I truly envy you. An amazing story.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 04:49 pm:   

Soldier of the Mist is indeed challenging, Stevie. I too felt like I was in the mist through most of it... the intended effect? Fwiw, the two follow-up novels, Soldier of Arete and Soldier of Sidon are immensely easier to follow... and great, too.

Dark Gods is absolutely a superb collection of horror novellas. You might want to start that next.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.208.239
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 06:11 pm:   

Just started Steve Mosby's Black Flowers...
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Arresteddecay (Arresteddecay)
Username: Arresteddecay

Registered: 08-2012
Posted From: 71.67.181.19
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 07:16 pm:   

So, I take it Golding's other works are quite good, too? I'll definitely have to grab them, I finished Lord of The Flies just today.

I just ordered a T.E.D. Klein book the other day, Ceremonies, I believe it was called. Dark Gods, just from the name, sounds good.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.184.63
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 07:42 pm:   

The Ceremonies is wonderful.

Yes, Golding's work is always powerful.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.208.239
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012 - 10:05 pm:   

The Ceremonies is indeed wonderful. Unfortunately Klein's not been particularly prolific...
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Arresteddecay (Arresteddecay)
Username: Arresteddecay

Registered: 08-2012
Posted From: 71.67.181.19
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 - 08:04 am:   

I noticed that. Based on what I know of his work, I wish he'd give the world more of it. A lot of great authors aren't as prolific as one might wish, I suppose.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.184.63
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 - 09:30 am:   

And some, who are, should just shut up.
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.33.27
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 - 10:44 am:   

Stevie, I'm hoping to squeeze the Stepford Wives into my reading this year as it's so short. Read Rosemary's Baby a few months back and was very impressed. Also hoping for a reread of Klein's Dark Gods, but I've been saying that for ages now and never seem to get round to it.

Currently reading Michael Moorcock's second Corum collection The Prince with the Silver Hand. Haven't read Moorcock for ages; I'd forgotten how fun his stuff can be.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.30
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 - 02:14 pm:   

For me it is a toss-up between Klein's 'The Ceremonies' and Blatty's 'The Exorcist'/'Legion' for the greatest horror novel of the 20th Century. You are in for the treat of your life with that one, Mr Decay!

Started 'The Stepford Wives' yesterday and already half-way through. It is another brilliantly written and incisively economical exercise in mounting suspense with an increasingly isolated heroine beset by paranoid fears in an outwardly perfect community where everyone is so helpful... and so damn odd. I'm finding it one of the most beguiling "small town with a dark secret" horror novels I have read. The similarities to 'Rosemary's Baby' are obvious but the horror here is more akin to 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' with a satirical feminist slant. A riveting page-turner par excellence!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.16
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 - 02:26 pm:   

Craig, 'Soldier Of The Mist' has to be the most challenging genre work I think I've ever read. The head-spinning jumps in time and location coupled with Latro's perpetual mystification as to what was going on had me constantly checking back to find out where I was. A list of character and place names at the start of the book (as with 'The Wizard Knight') would have helped immensely but even then Latro's inability to put names to faces would still have been a killer. I think Wolfe may have set himself too difficult a task in attempting such an odd and original narrative from the point of view of an anterograde amnesiac and setting it in such an alien environment as Ancient Greece, for all his ability to bring the past to life.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2012 - 05:46 am:   

If all pleasure is relief from tension, junk affords relief from the whole life process, in disconnecting the hypothalamus, which is the center of psychic energy and libido.

One of Dr. Benway's hypotheses, culled from the early pages of William Burroughs' Naked Lunch; I figured it's about time I read it—was reminded of it by that recent posting of the all-time most shocking novels. I'm sure I'm later to this than all of you. What is the general consensus? I'm liking the novel so far… but how much of these "facts," like those expounded by Dr. Benway, are facts?… I've never been a junkie myself….
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2012 - 05:49 am:   

Back to Wolfe: Upon reflection, that novel does seem dryer, colder, than The Knight/The Wizard, Stevie... in fact, upon reflection, you're right, those later novels feel finer... but do give the other two entries a chance, should you get the chance. I'd definitely read them again myself.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 62.255.207.128
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2012 - 04:14 pm:   

Just finished:

"The Rediscovery of Man" a themed future history sf collection by the marvellous and relentlessly imaginative Cordwainer Smith (the first story was Scanners are in Vain" and unbelievably was written in 1950!)

"Filaria" by Brent Heyward - dystopia novel set in an underground earth after some undisclosed apocalypse. The people have been there so long they've forgotten the surface, again, energetic, inventive and vivid.

Cheers
Terry
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.210.146
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012 - 04:12 pm:   

In waterstone yesterday i noticed that the 50 shades display which now appears to be compulsory in every bookstore (not fair - i want a rack full of porn magazines next to these, just to balance things out for the guys) had a big sign on it imploring women to 'have a flick through this'. Is it just me having a dirty mind or could that have been phrased less ... innuendoishly?
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.45
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012 - 11:44 pm:   

For once it's not you, Weber. The double entendre is making a comeback. If it takes shoddy mass-market erotica to achieve that, so be it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.168.207.109
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 12:26 am:   

And as Ronnie Barker once said, the best thing about doble entendre's is they only mean one thing.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.22
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 03:32 pm:   

Finished 'The Stepford Wives' (1972) by Ira Levin & 'Dark Gods' (1985) by T.E.D. Klein since last being on here.

The first is a very fine satirical sci-fi/horror that mixes creepy small town horror and the doppelganger/body snatchers theme with the effortless precision Levin was renowned for. Another masterclass in understated paranoia and suspense.

The second, however, is an unqualified horror masterpiece and one of the finest works of supernatural fiction it has ever been my pleasure to read. The quality of the four novellas contained therein puts to shame a good 99% of anything else penned in the field at that time (the modern golden era) or since. Every one of the tales could be called a "Lovecraftian pastiche" but each of them approaches the Mythos material from a completely original and unexpected angle and never overplays its hand - beguiling the reader with subtle hints and teasing ambiguities and providing no easy answers at story's end.

It is virtually impossible to divide the stories as far as quality goes and each of them uses a markedly different strategy to chill or frighten but if I had to rank them:

1. 'Nadelman's God' - a terrifying story, that had the hair standing up on my head, of a middle-aged cynic whose long forgotten youthful dabblings in the occult come back to haunt him, with a vengeance...

2. 'Black Man With A Horn' - brilliantly ambiguous "horror of suggestion" story narrated by a washed up writer of Lovecraftian horror stories who finds himself obsessively drawn into the paranoid delusions of a terrified missionary, returned from Malaya, who believes something terrible is after him...

3. 'Children Of The Kingdom' - as fascinatingly rich and detailed as 'The Call Of Cthulhu' this slow burning and cumulatively unsettling mini-epic tells how a mad old priest's theories of the true origins of mankind lead a sceptical New Yorker to uncover something unspeakable lurking beneath the city streets...

4. 'Petey' - a marvel of astute characterisation and steadily escalating suspense, in which the reader knows something dreadful is going to happen but has no idea what, this spine-tingling chiller tells, over one eventful night, of a society housewarming party in the country, in the former home of a mad recluse and dabbler in the occult, at which hidden tensions are brought to the surface culminating in a nightmarish revelation...

After reading 'Dark Gods' I can state here and now that, along with his only novel 'The Ceremonies', the four tales above represent the finest Lovecraftian fiction I have read outside of the great man himself. These works are beyond superlative... they are perfection itself. It was a joy to read them and realise how richly they will reward many re-reads to come. It's all in the attention to detail and the sheer ambiguity of Klein's vision. Unsurpassable, imho.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.28.2
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 03:38 pm:   

Can't add much or disagree, Stevie!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.88.121
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 03:56 pm:   

Do you think Klein will ever publish again, Ramsey?
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Seanmcd (Seanmcd)
Username: Seanmcd

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 193.113.57.161
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 04:36 pm:   

Please do Mr Klein.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.61
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 05:36 pm:   

I'll be hunting out the rest of his fiction and devouring with relish after this! I still have to read 'The Events At Poroth Farm' for starters...

In the meantime I've just started a pair of very different crime books:

'The Paradoxes Of Mr Pond' (1936) by G.K. Chesterton - his last published work of fiction this contains eight stories of amateur sleuthing by mild-mannered civil servant, Mr Pond, who is given to startlingly illogical declarations each one of which illustrates the story to follow. They are; "The Three Horsemen Of The Apocalypse", "The Crime Of Captain Gahagan", "When Doctors Agree", "Pond The Pantaloon", "The Unmentionable Man", "Ring Of Lovers", "The Terrible Troubadour" & "A Tall Story". This was the only book in which Mr Pond appeared and is very highly thought of by Chesterton afficionados - Jorge Luis Borges (a lifelong fan) called it his masterpiece!

'Savage Night' (1953) by Jim Thompson - a coldly efficient hitman is sent to a small American town to kill the chief witness in a Mob trial and ruthlessly sets about infiltrating the affections of those close to the man.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.27.1
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 10:47 pm:   

If only T. E. D. would write more...

Stevie, Savage Night - well, I won't spoil it for you, but it was on my list in The Book of Lists: Horror.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.10.24
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - 11:07 pm:   

Yes, Dark Gods is a brilliant collection – I remember the impact it had on publication, a whole stratum of fandom realising that 'Lovecraftian' fiction didn't have to sound like Lovecraft. Here was a fairly new writer with roots in classic weird fiction but with a witty, sophisticated, humanist agenda of his own. The Ceremonies is brilliant as well, especially in its ensemble cast and slow accumulation of weird detail, though the ending doesn't quite come off for me. Klein is a major talent with huge potential within the genre. If he ever turns up at a UK convention he will be loved to bits. Maybe he doesn't want that. Whatever he's doing, I hope he knows how missed he is.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 12:55 am:   

All I can do is echo the rest: Dark Gods is a near perfect collection of novellas. The only thing missing is "The Events at Poroth Farm," which was integrated into The Ceremonies—in which I also share Joel's assessment, a great build to a disappointing climax.

Meanwhile, I'm halfway through Naked Lunch, and not really sure what the hell I'm reading. It's partially incomprehensible, and I'm not exactly sure it's working or not... how does one judge? I'm also detecting who it is (i.e., imho) I think is the single biggest influence upon this novel, stylistically... Walt Whitman.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.168.85.62
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 02:24 am:   

and I'm not exactly sure it's working or not... how does one judge?

If one enjoys it in any way shape or form or feels oneself enriched by the reading of said item
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.168.85.62
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 02:28 am:   

Not had much time for reading this last week or so so I'm still in the middle of Nicole Krausss's Great House.

I'll praise it in saying that the prose is reminiscent of Auster (though not as compelling - I always finish an Auster book in days rather than weeks) but... there are 4 separate narrators to this book, and they all sound the same. One of them occasionally has a jewish accent, but he speaks the same prose as the rest of them.

If you have 4 narrators to your story, give them distinct prose styles. Let the reader have 4 different voices in our heads as we read your work. It's very good, but deeply flawed for the reason I just stated.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.59
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 02:36 am:   

I can't say I agree that the ending of 'The Ceremonies' was anti-climactic or in any way disappointing. I found it a brilliantly apocalyptic vision of cosmic terror unleashed on an unsuspecting world and found the understated coda particularly unsettling. It's one of the finest horror novels I ever read and a serious contender for the best ever written, imho.

'The Naked Lunch' is a seriously fucked up masterpiece, Craig. One of those books that sears its way into the reader's consciousness and makes one look at the world in a whole new way. I've loved anything of Burroughs I've read.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.187
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 02:53 am:   

A good chunk of the way through 'Savage Night' already, Ramsey, and so far I'm finding it a brilliant character study of an emotionless killer. The way Thompson gets us inside his thought processes and shows us glimpses of mental instability behind the ice cold facade are chilling indeed but I'd hesitate to describe it as horror just yet. Now if he cracks and loses control - like Lou Ford in 'The Killer Inside Me' - that would be truly frightening. It's a damn fine read whatever!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 04:48 am:   

It's compulsive reading, Stevie. I'm mystified, and appalled, and yet I can't put it down....

Speaking of, the film Naked Lunch appears in clips here, among other such "trippy" films—how many can you name without looking? http://vimeo.com/47590549#
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 10:09 am:   

There're a lot of David Lynch films in that, Craig!
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 10:12 am:   

Just looked at the 'answers' - I got all bar three, at least one of which I'd never heard of!
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.140.213.21
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 02:02 pm:   

I am reading SWEET TOOTH, the new novel by Ian McEwan.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 03:57 pm:   

I got a lot less than that, Mick... though some intrigued me greatly with their images... like Belle de Jour and Tetsuro, the Iron Man....
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 04:45 pm:   

There was a lot of repetition - 2001, Mulholland Drive and Videodrome to name but three.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.129.192
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 10:01 pm:   

And it's not called Dead Alive, it's called Braindead.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 10:34 pm:   

It is indeed.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 101.119.26.181
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 11:58 pm:   

'Dead Alive' in the US.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.151.149.64
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 01:51 am:   

I am aware that our cousins across the pond decided that Braindead was not a good enough title so they went for the frankly dreadful Dead alive instead. I choose to ignore their wanton vandalism and ensure I correct people who use the wrong title.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 10:39 am:   

Ah yes, it was renamed for the US - I'd forgotten that.
I understand some renaming of films, but not all, including this one.
Another I don't understand is renaming THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS! as THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.216.22
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 11:33 am:   

They renamed argento's tenebrae to unsane iirc.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.88.121
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 12:15 pm:   

>>>Another I don't understand is renaming THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS!

