Eric Idle Online
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.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett - May-2014

Chandler’s inspiration. A short re-read. Nick and Nora Charles are a delightful couple, but boy do they drink. Hardly a page goes by without another cocktail. It’s an ok yarn and I liked the period NY milieu but I think Chandler’s prose is way better. I shall read further because I always liked Hammett.

Chandlertown by Edward Thorpe - May-2014

The Los Angeles of Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s sense of place is very fine. This is a handy guide to some of the places featured in some of the novels.

The Brasher Doubloon by Raymond Chandler - May-2014

This is a first edition in this form which is a republishing of The High Window under the film title with which they released it. It’s dated August 17 1947 from The World Publishing Company who seem to specialise in publishing books of movies.  It has yellowing paper but still a nice original cover with pictures of Gorge Montgomery and Nancy Guild. I have to say the novel itself I found disappointing. Maybe one shouldn’t binge too much….

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler - May-2014

To cheer myself up I bought a First Edition of this book from Mystery Pier Bookshop, which is a fabulous place just behind Book Soup on Sunset that sells only First Editions. This 1949 First Edition with original slip cover was a delight to read and I love the way he writes sexy, seductive, but psychotic women. Here there are three major female characters in the tale of little shy innocent Miss Nobody in from the mid-West searching for her dear missing innocent brother who has become mixed up in blackmailing a mobster. No surprise he turns up dead.

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black - May-2014

Oddly in the midst of my Chandler binge came this new Philip Marlowe detective novel under the name of Benjamin Black, which is the pen name used by John Banville for writing some rather good thrillers in the detective form. Now he turns to Chandler. It’s a difficult choice. There is no doubt Banville/Black can write anything he wants, but I do wish he wouldn’t. It’s not that he doesn’t make a reasonably good stab at writing Chandler, but he doesn’t totally get the brevity or the wit of the writing, and he flounders a little with what Chandler does effortlessly, capturing the geography and micro-climate of Forties Los Angeles. There are, of course, glaring inconsistencies, the British pub with the picture of the young Queen is from a way later LA, and there would only have been a young Queen anyway then, but these things are fine. It’s just not Chandler. It’s clever pastiche, which is dangerously close to parody. He’s a clever bugger though.

Playback by Raymond Chandler - Apr-2014

I found a nice 1958 first edition, second printing at Iliad. It’s a fine edition. I love the typeface which is uncredited and the design of the book. The thing that makes Chandler so seductive is he uses very few words to paint his scenes. Like Hemingway but less deliberately. Few adjectives. The simple word over the flash. And the wit. It’s like the wit of the Metaphysical poets in that it calls attention to itself. You are meant to notice the carefully chosen simile. The metaphor is metaphysical. In Playback  (his last) it’s still there, with the taut prose and the love for the missing lady. The flirtatious behaviour with the client. I’m not even sure what the title means. He is paid to pursue a lady. But it isn’t as good as others.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler - Apr-2014

I then read this, his first novel, which comes in fully laden, fully charged, with Philip Marlowe precisely delineated in this tale of the mad seductive sisters of the sad rich old man in the Orchidarium and Marlowe’s compulsive habit of turning down money. This is almost the signature Chandler character keynote:  the refusal to be swayed by money. And it is important in all his books so that they are about a class struggle, between the monied classes who can afford to ignore and pay off the law and the poor schmuck whom they try and manipulate but who in the end makes the difficult choices and takes the beatings and is refused to be bribed off. The Big Sleep is death of course. Born in Chicago, educated at Dulwich College England,  what are the odds Chandler would become the archetypal noir fictional writer of California, learning his trade from Hammet’s Maltese Falcon. This his first novel is an extraordinary beginning.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler - Apr-2014

This is simply a magnificent book. A classic. I had forgotten how good it is. It surmounts the genre and can be set proudly alongside any major American novels of the 20th Century. He is a master of the art of short, simple, writing. I devoured it and, as with all great books, felt saddened as the end approached. One of the best American novels of the last century.

Who’s That Lady? by Carey Harrison - Apr-2014

“This is a magnificent book. A great achievement. Wise, witty, erudite, informative, learned and honest. Carey Harrison has written a masterpiece. I can’t wait to read it again.” A superb novel from an old friend. I loved it. Please buy it and enjoy yourselves.

Dance for the Dead by Thomas Perry - Mar-2014

I was still in a holiday reading mode so I plucked from the shelf an old Thomas Perry that I was pretty certain I had read before but which I had picked up in a nice hard copy at Iliad. He didn’t let me down on re-reading this Jane Whitefield Novel. Good to have reliable authors.

Brown Dog by Jim Harrison - Mar-2014

I poured into this new Jim Harrison and I really enjoyed it. I find the sheer energy of his sentences and the rough reality of his characters makes me want to continue reading him, so he’s hard to put down. This one I felt I might have read before somewhere?? Finding the dead Indian in the cold waters of the lake seemed familiar to me, but he develops the story on one hand in a farcical manner, with Brown Dog’s attempts to shag and drink everything, and on the other Brown Dog seriously trying to protect the Indian Burial Site from the depravations of an academic lady whom he is boffing. Much booze and misunderstandings follow and he almost makes jail, but he is so cheerfully an outsider of society and he has such a keen eye on the media and the total misunderstandings of the Press and Police that I find him really enjoyable.

The World of Apples by John Cheever - Mar-2014

A wonderful later collection of short stories in a lovely first edition from 1973. As if it were possible for his stories to get better these do. I particularly loved The Geometry of Love and the eponymous The World of Apples.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Mar-2014

Having watched the third series of Sherlock for the second time in a month I was tempted to tackle the original books and found much to enjoy on I pad. They are always there for me.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck - Mar-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.


I snatched a quick Mexican Beach break at the end of February, partly burned out from six months on the Python show and partly to avoid all the Oscar bollocks that invades this town. I felt confident in my choice of books but in the event I was grateful for my I Pad to which I had to turn for some solid fall-back reading choices when others let me down…

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler - Feb-2014

Mercifully I had downloaded some Chandler a long time ago for just such an emergency. The prospect of running out of reading abroad. I had almost forgotten how great he is, and this is simply a magnificent book. A classic. I had forgotten too how good this one is. He is a master of the art of short, simple, writing. I devoured it and,  as with all great books, felt saddened as the end approached.

Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms by Tim Harris - Feb-2014

I always like to take a history book and this one I felt sure would grip me but sadly no. Writers of His Story should remember that half of it is Story. Academically history can be a series of essays about aspects of the period, but only if you’re studying it. Not if you are reading it for character, for drama and for the foibles of mankind, especially the rich and powerful, behaving in unseemly ways and suffering the consequences. Here we need wit, syphilis, mistresses, retribution, Catholicism and Revolution but it’s as dull as a Dissenters Dinner.

The Collected Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever - Feb-2014

I ploughed gratefully into these on iPad, despite the fact I have read them before in hardback. His creation of the sad world of the commuter and the small businessman and family man and the suburban drinking at the club rings so real. Shady Hill is aptly named and those that survive and thrive there and those that implode and fail there are magnificently rendered. Most people lead lives of quiet desperation, and between Rome and Shady Hill he chronicles the life of keeping up appearances, the daily drudgery of the struggle for existence. He is rightly the master of the short story.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami - Feb-2014

Fortunately I had brought a shorter back up Murakami and this one was both briefer and more enjoyable.