Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #9

I’m getting into my Paul Auster Reading Week reading (17-23rd Feb), so here are some more 2006 capsule reviews from my master spreadsheet. Hope you enjoy them.

Jackie Brown (a.k.a. Rum Punch) by Elmore Leonard

Originally titled Rum Punch, this novel was reissued and retitled after the Tarantino film of it. If you’ve seen the film, you will recognise most of the novel, as the majority of the dialogue came straight off the page from the pen of Elmore Leonard, who is possibly the hippest American novelist ever! He blends a disparate bunch of characters into a complex roller-coaster plot involving a 44-year-old air hostess smuggling in money for an illegal arms dealer, who has a hippy beach blond girlfriend, and an ex-con bank robber henchman. Then in comes Max Cherry, a bail bondsman who falls for the hostess; he’s followed by the cops who raise the stakes further … Like the films of other Leonard novels, Get Shorty and Out of Sight, the dialogue and thoughts of the characters just leap off the page. It’s so vividly written, yet his writing style is spare. Its filmic quality lets the characters dictate the action by their thoughts, words and deeds without the need for long descriptive passages, yet you can visualise it exactly. If you enjoy this, you’ll love the other Leonard novels already mentioned, or for something more wacky (and hilarious) you could try Maximum Bob (which I loved, and was filmed for TV starring Beau Bridges). Elmore Leonard is a true original! (10/10)

[Ed: Originally published as Rum Punch in 1992, the film was released in 1997 – BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)]

King David by Alan Massie

Another of Massie’s fictional accounts of the lives of figures from ancient history, the King David of this novel is nothing like the David of the Bible. Real life in the early Christian times of the Middle East was a miasma of bloody battles, murders, intrigue and politics, with a good dose of sex thrown in; far from the sanitised religion we more commonly know. In this Israel, religion is there but largely sidelined to the political arena. We follow the young David as a shepherd, singing to the tortured soul of King Saul, dealing with Goliath, to joining Saul’s court and becoming a great military leader, and later King. On the way to the throne, he becomes Jonathan’s lover, before having a series of wives and other loves. There are similarities in this account of David with the Roman emperors Massie has written about previously. In particular, you can’t trust anyone, even your own flesh and blood in these murderous times. A thrilling history, I hope Massie is tempted to recreate the lives of more bible-greats.

[Ed: I’ve rather gone off Massie’s novels in recent years, but note that Michael Arditti has a novel out in May telling David’s story from the PoV of his wives, The Anointed. King David was originally published in 1995. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)]

ReMix by John Courtenay Grimwood

In Remix, JCG takes a classic plotline … the mother who will do anything to get her kidnapped daughter back, and hires a man who can etc… and sets it in the future. But what a future! The best concept in the whole novel is an infectious disease – but not of creatures, of metal, iron in particular. Half of the novel is set in Paris, so it’s easy to picture JCG’s dystopian vision of the future with the Eiffel Tower being eaten away. The space-based half of the novel has a flavour of Babylon 5‘s “Down-below” when gratuitous sex and violence is the norm. Far too much gratuitous sex described in the sort of detail of schoolboy wet dreams though for my liking.

[Ed: Can’t remember this one at all, but my review amused me! First published in 1999 – now o/p and collectible. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)]

The Dress Circle by Laurie Graham

A social satire about a working class couple undergoing mid-life crises. Bobs and Ba are settled into their middle age and enjoying their first grandchild. They’re comfortably off thanks to their successful chain of car repair yards, and are having fun sharing ownership of a racehorse with their best friends. Bobs has just turned 50, and their other child is leaving the nest to get married. Then Ba finds a receipt for some lingerie in one of Bob’s pockets … and this starts a whole chain of events and misunderstandings going which will test not just their own relationship to the utmost, but the rest of their family and friends too. This novel manages to blend pure comedy and pure drama in perfect balance; you’re moved yet chuckle consistently the whole way through. Highly recommended (as are Laurie Graham’s previous novels to this one). (8.5/10)

[Ed: I love Graham’s books, but have rather fallen behind, which I blogged about here. First published in 1998. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)]

Trixie Trader by Helen Dunne

Based on her Daily Telegraph column, Dunne’s novel does nothing to dispel the illusion (or is it reality?) of the excesses you believe happen in the world of stocks, shares and merchant banking. Trixie is a hard shopping, hard drinking, wannabe rich and upper class girl, looking for Mr Right. Her job is in danger as she’s been lazy of late and her boss’ ultimatum to secure a deal leads her to follow all leads. Then she falls for her new Irish colleague, Ciaran – Will she get the deal and the man? What do you think? This is a lightweight novel about the city for ‘Bridget Jones’ fans, but still a fun read.

[Ed: I definitely wouldn’t read this now! Published in 2001.]

4 thoughts on “Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #9

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    Ooh, I’m pleased to note a new Michael Arditti. I think he’s a really fascinating novelist who’s too little known. Geraldine Brooks’ novel on King David and his circle (The Secret Chord) was not great, but I imagine Arditti’s will be better. Biblically inspired stories seem to be popular this year: there’s also ones coming out from Sue Monk Kidd and Christos Tsiolkas.

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