Rumours that the US version would be called PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH THE CREATIONISTS! has been scotched.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.227
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 12:21 pm:   

Mind you, in Britain Salvatore Giuliano was retitled The Dreaded Mafia, so we can't really talk.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.208.127
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 02:29 pm:   

I don't know if it's true (i wish it is) but i read somewhere that the english translation of the mexican title for the Sound of Music is The story of maria, rebel novice nun.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.227
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 02:51 pm:   

Pretty well, Marc - it's actually known in several South American countries as The Rebel Novice.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 - 04:29 pm:   

Finished Naked Lunch. I'm sure this book takes more than one read to "get"... and a lot of digging to unearth the uncountable allusions and references (is there no definitive annotated edition yet?!). It reads more like poetry than prose in sections, and poetry takes a whole other aspect of the mind (and time to realign) in order to comprehend—rather, to adequately experience. I'm glad I read it, and portions are still sinking in. Maybe viewing the film again will unearth some clues.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.206
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 12:38 am:   

While Burroughs was a writer of tremendous originality and literary skill, his medical and biological knowledge was fragmentary and eccentric. That undermines The Soft Machine rather more than it does The Naked Lunch, as the satirical and nightmarish elements are stronger in the latter.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.104.34
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 12:57 am:   

The French are eloquent. In France DIE HARD was known as CRYSTAL TRAP.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.16.149
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 11:39 am:   

I still recall going to see the splendidly titled La Chose qui Surgit des Ténèbres in Paris in the sixties, only to be rewarded with The Deadly Mantis.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.88.121
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 02:23 pm:   

As a kid, I once wrote a story about a murder in an elevator. I was decidedly unimpressed by my mum's suggestion for a title: 'Deadly Descent'.

Mind you, that was better than my aunt's suggestion for the title of a murder story I wrote set on a boating holiday: 'What a To-do in a Canoe', she proposed with absolutely no sarcasm at all.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.31.54
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 02:33 pm:   

Excuse me, you're on the message board of the author of Dogs in the Stratosphere.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.88.121
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 02:47 pm:   

Masterful, sir.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 05:07 pm:   

The style and poetry of Naked Lunch is what stands out strongest, Joel. Not, oddly, the many attempts to "shock" (gosh, I sure hope that doesn't mean I'm unshockable anymore...).

Anything in French sounds better, Ramsey. Would you rather go see Pardonnez-Moi, Où Est Ma Voiture?... or Dude, Where's My Car?...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.17.172
Posted on Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 10:26 pm:   

Ni l'un ni l'autre.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.30.40
Posted on Sunday, August 26, 2012 - 12:07 am:   

Gary, was your story called 'Lift to the Scaffold'?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.253
Posted on Sunday, August 26, 2012 - 04:59 pm:   

Finished 'Savage Night' and was completely wrong-footed by the set-up of the plot. What starts as a fairly standard thriller told from the point of view of a contract killer hired to eliminate a star witness for the Mob morphs into an intense and strangely moving character study of a lost soul teetering on the brink of madness and seeking some kind of final redemption. As cold and pitiless as he is Thompson still paints his anti-hero as very much the victim of the story, a man whose wilfull emotional detachment from the rest of the human race drives him into self-doubt, paranoia and eventual alcoholism while unconsciously seeking someone else like him to relate to and losing all of his professional discipline in the process. It is a desperately sad and disturbing portrait of the inevitable downfall of a sociopath. Quite brilliant!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.67
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 - 03:23 pm:   

Just read another Bob Heinlein novel in a day: the indescribably wonderful children's book 'Have Space Suit, Will Travel' (1958) in which he outdoes Roald Dahl at his own game. A young boy called Kip, who longs to travel to the Moon, wins a space suit in a soap wrapper competition and subsequently finds himself abducted, along with a little girl called Peewee, by horrible tentacled aliens in a flying saucer who plan to turn the entire human race into soup!

The pure infectious joy and thrilling pace with which Heinlein spins this yarn of incredible adventures and deadly peril throughout the Solar System and beyond – the Moon, Pluto, Vega 5 & the Lesser Magellanic Cloud(!) with Kip continually working out the distances in miles on his trusty slide-rule - had me almost falling over myself while reading the words. This is a master storyteller in full flow and enjoying himself immensely. One gets the impression the book was written in one inspired burst of high octane creativity with the design to give the kids exactly what they crave – literally non-stop thrills through ever-changing fantastical locations, plucky kid heroes, useless misunderstanding adults, disgustingly horrible bad guys and a real sense of threat (including shock deaths of major characters) while subtly sliding in a plethora of accurate and surprisingly complex astronomical and other scientific information along the way as integral parts of the plot (Bob had faith his young readers could take it and never talks down to them). The result is one of the greatest works of children’s literature I have come across. A well nigh perfect entertainment for children that does more than fire their imaginations but empowers them to work things out for themselves and – for all the un-PC explicitness of the horror – is unswervingly moral in its championing of bravery and loyalty above all else without ever descending into the cloying preachiness that kids recognise and are instantly turned off by. There is one unforgettably frightening sequence in which Kip and two other human prisoners are held in a pit by the Wormface aliens and over several days first one, then the other prisoner are dragged screaming up to be liquidised and all Kip can hear is the sound of communal slurping of soup from above. I suspect Peter Jackson may have read this book as a boy! [spot the reference] Bad things happen to good people in this book and the bad guys are not always punished but Kip & Peewee stick together through it all and in the end it is up to them alone to defeat the alien invasion and save the human race. If you don’t feel the desire to cheer come story’s end then you’re not human. Their adventures cheered me up no end!

Here’s Kip’s first encounter with a Wormface:

“They carried me around a curved corridor, into an inner room and dumped me on the floor.

I was face up but it took time to realise this must be the control room. It didn’t look like anything any human would design as a control room, which wasn’t surprising as no human had. Then I saw him.

Peewee needn’t have warned me; I didn’t want to antagonise him.

The little guy was tough and dangerous, the fat guy was mean and murderous; they were cherubs compared with him. If I had had my strength I would have fought those two any way they liked; I don’t think I’m too afraid of any human as long as the odds aren’t impossible.

But not him.

He wasn’t human but that wasn’t what hurt. Elephants aren’t human but they are very nice people. He was built more like a human than an elephant is but that was no help – I mean he stood erect and had feet at one end and a head at the other. He was no more than five feet tall but that didn’t help either; he dominated us the way a man dominates a horse. The torso part was as long as mine; his shortness came from very squat legs, with feet (I guess you would call them feet) which bulged out, almost disc-like. They made squashy, sucking sounds when he moved. When he stood still a tail, or third leg, extruded and turned him into a tripod – he didn’t need to sit down and I doubt if he could.

Short legs did not make him slow. His movements were blurringly fast, like a striking snake. Does this mean a better nervous system and more efficient muscles? Or a native planet with higher gravity?

His arms looked like snakes – they had more joints than ours. He had two sets, one pair where his waist should have been and another set under his head. No shoulders. I couldn’t count his fingers, or digit tendrils; they never held still. He wasn’t dressed except for a belt below and above the middle arms which carried whatever such a thing carries in place of money and keys. His skin was purplish brown and looked oily.

He had a faint sweetish musky odor. A crowded room smells worse on a hot day, but if I ever whiff that odor again, my skin will crawl and I’ll be tongue-tied with fright,

I didn’t take in these details instantly; at first all I could see was his face. A ‘face’ is all I can call it. I haven’t described it yet because I’m afraid I’ll get the shakes. But I will, so that if you ever see one, you’ll shoot first, before your bones turn to jelly.

No nose. He was an oxygen breather but where the air went in and out I couldn’t say – some of it through the mouth, for he could talk. The mouth was the second worst part of him; in place of jawbone and chin he had mandibles that opened sideways as well as down, gaping in three irregular sides. There were rows of tiny teeth but no tongue that I could see; instead the mouth was rimmed with cilia as long as angleworms. They never stopped squirming.

I said the mouth was ‘second worst’; he had eyes. They were big and bulging and protected by horny ridges, two on the front of his head, set wide apart.

They scanned. They scanned like radar, swinging up and down and back and forth. He never looked at you and yet was always looking at you.

When he turned around, I saw a third eye in back. I think he scanned his whole surroundings at all times, like a radar warning system.

What kind of brain could put together everything in all directions at once? I doubt if a human brain could, even if there were any way to feed in the data. He didn’t seem to have room in his head to stack much of a brain but maybe he didn’t keep it there. Come to think of it, humans wear their brains in an exposed position; there may be better ways.

But he certainly had a brain. He pinned me down like a beetle and squeezed out what he wanted. He didn’t have to stop to brainwash me; he questioned and I gave, for an endless time – it seemed more like days than hours.”


Now that’s how to write genre material for children!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.76
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 - 03:34 pm:   

And for as complete a change of tone as it's possible to imagine I've just started 'The Last Of Philip Banter' (1947) by John Franklin Bardin - with some trepidation I must admit.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 - 04:56 pm:   

For a complete complete change of tone, Stevie, why don't you at some point try a cookbook?

I must remind myself to give Heinlein a spin soon....
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 - 06:28 pm:   

...getting into a Sarban kick at the moment, a writer of whom I was ignorant until this year.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.83
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 - 08:55 pm:   

Already three quarters through 'The Last Of Philip Banter' and what a strange and beguiling book it is. The plot reads like a cross between Patricia Highsmith and a particularly weird episode of 'The Twilight Zone'. I can't see how the explanation can be anything other than supernatural as a successful businessman mysteriously comes into possession of a typewritten manuscript titled 'Confessions' - ostensibly written by himself in the first person - that predicts all that will befall him in the days to come... leading inexorably to his complete destruction. Try as he might he is unable to prevent the predictions from coming true - up to a point - and therein lies the all-consuming riddle of the narrative. Can Philip Banter change his future or has someone or something already mapped it all out for him with malice aforethought. A brilliant metaphysical/psychological nightmare of a thriller!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.251
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 - 11:26 pm:   

Finished 'The Paradoxes Of Mr Pond' by G.K. Chesterton - an entertaining collection of criminal conundrums very much in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories but with a cohesiveness to the eight yarns that makes the book read almost like a novel. Mr Pond himself is somewhat of an enigmatic character and more of an armchair detective than hands on. He relates his solution to each of the mysteries, heard second hand from the Press or through a friend of a friend, to his gentlemen's club companions, Hubert Wotton & Peter Gahagan, after baffling them with one of his paradoxical statements and rarely takes part in the action of the story himself - an interesting strategy of the author's that leaves the reader forever doubting whether what Pond says is true or whether he is merely having his friends on. The stories are light and witty but with a serious philosophical point to each that makes one ponder the apparent moral and paradox of each tale long after it is finished. My favourite was "The Terrible Troubadour" which verges into horror having elements of Poe's "The Murders In The Rue Morgue" & Doyle's "The Creeping Man" and almost reads as a knowing spoof of both. A fine and rather unusual collection of crime/mystery stories.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.153
Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 07:11 pm:   

Finished 'The Last Of Philip Banter' and can't really say much more than that to avoid spoilers.

The book qualifies as horror, imo, in its nightmarish depiction of a rational man driven into alcoholism and schizophrenic madness by the unrelenting mental assault of uncanny and inexplicable events that he vainly refuses to believe in until the evidence piling up becomes literally unbearable. What makes the horror so effective is the way all the other characters continue to act normally and rationally around him thus highlighting his own increasingly irrational behaviour. The scenes in which Banter's alcoholic confusion conspires with the impossible predictions of the 'Confessions' to fracture his sense of reality and push him further into psychosis are amongst the most terrifying I have read. An unforgettable one-off of a horror/thriller with one hell of a twist pay-off.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.11
Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 07:18 pm:   

Was also good to see the hero of 'The Deadly Percheron', Dr George Matthews, return as the psychiatrist/detective figure whom Banter turns to to unravel the mystery. Makes me wonder if he plays the same role in other Bardin novels.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.17
Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 07:47 pm:   

Time for another classic horror: 'The Little People' (1966) by John Christopher.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.66
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 12:57 am:   

What a brilliantly atmospheric couple of opening chapters. I can tell I'm in for a treat with this one. The old set-up of the nice English couple moving to a remote country house in the wilds of Co Mayo complete with a lake surrounded by treacherous bogland, ancient ruins in the grounds and a creepy housekeeper who was present the terrible night the former owner died, etc has rarely been so perfectly mouth-wateringly crafted in my experience. HHH for Horror - I love it!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.129.56.26
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 01:10 am:   

Reading the Hunger Games.

A very easy read. Not badly written. No glaring errors in grammar screaming at me from every page. The narrator seems like quite a well drawn character so far. The storyline is basically Series 7 - the contenders meets Battle Royale so it's not the work of stunning originality that the reviews claim it is, but it is entertaining enough that I'm going to keep reading it and should finish it rather quickly - already 50 pages in after only 1 bus journey.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 01:29 pm:   

I'm reading The Hunger games, too, Weber. I think the prose is bland and perfunctory, but the main character is keeping me reading.

Youre right when you say the plot is Series 7: The Contenders meets Battle Royale...it's creaky and derivative as hell.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.216.59
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 04:01 pm:   

I think i agree on the prose. It does lack a certain finesse. Grammatically it's fine which makes a change these days. My comment above about it not being badly written should not be translated as saying that it's well written.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.140.35
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 12:37 pm:   

Finished 'The Little People' and it's a bit of a weird one. This is the first time I've been left unsatisfied by a John Christopher novel. The first half is wonderfully atmospheric slow build horror with all the traditional clichés - of the naive strangers out of their depth in a threatening backwater - put lovingly in place. Then half-way through a discovery is made that quite frankly stretches credulity to breaking point and the novel never recovers. The second half is a baffling melange of outrageously far-fetched science fiction, bittersweet love story and whimsical fantasy with the horror elements all but forgotten until the final chapter - when they resurface unconvincingly and far too late. I can only think of this as a bizarre experiment that didn't come off. Original it may be but, after the excellence of 'The Possessors', it is also dreadfully disappointing.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 01:07 pm:   

Just read Tim Lebbon's first published short story hidden away in an old issue of Peeping Tom (for those who don't know, I'm re-reading the enitre Peeping Tom canon of 37 magazines with a view to publishing "The Dark Heart of Peeping Tom" retrospecive anthology in time for FC 2013).

Chees
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.140.40
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 01:10 pm:   

But that was followed by one of those books that I am tempted to call life-changing because of the emotional impact it has had. I'd never heard of this book or the author before and picked it up second hand as it sounded interesting.

