Book reviews

Last year I was in London at the same as Robert Vaughn, (the man from U.N.C.L.E.) who was there to promote his autobiography, which apparently, he had written himself. So yes, this may seem a bit tautologous to the pedants, but of course, most of the celeb books are written by ghost writers, which, I find a bit spooky. (geddit?)

Well, anyway, at the time, I was vaguely tempted to shell out nineteen quid, buy the book and meet the great man as he dutifully dedicated my copy And of course, this thought flitted through my mind, gaining traction for all of, say two seconds. And I am pleased to say, I am glad I did not buy the book because it's crap, but I have just finished a library copy. Any "Hustle" fans will be disappointed; it gets two lines in the whole rambling book. U.N.C.L.E. fans would be none the wiser either. We get gems such as "all the exotic locations were done on the studio lot at MGM". Yeah, I had figured that one out. It's a desultory, hack job that leaves you none the wiser about anything, with plodding anecdotes that go nowhere and a strange literary tick whereby he writes "I met a bloke. His name was (insert famous name here)" That and Vaughn's obsession with conspiracies. (A lot of the book goes into his theories about he assassination of Bobby Kennedy).He tells us at one point that his FBI file, retrieved under freedom of information laws, concludes that he not a security risk. And neither is he of any interest. A grade A stinker.

Not so the only work of modern fiction I have read in recent times. "The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill - she of the Speccie blog. There is not a lot I can say about this book except that when you have finished it, you will be sorry. But in a good way. It's a ostensibly a ghost story, but it is also the writing of an author who is a master of the craft. It's not D H Lawrence, or even M R James, but it delights in intertextuality; the kind that rewards those who have at least read Dickens or Conan Doyle, and yet is in no way derivative. Enough. Just read it!


denverthen said...

Great stuff.

Have you read (btw) "Ghost" by Robert Harris?

Is Sarah Brown a 1980s CIA recruit - a "sleeper" agent, even, activated in 2002 (I think that's what they call what she does)?

Couldn't be. Could it?

What larks, eh Weasel, old chap. What boody larks.

Seaman Staines said...

I'm reading Stella Rimington's 'Present Danger'.
I don't buy books in hardback and ordered it from the library ( may aswell get my council tax money's worth ).
I thought as former head of the MI5 it would be a ripping yarn full of intrigue and twisted plots.
Big mistake. Just a 2 dimensional shallow book. The hero, Liz ,is a lovestruck agent sent to N Ireland to run all the spies. She's posted there because she has the hots for an agent in London and her boss wants her out of the way. I can see why it's going pear shaped over there if this is their attitude !
There's an arms dealer who leaves trails everywhere but can't be caught. A rough diamond agent called Dave ( wonder where she got that name from - cast iron . No can't be) who goes in without backup because his boss Liz is in Paris and can't be contacted and asked for advice. Err what happened to phones, mobiles, twitter, e mail, telex, secure comms, sat phone etc ...
Liz is having a long luch with a charming French spy before meeting her mum for tea. Hardly stuck in a secret bunker in Iraq or something
I usually read a few chapters of a book then play the plots over in my head as I try to get to sleep but there's nothing to play in my head here so I have to count sheep.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Interesting, SS. I believe one of the things that inspired Stella Rimington to join the spies was "The Riddle of the Sands", more or less regarded as the first modern spy book.