Thursday, 16 July 2009

Buy a book today!

The crime novels I read are all reviewed on, but I thought I’d give a mention to some of the excellent books I’ve read recently that don’t come under their remit. Go buy one. Try a real bookshop, not Tesco or Asda. Don’t get me started on supermarkets selling books.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Young fella crashes his car. His car bursts into flames. He suffers badly. We’re talking hideous burns -oh – leaving him like a gargoyle (geddit?). Woman comes to visit him in hospital. She says she has visited him through the centuries each time he gets burned. She says they were once lovers in medieval Germany. He says WTF, lady? Fascinating, imaginative, compelling, loved it.

Assegai by Wilbur Smith
- Africa in the early 20th Century. Romance/ wild animals/ history/ wild animals/ some more romance. Typical Smith. A great read.

The Man In My Basement by Walter Mosely
- A guy whose life is going nowhere takes in a lodger. The lodger is willing to pay wads of cash to stay in the basement (where did they get that title?) under some VERY strange rules of his own devising. Now if I let you know that the house owner is black and the lodger is white, that gives the story a whole different dynamic, innit? Very clever, provocative... a story about power granted willingly but accepted with difficulty.

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman
– shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction – which made me think twice about buying it because I don’t hold with exclusive awards - don’t get me started. But I’m glad I ignored this compulsion. This is a true story set in Alabama, 1931. A posse of white men stop a freight train and arrest nine black youths for the fuck of it. Two girls alight from their carriage and are convinced to accuse the black boys of rape. They get caught up in the attention and oblige. The boys are convicted and given a date to be sent to the electric chair. America is divided and the subsequent court case became the kickstart to the civil right’s movement. Beautifully written and painful to read. An important book. Oh, and by the way there are times when people really suck.

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
- this is about a young girl who escapes a terrible situation in her native Nigeria only to be caught up in a British detention centre. She escapes with tragic consequences. If you are not affected by this book then you should just carve out your heart with a butter knife ‘cos you clearly don’t need it. Nuff said.

City of Thieves by David Benioff
– during the siege of Leningrad a teenager called Lev is caught looting, which is pretty much understandable when you’ve had nothing to eat for days apart from grass and shoe leather. Except the army see looting as grounds for an on- the- spot execution. Lev, doesn’t get shot but is sent on a quest with another guy the soldiers don’t want to waste a bullet on - to find a dozen eggs. The army commander is about to marry off his daughter and his wife wants to bake a cake. Only it seems that all the hens in Leningrad are dead (along with the cats/ dogs/ horses) So, Lev has a mission if he wants to save his life. You could make the mistake of thinking the search for eggs trivialises the situation – au contraire – it highlights the have’s with the have nothing and on the verge of cannabalism. Loved it. Compelling, humourous and pacy story-telling.

Killing Johnny Fry by Walter Mosely
– a second for Mosely on this list. I love his stuff. The main character , Cordell is stuck in a rut. He is forced out of said rut when he comes home from work one night to find his girlfriend (ahem, how can I say this politely?) taking it up the ass from Johnny Fry. His reaction surprises him, to say the least. He ‘s thinking murder, but he can’t settle on the actual act because his libido is running riot. This man has got serious wood. Mosely does great dialogue and great characters and he does the sex stuff pretty well too. If this was a movie and filmed accurately it would be rated XXX. Suffice to say, one of your hands might be busy while you read this. SIDEBAR – this will undoubtedly shock some people who read about gruesome murders, decapitations, dismemberment etc etc without raising an eyebrow. Whassat all about? Blood and gore you can take by the bucket but an act of lust leaves you scandalised?

Nocturne in Chrome and Sunset Yellow by Tobias Hill.
This is a book of poetry rather than a novel. The blurb says it is a “book-length love song to the fabulousness and ragged beauty of Hill’s native London.” I say, surely the copy-writer could have come up with a better word than “fabulousness”. That aside, quality stuff on offer here.

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell.
Since her father left, Ree has been forced to look after her mother and her two brothers. She finds out her father has put their house up for bail – bastard – and that the house will be sold from under them if the shit, I mean her father doesn’t turn up in court. Ree needs to find her old man, and pretty fast. Ok – I’m going to wax lyrical for a mo. This guy can write up a storm. Every page is a delight. Deserves a HUGE audience. And in the blurb, Daniel has a kickass beard. Buy it. Or I’ll come and post dog-poo through your letterbox.


  1. There are some interesting titles here, none of which I've read... I might just have to go hunt them up. I have enough dog-poo to scoop around here (Labrador Retrievers), however, so will see if I can find Winter's Bone first.


  2. Good choice, Careann. Wonderful book.

  3. Oh - and be sure to let me know what you thought of it.