'Earth Abides' (1949) by George R. Stewart - at three quarters through - is far and away the finest post-holocaust sci-fi novel I have ever read. Better than 'The Stand' or 'The Day Of The Triffids' or 'Farnham's Freehold' or even 'The Death Of Grass' this book has wormed its way into my heart by the clear-headed, unmelodramatic, "this is exactly what it would be like", cumulative emotional power of following one man and the characters he meets in the aftermath of a global plague that wipes out 95% of humanity. This book perfected that now clichéd sub-genre before it had even got off the ground. Everything is here that you would expect but so are all the humdrum day-to-day things of basic survival, the practicalities and small decisions, the unforeseen problems and psychological crises, in minute and captivating detail through the eyes of the principal character and leader of the group, Isherwood Williams. This is a character whose internal life is so vividly realised by the author that his every thought and moment of panic or grief feels like our own. The intensity of the situation he finds himself thrown into - the crippling responsibility he feels for the group and his loved ones - makes the journey he takes from young man believing himself the last human on Earth to aged patriarch surrounded by children and grandchildren - and still fretting over their future survival - one of the most powerful I have encountered in literature. I am reminded of the immediacy of 'Robinson Crusoe' or 'I Am Legend' but this book is an unforgettable behemoth beside those. As profound and moving as anything ever written I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have stumbled upon it...
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 01:44 pm:   

Terry... and was the first Lebbon story a good one? Is he a Michael Marshall Smith (on top of his game from the very start) or a Christopher Fowler (took years to develop but ended up terrific)? Or a Van Morrison (started at the top and worked his way down)?
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 04:08 pm:   

It's short, very sharp and a cracking start.

I've played harmonica and sung "When the Levee Breaks" (at the South Ruislip Middlesex Arms Jam Nite), with Van Morrison's former drummer playing bass for me. Just thought I'd mention it, to show how I rub shoulders with celebrities...
Cheers
Terry
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.229
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 04:32 pm:   

Joel, you forgot a Hutson: started at the bottom and scraped along it.
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Seanmcd (Seanmcd)
Username: Seanmcd

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 193.113.57.161
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 04:55 pm:   

I found 'Prayers to Broken Stones' the Dan Simmons collection today. It has the original 'Carrion Comfort' short story. Will reading this spoil any surprises in the full novel? I have the novel on my 'real soon' pile.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.229
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 05:10 pm:   

Yes. All of it.
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Seanmcd (Seanmcd)
Username: Seanmcd

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 86.179.77.78
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 07:08 pm:   

Thanks Gary. I'll steer clear of it then.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.133.243
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 09:30 pm:   

I finished Hunger Games at teh weekend and have to say that I agree entirely with Zed.

Started on Under The Dome by Mr King and thoroughly enjoying it. I do wish he'd put more shades of light and dark into his villains sometimes though. Give us someone we can almost sympathise with despite their actions - rather than the all out cruelty and nastiness that they always embody in his books.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 101.119.27.25
Posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012 - 04:34 am:   

Finished 'The Croning', by Laird Barron. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant - highly recommended, in particular if you enjoy the work of TED Klein.
Next up, I'm off to 'The Concrete Grove'.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.246
Posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012 - 03:25 pm:   

Finished 'Earth Abides' - emotionally devastating! This has to be one of the crowning achievements of science fiction literature. I'd defy anyone to read this book and not be moved to tears. Absolutely bloody marvellous!!

Now for a bit of Christopher Fowler: 'Psychoville' (1995).
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, September 17, 2012 - 10:24 pm:   

Rereading—front to back and in order—Ernest Hemingway's short-story collection, Winner Take Nothing.

Every now and again I need a good dose of him. There's probably no other writer whose work is so seemingly unadorned & crystal clear, yet so utterly mystifying & confounding (lacking the keys to unlocking him) at once....
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 06:45 pm:   

I haven't read much of him, but I get what you're saying. Writing/reading doesn't seem to work for me at the moment. I'm actually starting to think I might have some kind of problem. Who knows - maybe reading and not being able to read are both problems, just of different natures?
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.35.87
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 03:23 pm:   

Just finished The Burning Soul by John Connolly. Brilliant book.

Eighteen months since I last read a Connolly novel and that was his horror-comedy Hell's Bells so it's about two years since I last read one of the Parker series. It was like coming home.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 05:17 pm:   

Tony, you really should! If you dug Truman Capote, then you can only adore Hemingway (at least, at his best).

I go into phases where I can't seem to read a thing, and yet still want to: it's like a book will be at arm's length, I sincerely do want to read it, yet just can't for the life of me pick it up to actually do it. Only those who've been there, know the feeling. Luckily, knock on wood, I've not been there for a long time now....
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 05:43 pm:   

I'll track him down, Craig.
I tried getting back into reading by reading The howling recently, and loved it up to a point. Then it became as purely hokey as a Goosebumps book and I've had to put it aside. Also, I befriended Gary Brandner on FB only to find him a 'howling' right winger, and it sort of coloured my reading.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 05:45 pm:   

I'm having a book cull. Literally going through each of the books on my shelves and reading the opening lines and deciding on their fate on whether they grab me. I have to be instantly grabbed by a book, you see; not by instant drama or incident, but by the voice.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 06:03 pm:   

Why wait? Start with this brilliant Hemingway short-short, Tony: "A Day's Wait" (1933).

The melancholy in it, if I might be so bold and blunt, puts me in mind of (sometimes) you....

http://english1.h1.ru/text/hemingway.html
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 06:06 pm:   

Yabbadabbadoo! Thanks, Craig!
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 06:13 pm:   

Yes - I can see me in it! What a great feeling. I do strive for that simplicity.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 06:20 pm:   

Me too....

Part of his brilliance (through all his work) was his deliberate attempt to weight no sentence more than another: not just structurally or stylistically, but also materially, substantially. The only time in this story, for example, that a "weighting" emotion is expressed, is in the very last sentence—but then it's immediately balanced back, by its final clause.

That kind of stark simplicity is difficult to achieve, but admired by an aspiring screenwriter like me. Ideally, all scripts should read like Hemingway.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 06:28 pm:   

Yes! I never knew what 'weighting' was till recently - I think I battled against it without realising I was doing it. So odd to think I've been trying to be like him these recent years, and never realised. I've never really read him before, you see.
My latest stories - two I just abandoned. I couldn't figure why till I realised I was trying to be 'traditional', write an old fashioned ghost tale. It was going back, though, and my gut was telling at me not to.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 06:37 pm:   

You do seem to employ this technique in your writing, Tony, from what I've read. Your stories are often like Hemingway's "icebergs" (as he put it), where what you see is hiding 9/10's of what's being expressed. It's partially what makes your stories rich and memorable, if I can be allowed to compliment you here: those two last two you sent me are still vivid in my mind! (Especially the one about the father taking his boys on a trip to see the holes....)
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 12:15 am:   

Craig - that story just got about the most so-so review you can imagine!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 03:54 am:   

Weird coincidence, Tony—I only just read that review (I assume you're talking about) when Karim posted the link!

I'm know that bat fastard's wrong about your story. And I'll bet he's wrong about Karim's, too.

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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.42.48.84
Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 09:40 am:   

:-)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.68
Posted on Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 05:42 pm:   

Finished 'Psychoville' by Christopher Fowler - a brilliantly entertaining tale of calculated revenge in leafy suburbia. The book is split into two halves, set in 1985 and 1995, and tells the tale of a teenage boy and his family's vicious persecution by their neighbours due to being from an underprivileged background and lowering the tone of the neighbourhood, etc and the same boy's elaborate and horrific plan for revenge on each of them having returned ten years later under a new "socially acceptable" identity. The beauty of the book is in the period detail and strength of the characterisation. One really feels for the anti-hero in the first half and only gradually comes to see him as a pitiless monster in the second, though we know - and can't quite accept - from the prologue that that is what he is to become. A brilliantly plotted, dense, blackly comic and ultimately moving horror/revenge thriller that harks back disgustingly to the worst excesses of the 'Pan Books Of Horror'... what he does to some of his victims doesn't bear repeating but sure is entertaining for those with strong stomachs!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.72
Posted on Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 05:55 pm:   

Now reading two excellent and rather odd psychological thrillers:

'Devil Take The Blue Tail Fly' (1948) by John Franklin Bardin - halfway through.

'The Tremor Of Forgery' (1969) by Patricia Highsmith - three quarters through.

And got 'A Swell Looking Babe' (1954) by Jim Thompson lined up for after.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.20
Posted on Monday, September 24, 2012 - 07:59 pm:   

Finished 'The Tremor Of Forgery' and found it a refreshing change of direction for Highsmith being more of a slow burning psychological character drama in the vein of Graham Greene than one of her usual crime novels. There wasn't even a single murder! Set entirely in Tunisia it follows the slide into casual amorality of an American writer working on his latest novel who finds himself at once beguiled and repulsed by the freedoms and excesses of the primitive culture he studies. The book exists somewhere between 'Heart Of Darkness' & 'The Heart Of The Matter' with its unflinching depiction of an emotionally crippled westerner losing all sense of his identity and values under the blazing African sun. As impressively written and gripping as any of her thrillers with a hell of an emotional punch.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.144.33.95
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 12:33 am:   

In other news, I just found out what Clopfiction is. I've hardly stopped laughing since.

I'm not actually reading any. But this seemed like the most appropriate existing thread to mention it.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.25
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 02:07 am:   

So what the fuck is it Weber?! Anything to do with horses?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.211.17
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 09:09 am:   

Google it if you dare
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.48
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 02:22 pm:   

Makes me wonder is there anything people don't fetishise over!

Meanwhile I just finished John Franklin Bardin's 'Devil Take The Blue Tail Fly' and it is most definitely not a crime novel but an out and out psychological horror novel of the Robert Bloch variety - and way ahead of its time. His first two novels had weird elements but belonged fully in the crime genre but not this one. A cumulatively unsettling portrait of homicidal madness in a young woman just released from a mental institution having been "cured" by electro-shock therapy. The subsequent fracturing of her psyche and retreat into paranoia and violence is exceptionally disturbing and reminded me quite a bit of Polanski's 'Repulsion'.

Having now read all three of Bardin's groundbreaking 1940s classics I'd rank them:

1. 'The Last Of Philip Banter' (1947)
2. 'Devil Take The Blue Tail Fly' (1948)
3. 'The Deadly Percheron' (1946)
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.217.53
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 02:22 pm:   

Horses is along the right lines. But think smaller.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 04:44 pm:   

He seems like a writer I'd warm to, Stevie. I see they made but one film from his work, The Last of Philip Banter (1986) starring Tony Curtis. I'd never heard of him before you mentioning him here, but I'll put him now on my look-out-for list. I'm fiending for some good crime fiction, now—Hemingway's primed that pump.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.144.33.95
Posted on Saturday, September 29, 2012 - 01:14 am:   

Finished Under The Dome. Wow! Just wow!

I was nearly crying several times - particularly in the Ollie Dinsmore sections which were truly emotional - shocked horrified and gobsmacked that this book could sustain the pace and energy and impact for so long.

Started on Last days by Adam Neville - last one of his I read scared me witless and Gary Zed has commented, possibly here but certainly on facebook, that this is more frightening... Sounds like fun.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 60.230.33.81
Posted on Saturday, September 29, 2012 - 05:58 am:   

Currently reading 'The Concrete Grove', by Gary, and 'The Blood Kiss', by Etchison.
Halfway through the 'Grove', and its quite brilliant - not for the faint of heart though!
Only read two from 'The Blood Kiss', but have thoroughly enjoyed them.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.140.41
Posted on Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 03:58 pm:   

Just flew through a brilliant horror book by an author I haven't read in some 25 years and have just fallen in love with all over again.

'The Orchard' (1986) by Charles L. Grant is an exceptionally fine collection of four novellas all set in the same town, with a linking prologue and epilogue, that harks back wonderfully to those old Amicus anthologies. The stories become progressively more frightening as a group of people all linked by a visit to a shunned old orchard on the edge of town - and the tasting of forbidden fruit - are visited by something horrible. The final story, "Screaming In The Dark", is one of the most terrifying I have read anywhere - on a par with Klein's "Nadelman's God" imo - and overall the book oozes quality from every page. It's got me all nostalgic for the golden era of 70s-80s horror again.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.140.41
Posted on Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 04:03 pm:   

Also reading 'A Swell Looking Babe' (1954) by Jim Thompson & 'The Hidden Files : An Autobiography' (1992) by Derek Raymond which I'm finding as sublimely written and as moving/harrowing as any of his novels. The man was the greatest crime writer of the modern era bar none imo.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.53.146.138
Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2012 - 02:34 am:   

Nearly 200 pages into Last Days and it is certainly just as good and scary as The Ritual was. I'm absolutely loving it. The set pieces are scary as hell and the story (even if the first chapter is a touch cliche) is first rate. The pace is lightning fast and drags the reader through.

However, it has something else in common with the Ritual - an editor/proof reader who seems to have been asleep on the job - or to have skipped sections.

The Ritual was one of my favourite reads of last year. But there were occasional sentences that jarred quite badly for misplaced commas or spelling mistakes or plain bad gammar. The most notable error in was a list of serial killers where most of their names were spelt completely wrong.

Both books are in the main fantastically well written but Last Days contains the following 2 sentences which no editor/proof reader should ever have let pass

"At Max's cake was also served with little silver forks and red linen napkins that billowed from either end of hallmarked silver holders." (P175 last paragraph)

"About its head there might have been a cowl loose about the thin head." (143 top of page)

I stress these are not typical of the prose in the book. They stood out to me because of the quality of the rest of it.

I can't make any sense of the first of those sentences unlesss I remove the first word. The second makes sense but is extraordinarily clumsy and needs either the first 3 or the last 4 words removing to make it into a good sentence.

In the scheme of things these are minor errors that don't particularly affect my enjoyment of the book - but soppy editing like that is an easy excuse for those who hate horror to slate an otherwise excellent read.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, October 05, 2012 - 02:46 pm:   

Now also reading 'The Forever War' (1974) by Joe Haldeman (my first experience of the author) & 'Sacrament' (1996) by Clive Barker for the first time. So a nice eclectic mix of crime, autobiography, science fiction & horror all going on at the minute.

