Having forsworn television political commentary and on-line statistical analysis of the election, I have a good deal of time on my hands, and in true retro fashion, I bethought myself to read a book. My first effort was John Sandford's latest Lucas Davenport thriller, Extreme Prey. Sandford has written twenty-six Lucas Davenport novels, all with the word "prey" in the title, and I think I have read fifteen or more of them. They are all well-plotted and gripping, with two striking characteristics that distinguish them from the general run of cop novels, or procedurals, as they are sometimes called. The first is that although they are urbane and sophisticated, they have an uncommonly large number of murders in them. Most such books have one big murder, which the main character has then to solve, but in Sandford's novels, people drop like flies. The other striking characteristic is that Sandford gives Davenport really snappy dialogue, quite delightful except for the fact that everyone in the novel talks snappy dialogue, which is, when you think about it, implausible.
The main drawback of Sandford's novels [and those of everyone else, save perhaps Simenon], is that no matter how careful and restrained I am, I read them much faster than he can write them, so as I turn the last page, as I did last night, I know it will be another year before the next one.
Fortunately, since lots of people write books, the solution is to move on to another author. Guided, as I so often am, by my big sister, Barbara, I have now turned to a non-fiction work, A Primate's Memoir, A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons, by Robert M. Sapolsky. I have just read the first two sentences, and they are so delicious that I had to stop and write this blog post. Here they are:
"I joined the baboon troop during my twenty-first year. I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla."
This bodes well.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
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Have you ever read The Goat Feast by Mario Vargas Llosa? I think that you'd enjoy it.
It's about the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, narrated by a fictional woman who as a young girl was raped by Trujillo (who had the right to all the virgins) and who returns to the Dominican Republican many years later to come to terms with her childhood and with the society she grew up in. Very readable and very well researched in historical terms, as are Vargas Llosa's novels in general.
The old joke about a certain prolfic romance novelist comes to mind: She's written more books than she's read.
I've recently rediscovered (and am re-reading/re-listening) the delights of a old mystery series that is a sort of cross between a Holmesian setup and hard-boiled. Also witty. Namely, the Nero Wolfe series (by Rex Stout). The portrait of a certain strata/era (late 30s through early 70s) in NYC is a nice side-effect. E.g., the narrator is often going into a drugstore to find a phone booth. As is the way of series, some are better than others.
Alas, I have read every one of them! Also, virtually all the Agatha christie, Josephine Tey, John Dickson carr [and Carter Dickson] mysteries, as well of course as all the old Sherlock Holmes stories, and many many more. Evidence of a misspent life. :)
OK, more suggestions. There's a series set in 19th century Istanbul and the "detective" is a eunuch. Lots of historical detail (how the water system works, the fire system, etc.) plus political history. And witty. Jason Goodwin is the author.
The Lindsey Davis series set in ancient Rome are great. (each one highlights a different infra-structural detail of the Empire: water system, food system, olive oil trade, metals mining, all organized around a low-born "detective" carrying on both tasks for the Empire and with a Senator's daughter. Lots of fun.
(I don't always enjoy rereading, the Nero Wolfes stand up well, and it was to read again his take-down of Hoover.)
And the Reginald Hill series featuring Pascoe are delightful and feature a level of writing skill that's uncommon.
please fix all typos in my last post.
David, I had not heard of those. Thank you.
By far my favorite murder mysteries are the Martin Beck series by the Swedish couple Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, who, as it happens, were Marxists. I've read the whole series twice.
Ahh, yes, the Beck series. Thanks for reminding me. Makes the current crop of Scandinavian dour look silly. Brilliant series.
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