Category Archives: books

More Blondes

More Blondes feet in fountainIn my post on Fictional Blondes I promised that there would be another piece on More Blondes with further consideration of the phenomenon in the works of Raymond Chandler and other 20th Century masters.

So here it is.

MORE BLONDES FROM CHANDLER

More Blondes The Long GoodbyeIn 1953, Chandler wrote what was possibly his masterpiece – The Long Goodbye. The narrator is again his honourable loner private eye, Phillip Marlowe. He still battles the forces of corruption, injustice and conflicted loyalties. He is as clever, wary and tough as usual. But he is not invincible  – and this time the police arrest him for murder.

But this is a darker book than its predecessors. It is full of damaged people. Two in particular must have been very close to what Chandler felt himself to be: the self-doubting alcoholic writer, Roger Wade, and a psychologically wounded war veteran.

And it is this book, heartfelt and dangerously close to home, in which Chandler/Marlowe has a substantial digression on blondes – and it’s not for fun. Continue reading

Fictional Blondes

fictional Blonde La Dolce Vita Mastroianni and EkbergA recent lecture on La Dolce Vita started me thinking about the variety of fictional blondes I have come across in my life. For there is something special about The Blonde. She grabs our attention the moment she appears. Indeed, in twentieth century western culture she became almost an icon.

Yet at the same time she has as many aspects as a Greek goddess, positive, negative and sometimes just plain loopy. And we all know them.

Fictional Blonde“Having a blonde moment,” my friend, author Sarah Mallory, will say, as she discovers the sunglasses she has been searching for are lodged securely on the top of her head.

She’s channelling the Airhead Blonde — charming, disorganised, sometimes a little naïve, sociable, and so good-hearted that you forgive her any amount of stuff that would irritate the hell out of you in a grey-haired matron or a sultry brunette.

Forgive her and maybe even love her. We pay to go and see movies about her. That shows you! Continue reading

Medium Fiction

No, this blog is not about a new modestly priced genre for the  middle-aged, middle-gendered, middle-brow reader. This blog is about stories built around the figure of the professional medium. Because I’ve just read a cracking good one, and realised that it’s a subject I bump my nose on every few years. I don’t always like them, as you will see, but they often give me that little kick of electricity which means I never quite forget them.

Medium in All That Was LostThe Book that started this is All that Was Lost, by Alison May, published last Thursday.

The main character is, indeed, a professional medium. Very professional. One doesn’t entirely trust her but there is something oddly reassuring about her, though she clearly has some well-buried issues. She grows in stature throughout the book. Indeed, as in so many relationships, the reader alternately engages and retreats. I was 100% on her side by the end, though.

I found this a page-turner, intriguing and consistently engaging – and quite unlike anything else I have read this year. A refreshment to the jaded palate indeed. Continue reading

My First Library And What it Taught Me

writer's cat with booksThe fantastic experience of visiting the 250-year-old Leeds Library started me thinking about how my life has been marked out in libraries and, specifically, my first library. It was a small, very definitely a suburban sub-branch. But its great virtue was that it was at the end of the road. Ten minutes walk from home, tops!

And it had a visiting cat.

(No, not this one. This is my own TK. My own books too, come to think of it.)

Joining My First Library

Continue reading

Magic of a Georgian Library

The last couple of weeks I have been contemplating the magic of a Georgian Library. As a result I have been researching libraries in general and, in particular, libraries I have known intimately. There are a surprising number of them scattered through my career. My spiritual home, maybe?

Georgian Library

Grand Library at Osterley Park, not like my poor house at all!

Partly this must be due to the novel I am currently editing. It stars a distinctly down-at-heel stately home. Its library was put together in the eighteenth century on the basis of some sketches by the Adam brothers and a certain amount of DIY on the part of the servants and the cash-strapped owner. A classical frieze in the library, indeed, was constructed out of clever paint effects and paper mâché. I’m rather in love with that frieze. Continue reading

Day 13 of 12 Days of Christmas : Was It Worth It?

Day 13 calendarDay 13

It sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? Sort of the reverse of the Seventh Day, when you’re supposed to rest. More 21st century urban nightmare than traditional Christmas. (Indeed, the IMdB data base does list a move called DAY 13 filmed in 2017. But that’s about all it says.)

POST PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION REVIEW

editing sequence actionsWell, Mr True Love, would you say that you succeeded in implementing your ideas?

Did you achieve your goals?

Did the project fully solve the problem it was designed to address?

Can you take things further (further?!) to deliver bigger benefits in the future? (Yikes!) Continue reading

Day 12 of 12 Days of Christmas : 12 Drummers Drumming & Play

Day 12 drum kitIf you needed any more evidence that True Love has lost the plot Day 12 will do it.  He’s now throwing 12 drummers drumming into the mix. Assuming they enter Stage Left and advance, drumming, that sounds pretty much like a declaration of war to me, if not the start of the battle.

Of course, the recipient may be a fan of heavy metal or other modern music making. In which case the drummers presumably just roll up on a milk float, or similar, sitting in the middle of their drum kit.

Welcome new arrivals, you think? Continue reading

Day 11 of 12 Days of Christmas : 11 Pipers Piping & Ratty

By Day 11 Mr True Love has lurched from sweetly metaphorical, or at least agriculturally productive, through the dangerous combination of entertainment and aristocracy into full-blown martial mode. He’s sending eleven pipers to do his wooing business.

Day 11 Pipers pipingNow they could be playing the bagpipes. It’s the time of year for it.

In Scotland pipers are booked up years in advance for both New Year parties and Burns’ Night celebrations on (or about — because they often slip to Saturday night with its attendant recovery period) 25th January.

But eleven bagpipes? Well maybe, if you’re advancing on the field of battle. But as a token of a chap’s respect and affection? Um. Continue reading

Day 10 of 12 Days of Christmas : 10 Lords a-Leaping & Wimsey

Day 10 lordsBy Day 10, the deranged True Love is sending along an almost football team of male aristocrats engaged in unlikely gymnastics. Were I the recipient I would go away pretty sharpish, not leaving a forwarding address.

The British 1970s Christmas stamp depicting these Lords (and yesterday’s Ladies) is chilling. At least, I think so. Continue reading

Day 9 of 12 Days of Christmas : 9 Ladies Dancing & Joanna

Day 9 ladies and lordsBy Day 9, Mr True Love has gone into the entertainment business. (It is a role he will continue for the rest of the holiday.)  He presents our heroine with nine ladies dancing.

You may think, as I do, that this is an odd choice. Frankly, it sounds more like a stag do than a gift to the beloved. Surely it would have been more alluring if he’d invited the object of his affections to dance with him?

Hasn’t he seen Strictly Come Dancing, for Heaven’s sake? (That’s Dancing With the Stars,  if you’re across the Pond.) Continue reading