I think I must be getting back to my old self again after getting back into the house last Friday!
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Stu (Stu)
Username: Stu

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 90.244.47.228
Posted on Friday, October 05, 2012 - 05:59 pm:   

I read THE ORCHARD a few months back. Good stuff.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2012 - 03:07 am:   

Anyone ever read Knight's Gambit, by William Faulkner? It's a collection of five (previously published) short stories and one novella, all of them whodunits; involving his armchair detective, Yoknapatawpha County attorney Gavin Stevens. I'd read one previously ("An Error In Chemistry") and been quite impressed; I just read another in another anthology, "Hand Upon The Waters," a very short-story that's superbly written. The story it tells seems to be a gripping but straight-forward mystery; but then, in the final paragraph, reveals all, including something looming and large, but masterfully hidden in plain sight from the very beginning. Deftly contemporary, in that regard; the lushness of it brings immediately to mind the writings of Avram Davidson (who must have been quite influenced by Faulkner). I'm going to have to seek out the actual book now, to get to enjoy them all, I guess....
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.123.78
Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2012 - 11:40 am:   

Just finished Stephen Bacon's collection (which I really liked) - now reading C. S. Forester's "The Pursued".
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2012 - 06:46 pm:   

Just finished 'The Forever War' and it has to be one of the most exciting sci-fi adventure novels I've ever enjoyed. The blurb describes it as "near perfect" and for once I can't disagree with suce praise. The influence of Robert Heinlein's storytelling style was all over the book but Haldeman's own experiences fighting in Vietnam give the novel an added visceral impact and emotional power that floored me on several occasions. Real heart-thumpingly authentic combat sequences and flawlessly well imagined future military weaponry and tech that even tops 'Starship Troopers' in its convincing attention to detail. This book has all the horror, excitement and raw emotion of the best anti-war writing while the frighteningly incomprehensible nature of the alien foe adds extra dimensions of terror and suspense to each bloody encounter. I would rank it as one of the 20th Century's great literay achievements. The climactic battle sequence is one of the most tense and exciting things I ever read and the coda is an incredibly moving portrayal of the pointless stupidity of War - stripped of all its glamour - finally hitting home. A fantastic read that I can't recommend enough to adrenaline junkies everywhere! Must read more of this guy.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2012 - 06:52 pm:   

Bob's influence was so evident in 'The Forever War' that I can't help returning to the master for another fix. About to start 'Red Planet' (1949) that was written contemporaneously with Bradbury's 'Martian Chronicles' on the same subject.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2012 - 07:12 pm:   

Also nearly finished Jim Thompson's 'A Swell Looking Babe' (1953) which deals explicitly with the subject of adoption in the most skin-crawlingly disturbing fashion. The story of a disturbed young man, adopted as an infant, who suffers the mental anguish of sexual attraction to his "mother" and finds himself sucked into a dangerous world of vice and gangsterism while he battles his inner demons. The psychological intensity of the writing is almost too much to bear at times and the book must have been decades ahead of its time in tackling this subject. I am reminded time and again, with Thompson, of the deeply unsettling experience of reading Derek Raymond's Black novels - whose autobiography I am finding absolutely riveting and painfully honest to the point of embarrassment at times.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, October 07, 2012 - 07:20 pm:   

Meanwhile about a fifth through 'Sacrament' and its classic Barker so far. There is something of the haunting mysticism of Alan Garner about this one coupled with Clive's usual uncomfortable attention to physical detail. The man at the top of his game imo.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2012 - 02:06 pm:   

Finished 'A Swell Looking Babe' and the final third morphs into a classic heist thriller with all the requisite double and triple crosses, etc. The main protagonist, Dusty, has to be one of Thompson's most loathsomely self-centred and spineless creations while, in Marcia Hillis, we have another of literature's great femme fatales. A brilliant psychological examination of the soul-destroying bitterness that drives the criminal impulse.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 01:25 am:   

A third through Clive Barker's 'Sacrament' and finding it an enthralling read and very unlike anything I've read of his before. The horror/fantasy elements are there but treated with unusual subtlety, for him, with greater attention paid to character interactions and the human drama of the story. It begins with the near mauling to death by polar bear of the main protagonist, who is obsessed with saving endangered species and recording man's destruction of the natural environment, and then switches back to his disturbed childhood and the strange events that led him to his life's crusade. It is the most mature and human of Clive's novels I have read to date and deals with such meaty subjects as adoption, guilt at the death of a sibling and child sex abuse quite fearlessly. I'm finding the characters of Jacob Steep & Rosa McGee are his most memorable villainous duo since 'The Damnation Game'.

Also just starting 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' (1967) by Joan Lindsay as I'm fascinated to compare it with the film - one of many great favourites from the 70s.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.131.123
Posted on Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 09:38 am:   

The Ritual, by Adam Nevill. Unabridged audiobook from Audible at £5.99.

Just finished Martin Amis's Lionel Asbo: the usual genius.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.167.2.182
Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 - 01:20 am:   

I seem to be reading only books by people on my facebook friend list at the moment. I just finished the really rather good and occasionly very scary Last days by Adam Nevill and started on the Faceless by FB associate and occasional drinking buddy Simon Bestwick - and very creepy it is too so far. Next on my TBR pile is Dead island by Mark Morris

The Ritual was the scariest thing I read last year. fantastic book - how he manages to keep the tension going for the full length of the book with virtually no respite I don't know. And the set pieces in the second half of the book are probably the creepiest and scariest things Ive ever read.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 12:52 pm:   

Finished 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' by Joan Lindsay and found it every bit as beguiling as the Peter Weir film. The book itself is powerfully visual with an extraordinary sense of place and time that draws the reader into the "mystery without a solution" by minutely detailing the psychological and emotional effects it has on all those touched by it - the direct participants and those drawn in by the aftermath of whispered gossip and sensationalist theorising. In essence it is the story of a haunted community and the process by which myth can grow from a brush with the unknown. A subtly creepy and also enchanting mystery with more than a touch of Robert Aickman about it - all those unanswered questions and the hints of fathomable meaning within the imagery.

Three quarters through 'Sacrament' and it really is a marvellous book! Barker never lost it. His writing just got better and better, imo. This is his most personal and emotionally affecting book I have read to date - insidiously scary too in a far more subtle way than we'd been used to up till then. Compared to the brilliant freewheeling flights of fantasy that went before - great as they remain - this is a beautifully measured grown up horror novel in which less is more and the fear/fascination effect of the unknown on the (autobiographical?) main protagonist, Will (his most human and sympathetic character in my experience), is everything. The only supernatural elements - all brilliantly underplayed - involve the possibly demonic villainous duo of Jacob Steep & Rosa McGee. This pair are perhaps his two most frightening creations, not so much for what they do but for the unspoken threat that drives their every action and for their relentlessly calm affability. Villains of Dickensian stature I would propose! It is a criminally neglected book and one of Clive's greatest achievements, imho.

Also just starting 'The Thin Man' (1934) by Dashiell Hammett which is the last of his five novels I have to read.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.179.114
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 01:06 pm:   

Also just starting 'The Thin Man' (1934) by Dashiell Hammett which is the last of his five novels I have to read.

Coincidentally I picked this up in a bookshop in Winchester the other week - I shall be reading it shortly.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 01:22 pm:   

After that I've got 'The Continental Op' stories & 'The Big Knockover' collection to read. Wonder if that's it?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 01:32 pm:   

Just thinking about 'Sacrament' again and was struck by the similarity of the book's weirdly engrossing subtleties and unsettling surrealism with the works of Jonathan Carroll (my favourite dark fantasist). Also the sections concerning Will's childhood around Burnt Yarley in Yorkshire, and his brushes with dark elemental forces, have all the bewitching quality of an Alan Garner fantasy written for adults. That's how different this book is from anything else Barker wrote and how effective.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.55.206
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 02:18 pm:   

Style and Idea - Selected Writings by Arnold Schoenberg, which I picked up second-hand for a mere 2.50 euros. A 559-page tome which gets pretty technical at times.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 03:06 pm:   

But you've read those stories before, right, Stevie? I only discovered Hammett myself a few years back, but it's been one of the greatest lit discoveries for me; the novelettes and novellas that make up The Big Knockover are almost impossible to sort, finer from finest. But I don't think it's fanboy-itis speaking here: I read the sole three Sam Spade stories after those, and found them uniformly terrible—clunky, unimaginative, unworthy. Perhaps those came much earlier, must have. Why no one's done a film or series or something of the C-Op tales, is strange....

Halfway through a long novella I was putting off in this big crime anthology, but wanting to put it away, I decided to dive in... and was surprised to find it brilliantly delightful! "The Big Bow Mystery," by one Israel Zangwill, who I'd never heard of before; the "Bow" of the title, I came to learn only from reading, isn't a bow-and-arrows bow, but a Bow district or section of London; and the mystery in question must surely be one of the original locked-door ones, this one sealed tighter than a drum. It's hard to believe this was written way back in 1891, the style and pace are so utterly contemporary, and the many subjects it touches on (politics, religion, etc.) as current as today's blogosphere. Again, never heard of him before; looks like he coined the term "melting pot" (as in, America as one big melting pot) in one of his plays. Always pleasant to discover a new bright mind....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 03:20 pm:   

Speaking of novellas....

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/10/some-notes-on-the-novella.ht ml
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 06:48 pm:   

No, Craig, I've only read Hammett's first four novels up to now and none of his shorter works. 'The Thin Man' has started quite delightfully! A lighter hearted change of pace from his earlier, grimmer works but still an intriguingly labyrinthine murder mystery.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, November 04, 2012 - 06:55 pm:   

I only know The Thin Man from the films—interesting to know if it stacks up similarly....

Well, then, you are in for quite the early Christmas present with those C-Op stories! Meanwhile, everyone here, get prepared for a subsequently enthusiastic "Hurricane Stevie"....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 - 03:20 pm:   

Clive Barker has done it to me again... the ending of 'Sacrament' reduced me to tears. 'Imajica' had a similar effect earlier in the year and created the same sense of loss at saying goodbye to the characters. In this case Will had become almost like a personal friend by story's end - we got to know him so well. This is the story of a life from childhood to middle age that has been warped at crucial points by chilling encounters with supernatural forces and that culminates in one of his most devastating climactic clashes between good and evil, light and dark, and the love and the hatred of life in all its myriad forms and orientations. But there are no travels through bizarre fantasy realms in this one. This is pure human drama set on solid Earth and in the here and now which makes the horror, when it intrudes, all the more disturbing. The book is positively Lovecraftian in that respect. Another extraordinary achievement and one of the finest horror novels of the modern era, imo. Goodbye, Will. <sniff>
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.211.110
Posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 - 04:47 pm:   

There are an awful lot of finest ever horror novels in your world stevie... ;-)
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 - 05:03 pm:   

Maybe someday I'll list them!

Time for another bit of Mr Greene with one of his most highly regarded novels; 'A Burnt Out Case' (1960). I know nothing about it other than it is set in and around a Congo leper colony and is often cited as his "finest novel" - yep, another one. Bloody geniuses!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 08, 2012 - 05:40 pm:   

'A Burnt Out Case' has one of the most intriguing openings of any Graham Greene novel I've read to date. A mysterious westerner, named Querry, arrives out of the jungle at a remote leproserie on the Congo and volunteers to stay and help out in any way he can. He deflects all questions about his identity and his past and throws himself into the work while those around him are left to wonder... A curiously haunting and melancholy work with a metaphysical mystery at its core that puts me in mind of William Golding. Exquisitely written, as ever.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 08, 2012 - 05:43 pm:   

And I've learnt a new word... "leprophil".
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 08, 2012 - 11:28 pm:   

Finished 'The Thin Man' and it's the most fast paced and entertaining of all Hammett's novels. A classic whodunnit with an ingenious pay-off that even Agatha Christie would have been proud of. His earlier works are more meaty but this book at least proves that Hammett wasn't all doom and gloom. Nick & Nora Charles are the quintessential husband and wife detective duo and they remain utterly loveable. Wonderful stuff.

Now starting 'This Sweet Sickness' (1960) by Patricia Highsmith as I thought it would be interesting to compare that year's new books by the two greatest popular writers of the time, imo. A chilling study of the stalker mentality, apparently.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 01:05 pm:   

Glad you enjoyed The Thin Man, Stevie. Despite its lighter tone it's as much a social critique as The Maltese Falcon. Also, maybe it's just me, but didn't you get the impression that Nick and Nora were setting up a threesome for themselves on more than one occasion?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 02:42 pm:   

Oh yes, Joel. The constant flirting with others in front of each other was one of the most charming elements of their relationship. The sexual tension in the book is quite potent. I realise it's autobiographical of course.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 02:45 pm:   

Having read all five novels here's how I'd rank them:

1. Red Harvest
2. The Glass Key
3. The Maltese Falcon
4. The Dain Curse
5. The Thin Man

But they're all amongst the finest and ballsiest crime novels ever written. Less is more.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 03:14 pm:   

Thanks to that man Weber I'm also just starting 'The Devil In A Forest' (1976) by Gene Wolfe. A stand alone and, for him, relatively short fantasy/horror novel set in the Middle Ages and dealing with the conflict between the new Christianity and old Paganism.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 04:39 pm:   

Hey, that's one Wolfe I've totally forgotten about and not read yet! OMG!!! Do tell me how it is, Stevie....

Again, to be an annoying repeater, how would you compare Hammett's novel to the filmed version of The Thin Man? I admit to having all those old films in a special place in my heart; they're remaking it—er, making the book again as a film, I mean—as you might already know.

I remember from the first film especially, that there's never a scene in the film Nick and Nora aren't seen drinking and/or drunk....

Here's a weirdly tangled-up "degrees of separation" coincidence: the incomparable Myrna Loy played Nora Charles in the films; her real name was Myrna Adele Williams, but she was convinced to change it to "Loy" by writer George Sims (screenwriter for Karloff's The Black Cat [1934]; etc); who wrote under the pseudonym "Paul Cain" for the pulps; stories like his short dark tale of attempted murder and deception, "Pigeon Blood" (1933)... which I had just read yesterday!!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 05:28 pm:   

I've only seen the first film, Craig, and not for many years but, apart from the principal duo and their wonderfully un-PC drinking from breakfast to bed and the witty banter, nothing else struck me as close to the tone of the book. It's relatively light hearted for Hammett but still a serious and rather brutal hard-boiled noir.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2012 - 06:03 pm:   

Must mention one book I finished last month when I was offline.

'Red Planet' (1949) was a fascinating early crack at the same themes Heinlein tackled famously in 'Stranger In A Strange Land' (the colonisation of Mars and complications of dealing with an incomprehensible alien race - metaphor for the European colonisation of the Americas and ousting of the native population) and 'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress' (the breaking down of relations between a burdgeoning and ambitious Martian colony and their old masters back home on Earth - metaphor for the American War of Independence).

