Eric Idle Online
Rubicon by Tom Holland - Aug-2014

A wonderful narrative history of the fall of the Roman Republic under the autocratic rule of Emperors and tyrants. A compelling and brilliantly written book which never once mentions America but the thought of which is never a second away. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended.

A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon - Aug-2014

Maigret journeys to a small town in Holland, at the request of an arrested lecturer, to solve the mystery of a murder in a small town which cannot admit of scandal. A classical and elegant tale, beautifully told.

The Mahé Circle by Georges Simenon - Aug-2014

Not a Maigret but one of his roman durs, tough, bleak, very fine short novels. Dr. Mahé on holiday on the island of Porquerolles falls prey to the delusion he can escape from his banal existence as a married doctor.

The Great Mordecai Moustache by Kyril Bonfiglioli - Aug-2014

The Fourth Charlie Mortdecai Novel. Completed by Craig Brown.
Charlie, proudly growing a moustache, is thrown out of the house for it by his wife. He finds himself in Oxford trying to solve the death of a female don who drove into an omnibus.

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain - Aug-2014

I always get to the same point in this novel and I always stop, just as she prepares to open the Pie Shop. I think it’s because Mildred herself has no interior life. Steinbeck it ain’t. So while one is prepared to be moderately entertained for a while after the while I go I don’t care anymore.

Operation Shylock by Philip Roth - Aug-2014

Very entertaining but by the end there are so many twists and turns as to whether he is or he isn’t Philip Roth or whether the story is true or it ain’t that one gives a quiet sigh for being brought up a dull doubting Christian and didn’t  have to go through all the tortured self-questioning guilt of a Jewish upbringing. Nevertheless there is no part of Judaism left unexplored in this quite remarkable novel.

Split Images by Elmore Leonard - Jul-2014

Holiday reading began in earnest with a re-read of an Elmore Leonard

The millionaire who likes killing for fun. A tragi-comic tale in the end.
After reading Muriel Spark my eye was caught by the Penguin reprint of an old favourite of mine The Charlie Mordecai novels of Kyril Bonfiglioli.
This is what I wrote when I first encountered what was then a trilogy by the already deceased author in 2000.
“Oh yes the best and the finest, the funniest and the most fabulous discovery. Ronald Firbank meets Raymond Chandler. Divine writing, hilarious description, gripping action. Everything and more. If there are three better books this year I will eat my wife….”
Apart from the ungainly metaphor these books are even funnier on a second rereading:

Don’t Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli - Jul-2014

The First Charlie Mortdecai Novel.
It’s the simple polished elegant style of the writer that grabs you right away plus the naughty antics he gets up to with Jock, his bruiser side kick. Charlie Mortdecai, degenerate aristocrat and amoral art dealer is at once a great comic creation and a hilarious character. Just relax and bathe in the fun.

After You With The Pistol by Kyril Bonfiglioli - Jul-2014

The Second Charlie Mortdecai Novel.
The adventures continue in America.

Something Nasty in the Woodshed by Kyril Bonfiglioli - Jul-2014

The Third Charlie Mortdecai Novel.
And in Jersey with a gruesome series of rapes.

Pom Poms Up! by Carol Cleveland - Jul-2014

Yes that is the title, complete with the exclamation mark, an “as told to” book of the story of the girl from Monty Python. She gave me an autographed copy, and of course I had contributed an interview about her with the author. Sweet Carol. She doesn’t get me at all, which is hardly her fault, but I do treasure waltzing with her and playing Mr. Bunn at O2. She is an utterly professional comedienne and totally reliable on stage, and never unprepared. She reveals glimpses of her naughty life, but is far too decent to tell tales out of school….

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard - Jul-2014

My Struggle: 1.
This one came highly recommended but I forget by whom. Sadly I found this memoir of Norwegian adolescence over long and rather easy to put down. Sorry.

The Metaphysics of Ping Pong by Guido Mina di Sospiro - Jul-2014

An enthralling guide to the mystery, mastery and practice of Ping Pong, which of course led to some fine games with my son.

Louis XIV by Vincent Cronin - Jul-2014

By way of something completely different I really enjoyed this 1964 life of the Sun King. More sympathetically written than many other biographies of this long reigning monarch who totally changed, and modernised France. His faults he recognised, and in his long life he seems always to have behaved with decency, courtesy and at the end humility. A nice portrait of an important man.

Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn - Jun-2014

Early on in June I set off for the big adventure. It didn’t leave me much time to read at first. I traveled with the brilliant Aubyn for whom I am lost in admiration.

This is a very funny satire on the Booker Prize, and committees and the vanity of authors. Seriously funny. Well worth another read.

A Time To Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor - Jun-2014

I found calm and elegance in the sentences and quite exquisite writing within this selection.

A 1957 classic collection of his visit to several monasteries. An elegant and moving defense of the monastic life, its shocking austerity and its strength in surviving and building over the centuries.

The Only Problem by Muriel Spark - Jun-2014

This has been a month of rediscovering Muriel Spark. I always did adore her. I think she is so funny and yet oddly modern. I love her take on characters. This binge began when I found a nice 1984 first edition on Hatchards new old first edition shelves. A really good idea that one Hatchards.

This is about a man writing a monograph on The Book of Job and the complicated family interplay when his ex-wife joins a band of terrorists, leading to the unwelcome intervention of the French Police. Out of such unlikely material she makes a thoroughly entertaining and knowledgeable comedy.

Not To Disturb by Muriel Spark - Jun-2014

This whetted my appetite and I found in Piccadilly a nice illustrated limited 1971 first edition.

A squib of a book which reads like a film script. A kind of comic mystery where the entire serving staff of a prosperous mansioned Swiss upper class family conspire to do them in. Each member of the staff is carefully sketched in and it does indeed read like a fast moving movie. Perhaps it was a film script at one time, but anyway it is very funny and lovingly skirts around the gruesome murders at the heart of the story. It’s her black humour I think I find so attractive, done with such a light touch. She’s like a murderous Maggie Smith, for whom of course, she wrote the brilliant movie of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark - Jun-2014

I then found an unread paperback of a more recent 2004 novel. A surprisingly inventive tale of a not particularly happily married couple running a moving school in Switzerland, (they have to keep moving), where in Rowlands creative writing class he is challenged by the arrival of a precocious young man who is already writing a novel which, to his chagrin, is soon picked up for publishing. So this is a story of jealousy and creative envy and things might turn out very nasty indeed, but for a brilliant twist at the end which quite takes you by surprise. Mordant masterly comic writing. I love her.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck - Jun-2014

I bought a lovely signed limited first edition in London and have been saving it up. I love it. He is such a great writer I can’t believe I never read these books before. Musings on evil and in particular the struggle of Cain and Abel. With surely the most wicked female character in all of literature. What a joy to discover a classic at my age.

The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr - Jun-2014

His latest and he is a good writer but please we want Bernie Gunther and those top Nazis….

Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carever - Jun-2014

Ran out of reading and picked this up at The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle. Always dependable and interesting short stories.

Tenth of December by George Saunders - Jun-2014
The Carter of La Providence by Georges Simenon - Jun-2014

I liked this one better than…

The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien by Georges Simenon - Jun-2014

Continuing the general thriller genre read. Not mad about this one. But the virtue of Simenon is his brevity.