The book was another effortlessly thrilling pulp adventure with brains and guts, memorable characters and a completely convincing alien ecosystem that concentrated more on the physical hazards and political ramifications of Martian colonisation than the mysticism of Bradbury's contemporaneous tales. I've never been less than blown away by Bob's complete mastery of the storytelling art. The man couldn't have written a bad book if he tried, imho.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 01:01 pm:   

I love tales of redemption and 'A Burnt Out Case' is turning into one of the most profound I can recall. A third through and the mystery of Querry's self-loathing deepens. When seeking redemption in loss of identity and the spiritual salve of good deeds how does one deal with being treated like a saint when one finds the very idea abhorrent. This is as much a story of self-deception as redemption and I fear it cannot end well...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 03:14 pm:   

Noticing interesting correlations between the three books I'm reading. All are psychologically penetrating studies of a disturbed loner who has been disappointed in life and each chosen a different way of retreating from reality by creating a new persona in the hope of redefining themselves and finding satisfaction.

Querry is in some way a "bad man" whose past is shrouded in shame and who has chosen to work with lepers, accepting the risks as some kind of self-imposed punishment, in order to feel better about himself but who cannot accept the accolades this brings from those he has to share his new life with.

David Kelsey is young, confident and successful but cannot get over the lost "love of his life" who has married another and who, he believes, was all that he required to make his existence perfect. Retreating into psychotic fantasy he creates a new identity for himself (William Neumeister) in a new town in which he is happily married to his ex, plasters the walls with her photos and converses with her in his imagination while plotting how he can get her there in "reality".

In 'The Devil In A Forest' the Devil in question is the former member of a mediaeval village community who couldn't fit in or accept the new Christianity and instead retreated into the woods where he reinvents himself as a merciless lone wolf bandit killer who preys on his fellows and relishes the terror his "legend" engenders while battling the decent urges for companionship and to belong that haunt him. Meanwhile the persecuted locals have organised a militia to track him down.

Rather an enjoyable and fascinating coincidence...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 03:30 pm:   

So one has made himself a "saint", one a "god" in control of his own destiny and one the very "devil" himself. Great reads all!
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 01:43 pm:   

Currently enjoying the nemonymous Twitter account @60-characters-in-search-of-an-author.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.215
Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 03:12 pm:   

I'm reading E F Benson's QUEEN LUCIA. Most amusing.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.51.106
Posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 04:09 pm:   

Anybody know any good books on politics - more specifically the formation of political parties, what attracks certain people to certain parties, etc.? My bachelor thesis will be about the Pirate Party, that's why I'm asking.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 04:42 pm:   

Maybe try, To The Finland Station (1940) by Edmund Wilson?... Either way, Hubert, it's a great book.

I'm reading The Dain Curse (1928—1929), by Dashiell Hammett.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.131.123
Posted on Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 06:49 pm:   

QUEEN LUCIA is hilarious: like P G Wodehouse crossed with Evelyn Waugh. It's the E F Benson of horror story pedigree.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.19.150
Posted on Friday, November 16, 2012 - 10:18 am:   

Dennis Lehane's latest, Live by Night. Highly compelling as always - indeed, he's one of the very few writers I actually want to get back to while I'm in the process of writing.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.130.96.10
Posted on Friday, November 16, 2012 - 02:23 pm:   

Here is my review of a remarkable book read today: AT DUSK by Mark Valentine:

atdusk

http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/at-dusk-mark-valentine/
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.211.24
Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 01:20 am:   

After tomorrow my play will be finished so i'll be able to get on with reading for pleasure again. I'm sort of reading the faceless but i've not been able to concentrate properly so i'll restart it. What i've read so far is very good though.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.179.114
Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 02:21 am:   

It's an excellent book, Marc - well worth your full attention.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 62.255.207.128
Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 12:27 pm:   

Break a leg Weber, it's my last night too.

50 pages into "We Need To Talk About Kevin". So far, so good.

Cheers
Terry
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.209.189
Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 02:57 pm:   

I'd already spotted the 'big twist' ending by 50 pages in. I thought it war nothing more than a poorly written horror novel with undeserved pretentions to profundity. The writer clearly knows nothing about children or child-rearing and has done zero research on the topic. Which is a shame seeing it's the central theme of the book. Add to that the fact that it's so over-written - at one point the narrator collapses in a vestiginous slump rather than just fainting
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.132.209
Posted on Sunday, November 18, 2012 - 02:25 am:   

For the first time ever I corpsed on stage tonight. It wasn't my fault. The two actors on stage with me - one was wearing a deliberately fake looking false moustache and it fell off - the otehr guy picked it up and was holding it in place on his friend's top lip while I was trying to deliver a semi-long line. I cracked. The audience loved it though.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 101.160.37.15
Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 - 11:43 am:   

Two anthologies on the go at the moment-
'Superhorror', edited by Ramsey.
'Frights', edited by Kirby McCauley.
The absolute standouts, so far, have been 'The Pattern', by Ramsey and 'It Only Comes Out at Night', by Dennis Etchison. Both were first time reads for me.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.59.74
Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 - 02:51 pm:   

That's the only thing that matters, Weber. I supplied the music for an art exhibition with a fellow guitarist a couple weeks ago. To our ears it was full of mistakes, but the audience loved it. They even demanded an encore!
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Playloup66 (Playloup66)
Username: Playloup66

Registered: 05-2011
Posted From: 90.193.162.218
Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 - 02:59 pm:   

A few of the books i'm reading at the moment.

'told by the dead' by RC
'The parasite' by RC
'The One Safe Place' by RC
'The Fall Of Hyperion' by Dan Simmons
'Takes From The Nightside' by Charles.L Grant

All good stuff so far.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 - 03:21 pm:   

You're all making me want to go read some horror anthos....

Finished The Dain Curse. The whole wraps up with laughable explanations—it was almost self-parody ("almost" because I don't think it was intended to be); and today such character motivations and wrap-up clumsiness would not only be unacceptable, it would be blacklisted!

Still... it was never not compelling, gripping, and readable. What is Hammett's genius, his style or his subject-matter? Because I think he's (certainly beyond Chandler) one of the finest explorers of the small-scale "banality of evil." Psychological explorations would be out of place in Hammett (at least his C-Op stories); but it all rings acridly true; and there's no faster way to distrust your fellow man and his august institutions than regular doses of this wise-guy....
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 01:15 pm:   

Craig, not self-parody at all, but parody, absolutely. What he's mocking is the kind of pulp cod-mysticism we now associate with Dan Brown. I think it's the least of Hammett's novels for that reason, but it still has cultural relevance.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 02:59 pm:   

I see 'The Dain Curse' & 'The Thin Man' as Hammett's lighter "entertainments" (as Graham Greene would have it) and 'Red Harvest', 'The Maltese Falcon' & 'The Glass Key' as his more serious meaty works. I agree 'The Dain Curse' was intended as parody, and works wonderfully as such, while 'The Thin Man' was the closest he came to a straight Christie-like whodunnit.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 03:13 pm:   

Finished 'The Devil In A Forest' and it was a thoroughly entertaining period adventure novel with a marked absence of fantasy elements. Lots of pagan superstition and mediaeval brutality and with a thrilling pulp readability to it and typically haunting ambiguity as to the motivations of the central characters but all the action was firmly rooted in convincing period detail. A cracking yarn with a real "lump in the throat" emotional pay-off and a subtly revealed twist that has one wanting to reread the book for hidden meanings. Nice to see Wolfe capable of such a straight non-convoluted yet still multi-layered adventure story. I was reminded of the Roman and English Civil War passages in Alan Garner's 'Red Shift' - the action had that same immediacy and casual attitude to the taking of human life. Powerful stuff!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 03:46 pm:   

What I'm left with most again, Joel & Stevie, from The Dain Curse, is this kind of pre-Freudian (or is it pre-novel?... the tedious explication of psychology that was already a mainstay 150 years before Freud, at least starting with Samuel Richardson) romper-room of human depravity... evil humans, bad seeds... the intermingling of Hammett's scale of humanity—the purely demonic on one end, the craven and desperate and weak on the other.

I'm going to have to go find The Devil in a Forest!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 04:09 pm:   

I enjoyed the far-fetched, almost pulp horror elements of 'The Dain Curse' - in which the influence of Arthur Conan Doyle & Sax Rohmer was more than evident - and it was refreshing to see the Continetal Op as fallibly human rather than the near superhuman nemesis figure he cut in 'Red Harvest'. My favourite passages were his mate's over-elaborate explanations at the end of each segment which become all the more entertaining to reread once one has finished the book.

Nearly finished 'A Burnt Out Case' and Querry has to be Greene's coldest and least sympathetic "hero". In many ways he is the polar opposite of Scobie in 'The Heart Of The Matter'... an embittered sociopath cut off emotionally from his fellow man and working to his own selfish agenda. The tension in the book is waiting for something to touch him and make him connect yet his only human reaction so far has been one of resentment and anger at people's misreading of his motives. One can feel the pressure building in the man and what happens when the dam bursts is anyone's guess. A curiously beautiful novel.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 04:16 pm:   

I fancy a bit of non-Heinlein golden era sci-fi for a change so decided on 'Fury' (1947) by Lovecraft's old pal Henry Kuttner. Sounds interesting.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 02:25 am:   

On Stevie's much earlier recommendation here, I picked up and will soon start reading Orphans of the Sky, by Robert Heinlein.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 09:13 am:   

I loved it! A great swashbuckling adventure in deep space that invented the concept of the generation starship. A pulp sci-fi classic imo.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 12:38 am:   

Finished 'A Burnt Out Case' and it ranks as another of Greene's great tragedies. The book resolves itself into a doomed love triangle between the enigmatic and elusive atheist, Querry (a fascinatingly ambiguous figure), a hopelessly naive hero-worshipping young bride who sees him as her saviour and her boorish husband who "lives only for the Church" in the hypocritical social climbing way of all pseudo-christians... and who encourages the myth of Querry's "sainthood" for his own ends. The book is incredibly scathing of blind religious faith and those who prey upon it and shows a profound cynicism tinged with a sense of aching loss that makes me wonder if Greene was going through one of his major crises of faith when he wrote it. One could endlessly debate Querry's motives for losing himself among the lepers but for me it was the action of a self-loathing cynic who needed to be surrounded by those visibly and horrifically worse off than himself to feel any sense of satisfaction or purpose in life. His was a leprosy of the soul. One to touch the heart and haunt the mind like all the great works of this great author.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 12:55 am:   

Also into the final riveting chapters of 'This Sweet Sickness'. One of Patricia's most powerful and convincing portrayals of a descent into obsessive madness - this time driven by unrequited love and sexual frustration. Poor David. While reading this I've spent half the time calling him a complete dickhead and the rest of the time feeling desperately sorry for him. As madness increases and his actions become ever more threatening sympathy for him diminishes but one can't help remembering the inherently decent man he once was and hoping that someone, anyone will save him from himself. This book is a psychological tour de force as relentlessly gripping as any of the best she wrote. I'd rank it alongside; 'Deep Water', 'The Glass Cell', 'A Dog's Ransom' and any of the Ripley series. Poor, poor David...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 01:09 am:   

I enjoyed 'The Devil In A Forest' so much that I've decided on another stand alone Gene Wolfe novel: 'Free Live Free' (1984). The fifth of his I'll have read in the past year. Thanks again, Craig.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 01:34 am:   

For the record I must make one point about the cover blurb for 'The Devil In A Forest' which describes the book as "a haunting fantasy novel", "one of the strangest battles between good and evil ever fought" and "a rich, haunting story of fantasy and supernatural conflict".

All of this is grossly misleading. What it is is a gloriously entertaining and emotionally affecting hark back to the historical adventure novels of Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas or Sir Walter Scott marked by a startlingly vivid feel for the brutality and superstition of the Middle Ages.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 03:47 am:   

Finished 'This Sweet Sickness' - completely devastating! A contender for my favourite Highsmith novel and the one I found most emotionally upsetting to read. There has never been a more painfully disturbing insight into the stalker mentality or a darker unrequited love story in my experience. The woman was a marvel!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 04:00 am:   

And to replace that I've picked the fourth and final of John Christopher's adult post-apocalypse sci-fi novels; 'A Wrinkle In The Skin' (1965). By all accounts this is the book in which he plumbed the depths of human horror - taking it as far as he could go - before retreating into the relative comfort of children's literature.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.131.123
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 07:54 am:   

JIMBO by Algernon Blackwood. Who other than Des has read it?
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 11:50 am:   

Sorry folks, back to "We have to talk about Kevin". Weber, "The writer clearly knows nothing about children or child-rearing and has done zero research on the topic." I'm afraid I don't agree. (Yes. it is overwritten, I agree wth you on that) I have experience of this type of parental struggle to find love for a child and this book really does resonate with that experience. Okay, no to the extreme extent displayed in this book, but the confusion and resentment are very realistic.

Cheers
Terry
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 11:51 am:   

It wasn't me by the way. I fell in love with both my kids the moment they were born, in that I was very lucky. it doens;t always happen.

Cheers
Terry
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 12:58 pm:   

Getting into Henry Kuttner's 'Fury' (1947) and the set-up is startlingly reminiscent of Alfred Bester's 'The Stars My Destination' (1956).

The action is set in the far distant future on a colonised Venus centuries after the destruction of Earth in a global conflict. Humanity has evolved into two species - the uniformly tall, beautiful and super-intelligent ruling "Immortals" who live for hundreds of years and their evolutionary ancestors... us. We follow the life story of Sam Reed, a criminal renegade who was born an Immortal but, following the death of his mother in childbirth, was surgically altered and deformed by his insanely vengeful father to resemble one of the uglier homo sapiens and cast out into the plebian masses. Knowing nothing of his heritage Reed grows up by ruthless survival instincts but is eternally frustrated and enraged by feelings of inadequacy and injustice - due to his unrecognised intelligence - and believing himself a superior being to his "brutishly primitive" fellows while despising the effete decadence of the Immortals he cuts himself off from them all and swears a terrible vengeance on the entire human race... believing the whole time that he will live but a normal lifespan.

Knowing that Bester became acquainted with Kuttner and admired his works I would propose that this book may well have sowed the seed for that later masterpiece. The parallels are too obvious to miss... from 'Fury' to "Tyger tyger, burning bright" they are the stories of two men who became demonic avenging supermen.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 03:00 pm:   

Sorry Terry but I have to disagree.

She has a six year old child still in nappies and the school phones the mother to come in and change him. No sign of any help to the mother to toilet train him, no kind of remedial help for the boy to help him with his toilet issues.

It wouldn't happen. She'd have social services on her back for the neglect inherent in not toilet training him. The boy's first pre-school would have ensured he was trained before he left.

The confusion might strike as true but that's because the writer doesn't know what she's talking about - so it has to sound confused.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 62.255.207.128
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 03:35 pm:   

I haven't got to that part yet but, yes, I concede that cetainly in England that wouldn't be allowed to happen without some sort of intervention.

It is the emotional confusion that is compelling and resonant for me.

Cheers
Terry
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 05:47 pm:   

Finished part one, Stevie, "Universe" (Heinlein's novel is apparently two previously-published 1941 novellas, put together); a rollicking action-adventure in parts, mostly a boy's-tale of enlightenment. A quick and easy and enjoyable read—thanks for the rec!

I've not read Wolfe's Free Live Free, either... there's a few of his novels I've missed out on. I remember I wasn't terribly fond of Pandora, by Holly Hollander, but I wonder if I'd reassess now.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 06:53 pm:   

Back-tracking a bit, just a random post-observational, concerning Hammett's The Dain Curse: he may have been a bit far-fetched there, but only a bit. Witness this news story, which reads like a C-Op "explanation":

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/11/fiancee-arrested-orange-county-dou ble-murder.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=649324
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 08:18 pm:   

'Orphans In The Sky' works as a novel in two parts because the second novella continues the story exactly where the first one left off. Neither part would make much sense on its own. You may think me an idiot but the second part had me filling up at times. It's the sort of purely enjoyable yet original and highly imaginative pulp narrative I'd love to have read as a kid or had kids to read it to. You can feel the author in love with storytelling and his characters as you read it... so it shouldn't be surprising that he would often return to them in later books (Stephen King & Gene Wolfe style).

Funnily enough I have a theory that Hammett's 'The Dain Curse' may have started life as three separate Continental Op novellas that he cobbled together by the linking over-elaborate explanations and the almost tongue-in-cheek final twist. It certainly reads that way and is his most strangely structured novel as well as his most bizarre plot-wise. I could be wrong.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 08:57 pm:   

I'm looking forward to part two, Stevie....

And try four novellas! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Continental_Op
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.177.139.247
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 10:01 pm:   

I really liked ORPHANS IN THE SKY. Here's what I said on Amazon many years ago when I reviewed. So long ago now that I am referred to as 'A Customer' on there! :

This entry in Gollancz's classic reprint series was originally published in two parts in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction back in 1941 and if you bear this in mind while reading it you'll appreciate what an achievement this was. Despite the efforts of H G Wells and others, science fiction was still very much in its infancy, and I would imagine that works of fiction that quoted Newton's inverse square law of gravitation (hilariously misinterpreted near the beginning of this book) or tried to compare the concepts of space travel with knitting a sweater or baking a cake must have been pretty thin on the ground. Read it with this in mind and you'll enjoy this rather brief tale of a starship community which has existed for generations, succeeded in misinterpreting its flight manuals and lost all concept of the fact that it is, in fact, flying through space. Don't worry, I haven't given anything away that isn't mentioned on practically the first page of a story which presumably inspired Brian Aldiss's later 'Non-Stop'- a novel which tells a similar tale though perhaps without quite so many slit throats and two-headed mutants. The attitude to women and to the ship's mutant community is what one would expect for the time in which it was written but doesn't serve to detract too much from Heinlein's rapid pacing. Probably ground breaking for its time and still a pretty good read today.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 10:24 pm:   

I wasn't aware that the two Continental Op novels were both constructed from short stories! The joins weren't obvious to me in 'Red Harvest' but were unmissable in 'The Dain Curse'.

You would love 'Free Live Free', Craig. I've read the first four chapters and it's written in the style of a pulp noir, is set in Chicago and has a trenchcoated detective anti-hero (he's an immoral shit) called Jim Stubb. So far it reads very much as a sleazy urban crime novel but knowing Wolfe could end up anywhere!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.29.244.47
Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 11:19 pm:   

John, have you read 'Methuselah's Children' (also 1941)? It's a kind of immediate sequel to 'Orphans Of The Sky', tells of the journey of the sister starship and introduced perhaps Heinlein's most memorable character, Lazarus Long, whose adventures he would return to many times in his career. It has all the narrative strengths and groundbreaking originality of OOTS and was the book that made me fall in love with his writing not that many years ago. Highly recommended!
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.177.139.247
Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 - 10:44 am:   

Stevie - no I haven't. The other Heinlein book I really like is THE DOOR TO SUMMER
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 - 01:35 pm:   

Haven't read it. These are the ones I've read ranked in order of how much I liked them but he's yet to disappoint me. Even the politically problematic 'Starship Troopers' was brilliantly written and argued I thought - Heinlein being a military man and having nothing but sympathy for those engaged in Korea & Vietnam. I think they call it camaraderie.

1. Job : A Comedy Of Justice (1984) {Hugo nominee - it should have won as it's one of the best novels I ever read!}
2. Farnham's Freehold (1965)
3. Stranger In A Strange Land (1961) [twice - both versions] {Hugo winner}
4. Glory Road (1963) {Hugo nominee}
5. Tunnel In The Sky (1955)
6. Orphans Of The Sky (1941)
7. Methuselah's Children (1941)
8. Starman Jones (1953)
9. Double Star (1956) {Hugo winner - and it's a hilarious sci-fi comedy!}
10. The Star Beast (1954)
11. Space Cadet (1948)
12. Red Planet (1949)
13. Starship Troopers (1959) {Hugo winner}
14. Have Space Suit, Will Travel (1958) [for children - and it's bloody brilliant!] {Hugo nominee}
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 - 03:39 pm:   

Good God! I thought 'The Death Of Grass' was shocking!

Only three chapters into 'A Wrinkle In The Skin' and after one chapter of cosy domestic bliss all hell breaks loose. The disaster here is one of sudden global seismic upheaval on an unprecedented scale that wipes out in one fell swoop most of the human and animal life on Earth. I don't know how feasible such a thing is but that's immaterial as John Christopher makes it utterly believable and instantly terrifying for the very few hapless souls left to sift through the rubble and gaze out on the suddenly alien terrain they knew as home. It has to be the ultimate disaster scenario and is told with complete conviction and an almost icy detachment that makes the hero's plight (like all the best post-apocalypse yarns it is told from one point of view) all the more harrowing for the reader to experience. This is already an absolute belter!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 - 03:55 pm:   

That's a good review, John, and so far accurate—I'm now on my way through "Common Sense," part II of Orphans of the Sky....

But talk of Dashiell Hammett made me take a brief detour to read the one C-Op novella I missed from The Big Knockover, "Corkscrew" (1924)—basically, the C-Op goes to the Old West. Written/published right in the middle of Hammett's "golden" period (imho), and it shows: a rip-roaring Western with a high body count, a plot distantly similar to Red Harvest, and a fine mystery underpinning it. Great fun writing puts me in a good mood, and now Heinlein's continuing it....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 03:55 pm:   

Brief thoughts... I now believe that H.G. Wells was the foundation, Robert A. Heinlein was the architect, Henry Kuttner was the bridge and Philip K. Dick was the culminator of a certain strand of science fiction literature. Discuss...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 03:57 pm:   

Note the words "a certain strand"...
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.179.114
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 05:42 pm:   

Now reading Jonathan Coe's The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. Enjoying it so far (70 pages into a 330 page book).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 06:02 pm:   

Closing in on the end of Simon's The Faceless and enjoying it immensely...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 06:03 pm:   

Stevie - you might want to start a new thread for that discussion topic. Seems a shame to risk it being lost in the middle of this one.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.242.194
Posted on Sunday, December 02, 2012 - 02:20 pm:   

Just finished the faceless - and a very fine book it was too. Very atmospheric with some cracking set pieces. Just about to start dead island by mark morris, then it'll be In Evil Time (or is it in evil hour) by Gabriel Marquez.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 101.119.29.104
Posted on Sunday, December 02, 2012 - 10:20 pm:   

Started 'Genesis', by Mark Morris. Not far in, but enjoying it so far.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.132.209
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 12:46 am:   

So far dead Island is pure pulp but great fun. Not the best written thing I've ever read by Mark Morris, but I'm already over 100 pages in after just 2 hours on and off reading.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.131.123
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 07:59 am:   

Just finished The Card by Arnold Bennett. Great fun.
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Playloup66 (Playloup66)
Username: Playloup66

Registered: 05-2011
Posted From: 86.168.9.151
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 09:29 am:   

I'm about halfway through 'The Ritual' by Adam Nevill.

So far i'm impressed.The early parts in the deserted house are excellent,i just hope the second half is as good!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.131.123
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 09:52 am:   

Oh God yes. Better.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.205
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 10:02 am:   

The ritual is possibly the most sustained exercise in pure terror i've ever read. Loved it. And to agree with what Mr Fry just said, if anything the second half is more frightening than the first
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.179.114
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 11:55 am:   

It's amazing that Adam keeps the tension up right through the book very successfully.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.23.66.82
Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012 - 07:09 pm:   

The plot is thin, but Adam makes a virtue out that, and conjures up some absolutely terrifying material. Like Misery or Gerald's Game, static is sometimes scariest. It concetrates the horror.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 - 02:44 am:   

So me, I've finally picked up Hammett's The Maltese Falcon—so far proving to be a very easy quick read. The style is different from the C-Op stories, and I have to say I prefer that style better than this one... so far it seems to have the taint of Hemingway about it (and not in a good way)... but I'm still greatly enjoying it so far....
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 - 04:02 pm:   

Soon be finished 'A Wrinkle In The Skin' - harrowing stuff and almost as powerful as 'The Death Of Grass'. Anyone who's enjoying 'The Walking Dead' at the minute would love this book.
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David_lees (David_lees)
Username: David_lees

Registered: 12-2011
Posted From: 92.22.10.204
Posted on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 - 05:12 pm:   

I'm not long finished Adam Nevill's Last Days, which definitely matches the quality of his previous books. Though he does do that irritating thing of only fully describing the main character two-thirds of the way into the book, so you suddenly have to revise the mental image you've had of him.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.92
Posted on Tuesday, December 04, 2012 - 09:22 pm:   

Dead island, whilst fun to read, really does show its computer game roots too strongly. The characters walk/drive round, meet random strangers -or recieve phone calls- and go off on a side-quest for that person. The dialogue seems to have been lifted directly from the game and is distinctly sub-par for morris. The characterisation is also thin in the extreme, the failed rapper is almost interchangeable with any of the other 3 leads.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.145.132.209
Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - 02:56 am:   

Finished Dead island - it was a quick read if nothing else.

Next up - In Evil Hour by Gabriel wotsit Marquez.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - 11:51 am:   

Finished 'A Wrinkle In The Skin' and without giving away any spoilers the ending is not at all what I expected - in a good way.

'The Death Of Grass' was unremittingly bleak, 'The World In Winter' was ambitiously political & 'A Wrinkle In The Skin' was the most violent yet most hopeful of the three.

Now starting 'The Santaroga Barrier' (1968) by Frank Herbert. Apparently it was the inspiration for Larry Cohen's cult classic horror movie 'The Stuff' (1985) which featured a character called Frank Herbert!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - 12:41 pm:   

Meanwhile 'Free Live Free' (a third through) is a wonderfully entertaining mystery thriller written in noir style but with a deliciously anarchic sense of humour that puts me in mind of nothing more than Donald E. Westlake's comic crime novels (particularly 'Dancing Aztecs') - with added weirdness.

We have four beautifully drawn characters from the mean streets of Chicago (detective, prostitute, door-to-door salesman, charlatan psychic/witch) who, driven by desperation, are engaged in the hunt for a mysterious old hermit's hidden treasure and find themselves having to delve into the secrets of his murky past and finding rather more than they bargained for. The man's name is Benjamin Free and he dropped clues to each of them in the opening chapters before vanishing off the face of the earth.

The book is an absolute joy to read and as different as anything else I've read by Gene Wolfe as is possible to imagine. It kind of resembles 'An Evil Guest' in style but is firmly rooted in the reality of the 1980s - no concrete fantasy elements as yet but lots of hints.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - 01:17 pm:   

Garcia-Marquez is a wizard, Weber. I haven't read that one but if you don't have your mind expanded by his prose and imagination then I'd give up reading full-stop.

From the sublime to the ridiculous... I was leant a copy of 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' by a female friend at the weekend (who said it changed her life) and read the first three chapters. Not only is it as abysmally written as I had feared but the story is insufferably boring. I told her this and she gave me a list of page no's to skip forward to for "the good bits". I read a few and it was basically an introduction to various sex acts and toys that I learnt about from reading discarded copies of porn mags as a teenager ffs!

Apparently the appeal for women is the romance of the story coupled with putting into words their "wildest" sexual fantasies. A handsome and successful yet painfully damaged man has to be mothered by the one woman who understands him and is prepared to put up with his weird (to her) sexual kinks for, in the words of Gene Pitney, "True love never runs smooth"... ad nauseum.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - 05:09 pm:   

Haven't done one of these in a while so here's my Top 10 Post-Apocalypse Sci-Fi Novels:

1. 'Earth Abides' (1949) by George R. Stewart - PLAGUE
2. 'The Death Of Grass' (1956) by John Christopher - PLANT PLAGUE
3. 'Farnham's Freehold' (1964) by Robert A. Heinlein - NUCLEAR WAR
4. 'The Stand' (1978) by Stephen King - PLAGUE
5. 'The Crystal World' (1966) by J.G. Ballard - WEIRD CRYSTALISING TIME DISTORTIONS {I think}
6. 'I Am Legend' (1954) by Richard Matheson - VAMPIRE PLAGUE
7. 'The Drought' (1964) by J.G. Ballard - SEA POLLUTION CAUSING GLOBAL DROUGHT
8. 'The Day Of The Triffids' (1951) by John Wyndham - MASS BLINDNESS AIDING PROLIFERATION OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED KILLER PLANTS
9. 'The War Of The Worlds' (1898) by H.G. Wells - ALIEN INVASION
10. 'A Wrinkle In The Skin' (1965) by John Christopher - GLOBAL SEISMIC UPHEAVALS
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.176
Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2012 - 05:09 pm:   

From hearing the way women talk about 50 shades I realise that i've made a drastic error in treating women with respect all these years. Apparently they all want to be treated like shit by their men if their reaction to christian gray is anything to go by.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, December 06, 2012 - 11:32 am:   

I can see the story (what there is of it) from a woman's point of view, Weber.

They see men as weak and obsessed with sex while they see themselves as the only thing that can save us from ourselves andf teach us the true meaning of love - while putting up with our sexual aberrations in the meantime because they can see the man who craves love within. It is kindergarten stuff for adults who don't realise it is possible to have a loving relationship and wild sex with the same person. I would demand nothing less from a partner and so should any adult in their 40s, imo.

I do believe the book is having a positive and educational influence on women of a certain age who haven't fully explored their sexuality and what turns them on in their earlier (usually) married and child rearing years and for that I salute it. But the book is still woefully boring to read for anyone not in that situation and the quality of the prose (for those who care about such things) is way beyond the pale - but still better than Dan Brown.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, December 06, 2012 - 11:58 am:   

Chapter 1 (they're long) of 'The Santaroga Barrier' has me hugging myself with pleasure it's so atmospheric.

The set-up is that of a corporate agent sent undercover into a small American town to discover why they refuse to have any commerce with outside companies, remain fully self-sufficient and none of the residents ever leave to settle elsewhere. Outsiders are welcome and treated with great hospitality and some of them even stay - forever. As for the others...

I'm a complete sucker for this kind of story and Herbert has set the scene magnificently well. The one sinister hint so far has been an irate travelling salesman being politely driven out of town after no one shows the slightest interest in his wares. Our investigator describes the townsfolk as like a wolf pack with unimpeachable manners. Gonna be a good one!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.187.150
Posted on Thursday, December 06, 2012 - 07:42 pm:   

O PIONEERS by Willa Cather. It's great.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, December 06, 2012 - 08:28 pm:   

Me, 3/4's of the way through The Maltese Falcon. Again, the style is a bit florid (for Hammett); he must have consciously altered it for writing this, and it's a backwards move, I think (the opposite, say, of Vonnegut's; going from his first novel Player Piano to his subsequent ones). Regardless, the novel is compulsively readable even if you know the story, and it surely deserves its place on many all-time best mystery/suspense novels lists.

Also pulling a Stevie, and starting another novel concurrently: The Last Call of Mourning (1979), by Charles Grant, third novel in his "Oxrun Station" series. The previous two were also compulsively readable (for me, a few years back now) if flawed; hoping this one's at least on par with those. A long term project, wading through all of Grant's work....
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, December 07, 2012 - 12:04 am:   

Finished Falcon, and am sad... that I'm running out of fresh Hammett to read yet.

This makes 34 books I've read, cover-to-cover, so far as of 2012 (most of them novels, some non-fiction & anthologies in there, too; does not include portions of other books read, short-stories, poetry, etc.). How do I stack up against you, Stevie...?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.187.150
Posted on Sunday, December 09, 2012 - 03:08 pm:   

THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL by G K Chesterton. A bit boring.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 90.200.197.44
Posted on Sunday, December 09, 2012 - 07:59 pm:   

About a quarter of the way through "Harvest Home" - odd style, almost quaint but, vivid, compelling and a great slow build-up...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 12:32 pm:   

For me 'Harvest Home' is one of the ten best horror novels of the 20th Century. It reads like a Victorian novel but is entirely contemporary with the "anything goes" 1970s. Atmosphere to burn!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 01:27 pm:   

CROME YELLOW by Aldous Huxley. Kind of weird.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 04:42 pm:   

Imagine some mad generic combination of 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth', 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' & Patrick McGoohan's 'The Prisoner' and you'll have some idea of what a great unsung, old style, small town horror/sci-fi novel Frank Herbert's 'The Santaroga Barrier' is - at a third through.

What I'm loving about this book is that Herbert clearly loves the "small town with a secret" plot structure as well but takes great fun in playing with all the clichés and continually confounding the reader's expectations. E.G. within the first couple of chapters the townspeople calmly spell out the threat to our hero and make him an offer he'd be wise not to refuse... but this man is made of sterner stuff. A brilliant suspense narrative of chilling understatement and frankly petrifying "cosiness"!

After reading this the word "Jaspers" will forever be enshrined in my lexicon of words than send an involuntary shudder down my spine... so cut the "cracking this case could make my name" bollocks and get the fuck out of there Gil!!!!
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 05:04 pm:   

Left my copy of "Harvest Home" in the Oxford Street branch of Marks and Spencers on Friday night (on my way to the BFS London piss - sorry, open night). No worries, its been found and is safe and sound.

So I needed a book to read when I went to stay at my daughter's flat over the weekend. Picked a dog-earred copy of Terry Pratchett's "Light Fantastic" from her complete TP collection and reminded myself of just how inventive, witty, asute and downright funny the man is.

Cheers
Terry (Grimwood that is)
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.129.56.121
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 03:24 am:   

Just finished In Evil Hour and I have to say that, on the strength of this one, I'm not a Marquez fan. The style of writing seems stilted at best and the story very slight. It could be that I just have no knowledge or interest in feudal mid-american politics that I think this. I certainly couldn't relate to any of the characters in the book and the situation just seemed odd and surreal - but not in a good way.

Going for something nice and light for my next read - Double Dexter - book number 6 about our favourite serial killer...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 10:03 am:   

THE GAMBLER by Dostoevsky.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 11:19 am:   

Long wanted to read that, Gary, after being impressed by the Gregory Peck/Ava Gardner film version, 'The Great Sinner' (1949), many years ago.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 11:26 am:   

Having read up about 'In Evil Hour' (1962), Weber, I think you couldn't have picked a worse introduction to Garcia-Marquez. It was his first published novel and was subsequently disowned by the author, apparently.

Give his second novel, 'One Hundred Years Of Solitude' (1967), a try instead. It's a wondrous work of literature and I've read it twice.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 12:05 pm:   

Craig, I've read 53 novels, 1 autobiography, 7 single author collections & 1 horror anthology so far this year. Look out for my traditional end of the year round-up early in January. Thankfully my reading didn't suffer as much as my cinema-going this year - forever to be known in Stevie World as "The Year Of The Flood"!
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 04:43 pm:   

I shoulda known you had me beat, Stevie....

Finished Grant's The Last Call of Mourning—slight but well-wrought. All that you expect from Grant, including the last turn of the knife at the end....
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 05:47 pm:   

Good so far, Stevie. First-person narrator, compellingly bitchy voice.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 06:02 pm:   

Wait a minute. How is it you're reading so many books right now, Gary?... Or is this your normal pace?...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.145.208.17
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 06:04 pm:   

What's the basic storyline of that grant book? I'm not sure if i've read that one? Is it a companion piece to dark cry of the moon and the soft whisper of the dead?
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 166.216.226.71
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 06:55 pm:   

It's 3rd Oxrun novel, Weber. Girl returns home from a European visit, opens a bookstore, is nearly killed by a big car, family acting strangely... ring any bells?
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.156.185.130
Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 11:48 pm:   

Nope. Having checked my shelves, it's one I don't own...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 04:31 am:   

I'd happily mail you mine, but I alas checked it out from the liebary....

However, just remind me via email again of your address, and I'll send one (via Amazon) over to you—I believe I owe you anyway or something for past something or others... that hit on Gary over the Christmas holiday, was that it again?...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 08:14 am:   

Craig: I go through manic spells of reading loads and then just stop. I'm like that.

THE GAMBLER is great, btw. Like a Wodehouse comedy at one point.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.60.39
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 10:27 am:   

I've read 53 novels, 1 autobiography, 7 single author collections & 1 horror anthology so far this year.

I'm far less voracious in my reading habits than I used to be. In my late teens and early twenties I averaged a book every two days or so, sometimes I would read five books per week. Nowadays I tend to re-read older stuff rather than try new things. There are exceptions, of course, but not many. Old age?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 11:23 am:   

What struck me about the film version of 'The Gambler' was how Fortean it was. All the character's obsessions with number combinations and odd coincidences. The gambler's disease is one of the starkest examples of our search for meaning in the universe we find ourselves in given our limited perceptions. Whether to abide by logic and odds or listen to the mystic inside us all that "knows" there are more things in heaven and earth.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 07:45 pm:   

And it has one mad old granny!

On to Twain's THE TRAGEDY OF PUDDEN'EAD WILSON now.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 07:57 pm:   

Damn, you're burning through those books!

But I'll be more impressed, Gary, when I see you list, oh, I dunno... something 1000+ pages... complete works of Plato, all of Proust... the entire Harry Potter series, perhaps?...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 08:29 am:   

:-)

I've considered ADAM BEDE and THE IDIOTS and THE PICKWICK PAPERS (all books I've been meaning to reasd for years), but daren't take the plunge. I do have MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN in line for my Xmas break from work. My problem with long novels is that I start them and never finish, because of work commitments.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 04:41 pm:   

Me too, Gary. I sit with big huge ginormous books on my shelves, dreaming of reading them and despairing that I'll never be able to... (mine include BLEAK HOUSE, WAR & PEACE/ANNA KARENINA, Fowles' DANIEL MARTIN, various Barthes novels, Spencer's FAERIE QUEENE [from the beginning again], BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, MIDDLEMARCH...). But I think for now, I'm going to polish off the second and third novellas in Karl Wagner's DEATH ANGEL'S SHADOW.

("ginormous"—auto-correct didn't catch that one, oddly [to me], so I googled it... who knew it's a well-established term?! Goes back to WWII. You learn something new every day....)
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 10:00 pm:   

Bastard, isn't it?

Btw, The Twain is superb.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.231.23
Posted on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 10:17 pm:   

Puddenhead wilson is possibly my favourite of all the Twain books i've read
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2012 - 02:17 am:   

Dear Gary

"The Pickwick papers" is wonderful, a genuinely funny book with no Dickenensian sentimentality but a great big fat good-hearted comedy from start to finish. And the "White Horse" hotel in Ipswich (scene of a typically Pickwikian farce) only closed its doors for the last time a few years ago.

Cheers
Terry
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2012 - 02:18 am:   

Oh, and I've just started Des Lewis's "Nemonymous Night".
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.38.219
Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2012 - 11:23 am:   

Weber, the third book of the Grant trilogy is The Long Night of the Grave. The three books give classic genre themes an Oxrun Station outing. I think The Last Call of Mourning is separate, though I could be wrong as I don't have it.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.144.33.159
Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2012 - 12:19 pm:   

It is indeed. I have the trilogy in paperback and first edition hardbacks. Grant certainly knew how to give good title...
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2012 - 03:47 pm:   

You're right, Joel, that novel (that I've not read) is third in an internal Oxrun trilogy—but he published five Oxrun novels previous to those three books (between the years 1979-1982).
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 05:08 pm:   

Read Jim Thompson's novella "This World, Then The Fireworks" (date—?). Ghastly and dark and funny, too... I'm, frankly, not entirely sure wtf happened at the end—but I guess by that point, does it really matter?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.12
Posted on Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 07:28 pm:   

I loved 'The Pickwick Papers'. A great big daft rambling odyssey that reads like it was made up as Dickens went along in a remarkably sustained burst of comic invention. There is an irresitible charm and silliness about the book that he never recaptured and the cast of oddball characters are as memorable as ever. Bricklike as it is I got through it in a couple of months as it's such an entertaining breeze to read.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.179.114
Posted on Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 07:37 pm:   

Third of the way through King's "11:22:63" and loving it...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.22
Posted on Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 08:43 pm:   

Nearly finished 'The Santaroga Barrier' and it has proved a completely original spin on the small town horror stock plot.

**** SPOILERS ****

The hero, Gil Dasein, is an undercover industrial agent hired by a big business conglomerate to visit the secluded valley town of Santaroga that refuses to have any commerce with the outside world and manages to remain fully self-sufficient due to all local businesses being part of what they call the Jaspers Co-Operative. Jaspers is a mystery ingredient included in all the local food and drink that has a distinctive taste and odour.

This additive - a unique fungus gathered from a system of caves in the valley - proves highly addictive and has consciousness expanding qualities that lead, after prolonged use, to the townspeople becoming a kind of unconscious hive mind who are instinctively led to protect themselves from non-Jaspers eating "outsiders" - like our hero. Two previous investigators who sought to uncover the Jaspers secret ingredient had met with "accidental" death while staying in the valley and the longer Gil stays and closer he gets to discovering the true nature of Jaspers the more close scrapes with death he experiences - incidents that appear genuinely accidental and impossible to have rigged while the townspeople remain as friendly and hospitable as ever - displaying genuine shock and concern at each incident. Is some alien force in control of them, are they all consciously in cahoots and very good actors with some form of secret communication or are their actions an unconscious instinctive reaction of self-preservation inspired by the Jaspers addiction.

The suspense never lets up and is two-way as Gil faces not only the threat of unpredictable death from every quarter - while he remains an active threat - but addiction to the Jaspers himself the longer he lives in the town and keeps eating the unavoidable local produce... and changing, slowly and imperceptibly, to the point where he can't even trust himself anymore. A brilliant paranoid horror thriller that satirises not only profit obsessed western commercialism but also the "turn on, tune in, drop out" druggie counter-culture of the 1960s.
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Playloup66 (Playloup66)
Username: Playloup66

Registered: 05-2011
Posted From: 86.168.9.151
Posted on Monday, December 17, 2012 - 11:08 am:   

Finished 'The Ritual' by Adam Nevill yesterday and was impressed.Especially how he managed to keep the cloying atmosphere going throughout the book.

I'm also about halfway through ' Thieving Fear' by RC.The first half is very much a slow burner but i'm enjoying it.

After this i've got 'The Darkest Part Of The Woods' to start on.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.76.229
Posted on Monday, December 17, 2012 - 03:03 pm:   

THE RAINBOW by D H Lawrence. Absolutely beautiful so far.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 31.54.12.221
Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 01:56 am:   

Double Dexter is rather excellent good fun. It treads that fine line between disturbing and funny with ease.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 01:32 pm:   

Finished 'The Santaroga Barrier' - brilliant! The ending can be read as frighteningly bleak or weirdly life affirming depending on one's viewpoint. I can see both sides of the argument and, unlike 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers', Frank Herbert really has presented a seductive alternative to the human rat race that few of us, given the opportunity, would balk at. The pursuit of love and happiness has rarely been so craftily subverted. An unacknowledged classic of its kind.

Started Richard Matheson's 'The Shrinking Man' (1956) and the suspense is as razor sharp as 'I Am Legend' right from the off. I'm flying through it! Unlike the famous film version - told in linear form - the novel keeps flicking between Scott Carey's battle of wits with the spider in the cellar and poignant flashbacks to how he got there... with the inevitable vanishing point ever foremost in our dogged hero's mind. A story of stubborn survival against all the odds that rivets the reader's attention with ruthless efficiency.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 01:42 pm:   

Stevie...

Two books you have made me hungry for. Thanks.

As for me, I'm three-quarters of the way through Des Lewis's "Nemonymous Night" - a strange, haunting, puzzling wonderfully surreal experience, particularly the scenes that take place near the Earth's core.

Cheers
Terry
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 05:27 pm:   

2/3's through (by count, not in order) Highsmith's collection, Chillers (1990). Exquisite little tales of murder and assorted mayhem. I'm most reminded in style of Stanley Ellin, a more or less contemporary—most of both their stories appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; if you were to close your eyes, you almost couldn't tell the difference between the two. Best one so far is "Old Folks At Home" (1981), a disturbing and frankly uncomfortable story of extremely-subtle mounting terror.... But they've all been great, quick, fun, wicked reads.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 12:45 pm:   

Patricia Highsmith is probably my favourite crime writer, Craig, and she is certainly the most profound I have encountered as well as the most subversively unpredictable. In fact to call her a "crime writer" is something of a disservice as I see her closer in literary style to Graham Greene or even Dostoevsky as a writer obsessed with channelling the psychological misery of the human condition with implacable - as you say - wickedness. The moral and emotional dilemmas that beset us have never been more ruthlessly explored. Where Greene gave us the quest for redemption Highsmith was only ever interested in damnation. I love the woman.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 01:12 pm:   

Meanwhile I'm already over halfway through 'The Shrinking Man' and have come to the conclusion that what makes the novel so great is what a complete shit Scott Carey is. On a psychological level he doesn't deal with his predicament at all well (and who can blame him) turning into a right self-pitying selfish bastard who pushes away all those who love and would help him. But that very attitude of "Why me?! Fuck the lot of you! I will not let this beat me you bastards!" is what makes his pig-headed fight for meaningless survival so compelling. Hate and anger are what drive this little man making the story one of the most perfect allegories I have read - worthy of William Golding in its deceptive simplicity and overwhelming power. Yet the utterly convincing physical reality of his impossible situation (Matheson batters our disbelief into submission) and the hopelessness of the odds stacked against him means we can't help but empathise with him and pray for him to prevail. One stubborn bastard shaking his fist at a cruel unforgiving universe and refusing to be beaten. A seriously brilliant novel!!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 03:57 pm:   

'Fury' & 'Free Live Free' have rather suffered of late from my happening to read two compulsively addictive novels back-to-back but when I've mopped up 'The Shrinking Man' (now two thirds through) they'll be getting my undivided attention.

I also plan to get stuck into 'Night Terrors : The Complete Ghost Stories Of E.F. Benson' one story a night over the festive period as the perfect Christmas treat!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 - 07:44 am:   

THE RAINBOW is doing very strange things to my head. Incredible writing.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 212.219.63.204
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 - 10:05 am:   

Gary...

I love D H Lawrence, a truly innovative writer. I found "The Rainbow" to be immensely powerful and moving, and strange. It has all the elements of family saga, yet is something much greater and more intense than that. I was introduced to him through his short stories when I was at secodnary school.

Myself, I am reaching the closing stages of D F Lewis's "Nemonymous Night", a truly surreal, disconcerting journey - but could anything by Des be anything other than that?

Cheers
Terry
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.176.179.114
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 - 10:20 am:   

It was school that introduced me to Lawrence, Terry - The Rocking Horse Winner to be precise.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 - 12:00 pm:   

'The Rocking Horse Winner' is the only thing by D.H. Lawrence I have read, to my shame.

Into the last chapters of 'The Shrinking Man' and finding myself increasingly moved by Carey's ridiculous inability to surrender to his fate. The pitiful limitations of the human condition and our refusal to accept them have never been more heroically chronicled. We are what we are... love us or hate us.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 - 02:52 pm:   

I'm a real sucker for seductive prose. Not many do the business for me. My favourite is Martin Amis. Ramsey is up there, too. And now I must add Lawrence. Genuinely intoxicating.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.152.192.48
Posted on Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 01:08 am:   

Lawrence is incredibly dense, isn't he? (I just realised the ambiguity in that sentence. I mean his prose is rich. It refuses to stay on the page and remain mere words.

I tried an Amis but couldn't get far into it. It's clever, even insightful, but Amis reminds me of V'Ger in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. He's jaded because he is missing a spiritual element.

Will Self has the opposite problem. He hungers for spiritual exaltation, but isn't as clever or funny in his writing as he thinks he is.

I think both men are far more interesting as orators or in conversation, though. Their art is chatting. But I suppose it's hard to make money with that.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 04:36 am:   

I am just floored that Stevie, of all people, hasn't read any D. H. Lawrence! I've read many of his short-stories/novellas, and poetry, and he's plain phenomenal. And, I can only think, right up Stevie's alley. The novels I must get to.... (and The Shrinking Man!)

Put my toe three chapters into Joseph Hansen's Fade Out (1970), his first Brandstetter novel. Smooth and easy prose, deft character building, intriguing hook; I'm most reminded of Ross McDonald, and so, loving it. Finished Highsmith's collection, and thought her surely one of the new ones on my must-read-them-all list. The best were the three collected from The Black House (1981), which reminded me of Joyce Carol Oates—not in style, but in that they only brush the edges of suspense/thriller ("Under A Dark Angel's Eye," "Blow It," and "Old Folks At Home"). Love really discover-discovering, great writers....
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.107.160
Posted on Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 07:50 am:   

Proto, try Experience or The House of Meetings.

His subject matter is spirtitually bereft modern life, a world colonised by money and inter-continental dispute and an impoverished culture. Your critique is kind of the point.

And I think it's a bit harsh to dismiss an author's entire output on the basis of one book only partly read.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.88.120
Posted on Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 01:28 pm:   

I can say that THE RAINBOW is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Like an x-ray of my psyche.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 05:17 pm:   

Awesome, Gary. I didn't know WOMEN IN LOVE is considered a sequel to THE RAINBOW (thanks Wikipedia). I also didn't know Britain confiscated and burned all copies of THE RAINBOW in 1915—good Lord!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.88.120
Posted on Monday, December 24, 2012 - 08:29 am:   

Yes, I will read WiL soonest, certainly.

The sex in The Rainbow is heady stuff, more suggestive than explicit. But I'm afraid our dullards ancestors mistook Lawrence's evocation of cosmic unity for filth. :-)

I'm more interested in the descriptions of working class social aspiration, however. It's mirrors my life entirely. Not that either I or Ursula Brangwen are aspirers; but we're both had to go through the teaching game by necessity and Lawrence's descriptions of that process are painfully accurate. Wonderful writing.

Some writers just speak directly to you and your experience, don't they?
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, December 25, 2012 - 09:37 pm:   

Finished Fadeout. A fine first detective novel, heavier on character than plot (though there's plenty of that): main protag Dave Brandstetter is a gay L.A. insurance agent, busted-up over the loss of his life-long partner, who's just died of cancer; he's investigating the disappearance (?) of a country music star the family's making a death claim upon, and gets knee-deep in local politics, family skeletons, etc. The deep pathos that Hansen builds—for Dave, and others herein—is the novel's standout feature, reminding me (most recently, and in the same genre) of Tony Hillerman's equally fine Dance Hall Of The Dead (1974).

And now what to turn to? Perhaps stay watching the detectives; perhaps back to Ross McDonald. I stumbled across a Stephen King quote (from an essay, "Great Hookers I Have Known"), reflecting upon his son Joe's reading habits at the time: "Since discovering Raymond Chandler late last year, [Joe] has been in hog heaven. I haven't dared give him my shelf of Ross McDonald paperbacks yet; I don't want to blow his circuits completely." I quite agree....
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 10:25 am:   

Finished "Harvest Home" and yes, it is a strange, lyrical, dark, and ultimately shocking novel. Highly recommended.

Also finished the Spectral Press chapbook, "The Way of Leaves" by David Letterman. Another good read, haunting and disturbing, well done David.
Cheers
Terry
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.73
Posted on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 10:53 am:   

Finished Double Dexter, very entertaining but, as usual in the books, the denoument seemed rushed and there's a lack of thought for consequence. Surely, if dexter was being framed for murders he didn't commit, the police would have checked his emails and read all the messages the witness had sent him... Other than the gaping plot holes though it's a solid read with some genuine suprise moments. Not sure whether to go for a dci Banks novel by Peter Robinson for the first time or start on the new Lindqvist book...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 - 07:25 pm:   

WASHINGTON SQUARE by Henry James. Lovely stuff.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.67
Posted on Friday, December 28, 2012 - 09:00 pm:   

Finished 'The Shrinking Man'. The ending of book and film never fails to touch some scalp prickling primal emotion in me to do with the realisation of one's place in an infinite universe. The novel is one of the most perfect allegories I have read and far more than the sum of its parts. A kind of dark 20th Century philosophical fairy-tale on a par with Kafka's 'Metamorphosis', Camus' 'The Plague' or Golding's 'Lord Of The Flies'. Quite stunning!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.93
Posted on Friday, December 28, 2012 - 09:29 pm:   

Been working my way through 'The Complete Ghost Stories Of E.F. Benson' over Christmas. Sublime stuff I would rank second only to M.R. James for this kind of collection.

In the author's own words; "Ghost stories are a branch of literature at which I have often tried my hand. By a selection of disturbing details, it is not very difficult to induce in the reader an uneasy frame of mind which, carefully worked up, paves the way for terror. The narrator, I think, must succeed in frightening himself before he can think of frightening his readers..."

The accumulation of subtly disturbing details against a background of finely etched everyday reality is what makes the best horror fiction work and causes critical moments to linger in the reader's mind like a bad dream. With stories like; "The Room In The Tower", "How Fear Departed From The Long Gallery", "Caterpillars", "The Thing In The Hall", "Negotium Perambulans", "Mrs Amworth", "Bagnell Terrace", etc. (there are 54 of them!) Benson proved himself a grandmaster of the form. This is one of the finest books in my horror library.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 212.183.128.79
Posted on Friday, December 28, 2012 - 10:01 pm:   

Also halfway through 'Fury' by Henry Kuttner - a fast moving pulp sci-fi adventure with a fascinating criminal anti-hero, in Sam Reed, who, through having to fight for survival due to the circumstances of his birth, has grown up with no conception of the word "loyalty" and lives only for the accumulation of wealth and power... until an act of betrayal leaves him with nothing and revenge takes over as his prime motivation - with all eternity in which to plot.

And halfway through 'Free Live Free' which rattles along as a wildly entertaining and unpredictable pastiche of classic crime noir full of typically dazzling narrative tricks and beguiling characters striking wonderful sparks off each other in their quest for the lost treasure of Benjamin Free. Mesmerising stuff!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 02:47 am:   

I love E F Benson, Stevie. His prose is a delight. Have you read his non-genre work?
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 80.5.8.49
Posted on Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 03:03 pm:   

Just finished an odd but very funny novel called "All Quiet of the Orient Express" by Magnus Mills. It is its careful observation of the absurdities of English as spoken by the English, the precise characterisations and the ridiculous dilemma the protagonist finds himself in that make this one of my favorutioe books of the year.

Stevie...

I recently read the novella that introduces the world of "Fury" and loved it. And as for E F Benson - my only brush with him was a long-ago panther collection called "The Horror Horn", another book that stands out in my memory of teenage favourites.

Cheers
Terry
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.83.45
Posted on Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 08:59 pm:   

Currently partway through (and very much enjoying) 'The Sisters Brothers' by Patrick deWitt.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 01:56 pm:   

The Henry James was a bit simplistic, but I was too scared to read his later work. :-)

Now on to a book I've been meaning to read for years: THE HISTORY OF MR POLLY by H G Wells.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.83.45
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 03:43 pm:   

I've not read POLLY since I was a lad, but I recall enjoying it. The John Mills film version is on every so often and that's worth a watch.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 03:50 pm:   

Enjoying it tremendously. Wells' prose is to be savoured, so I'll see the film another time.

Anyone read KIPPS?
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.83.45
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 04:13 pm:   

Yep, again, a long time ago. Didn't stay with me so much as a lot of his other works did.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 04:52 pm:   

Did you read it when it first came out, Mick?
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 05:10 pm:   

Instead, I went and polished off Ruth Rendell's No More Dying Then (1971) in a couple days. One of her Wexford mysteries, it still was (to me) more characterized by its depth of character portrayal; especially in the depiction of a grief-stricken policeman—whose wife has recently died of cancer—who enters a secret, torrid affair with a kidnapping witness. Rendell's clean prose, and heart-wrenching characters, keep you riveted to the page throughout: a writer to envy and admire.

Now reading Edgar Allen Poe's The Mystery of Marie Rogêt (1842—1843).
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.181.83.45
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 06:03 pm:   

Did you read it when it first came out, Mick?

Before, old bean - Herbie loaned me the draft to check it through. I told him he needed to spice it up with vampires and stuff, but he foolishly ingnored me.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 06:27 pm:   

Edgar ALLEN Poe's, Craig????!!!!

Good advice, Micky boy. :-)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 06:32 pm:   

Egad, Gary... yes, I'm sure he's (*ahem*) rolling around in his grave right now....
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.212.230.76
Posted on Monday, December 31, 2012 - 02:36 pm:   

The Peter Robinson book is really rather good. A nice well paced and well written murder mystery.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.47.214
Posted on Monday, December 31, 2012 - 06:17 pm:   

Yeah, but the prose is pretty pedestrian, isn't it? He writes like old people fuck. :-)
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.239.243.150
Posted on Monday, December 31, 2012 - 11:33 pm:   

He won't win any awards for his prose but it's clear and uncluttered and he tells a good story. I'll be reading more of his books after this one.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, January 01, 2013 - 03:59 am:   

The Poe tale was engrossing, if somewhat static. I then read the famous novelette by Marie Belloc Lowndes (sister to Hilaire Beloc), "The Lodger" (1911). This might go down as my big surprise read of the year, like reading Cornell Woolrich's "Rear Window" was for me last. As with Woolrich's, despite knowing the "Lodger" tale already, I was still completely gripped and on the edge of my seat, from beginning to end of Ms. Lowndes' imagining of Jack the Ripper—and his landlords. Surprisingly modern, this could be published today without anyone guessing it's over a century old; its ending is jarringly abrupt, but there lingers the seeds of ambiguity, that [**SPOILER ALERT**] the mild-mannered aging servant-class couple, Mr. & Mrs. Bunting, may just have done away with their troublesome lodger in secret, so as to avoid notorious publicity. An excellent read to cap off the year. And on that note....

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!! (let's s