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

I’ve kept a master spreadsheet of what I’ve read every year since 2006, two years before I started blogging. There are entries on it from 2004 too, but not a full reading record. While I’ve only kept good stats since around 2010, I did used to write capsule reviews of those pre-blog reads on the spreadsheet. No book journals for me! I’d like to share a handful of the good reads from 2006 with you today and what I said about them back then:

Polar City Blues by Katharine Kerr

Polar City Blues is that rarity in Science Fiction – a detective story that works. It has all the hallmarks of classic crime fiction – a wide range of characters, in this case many are aliens; neighbourhoods both posh and sleazy; corrupt officials and one good policeman; plus of course our intrepid heroine Lacey – a grounded spacer, and sort-of hero Mulligan – a telepath whose fleeting exposure to the mind of a murderer sets the whole thing in motion.

Good fun. I hope she writes more exploits of Lacey and Mulligan. (Pub 1991)

Wicked Speed by Annie Nightingale

Radio 1’s first woman DJ didn’t get there purely by luck, having oodles of talent honed on writing pop columns for newspapers. She was treated with respect, as almost one of the band, by many of the musicians she got to know and interviewed. She has had fun getting there though, and has continued to have fun and seek new challenges ever since. Her autobiography is refreshing and honest and shows a confident woman not afraid of hard work, yet managing a family too during times when women with kids rarely worked. It goes from the heady days of the 60s to recent times and an awful experience when she was mugged and injured in Havana.

A great read and long may she continue! (Pub 1999)

The Unkindest Cut by Joe Queenan

Journalist Joe Queenan sets out to test the fable that Roberto Rodriquez made the indie hit movie ‘El Mariachi’ for a mere $7,000. That means doing it all yourself – writing the screenplay (a murder-mystery parody); using a cast of friends and neighbours; locations are your house and those of the cast, and so on. He does find he needs some professional help though, and employs some out of work film techies. Soon the costs start to mount up, but by this time the film has become an obsession … This was a great read, exploding the indie film industry, and ironically paving the way for the ‘Blair Witch Project’.

I found the book consistently chortlesome and it should become required reading for all film school students. (Pub 1995)

Birdman by Mo Hayder

In her first novel, Mo Hayder – who in her author’s portrait looks very sweet, has created a really chilling piece of work with enough twists and red herrings along the way to keep you on tenterhooks until the denouement. She’s also written some really very nasty scenes, which rival author Lynda LaPlante will wish she’d thought of first! Her hero, DI Jack Caffery has his own problems, which run as a parallel story to that of the Birdman; he is however totally believable.

My edition of the book came with a “scarier than Thomas Harris or your money back sash” – I’d say a British equal so I won’t be asking. Brilliant. (Pub 2000)

The Dwarves of Death by Jonathan Coe

A bizarre murder is the subject of this musical thriller. William has come to London to make his fortune in the music business, but ends up a frustrated musician playing keyboards in a second-rate band who don’t appreciate his songwriting skills, and piano in cocktail lounges. This does enable him to meet the delectable but distinctly aloof Madeline though, and William thinks he’ll be in with a chance eventually with her. Then things finally start to look up when William is invited to join an avant-garde band with prospects only to witness a weird murder tableau intended for someone else!

Anyone who’s thought of trying out the music business will appreciate this novel, but its mordant humour goes beyond that to make an enjoyable read. (pub 1990)

My spreadsheet still has plenty of capsule reviews on it which I can plunder – another time!

8 thoughts on “Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them…

  1. Liz Dexter says:

    What a great idea – although I don’t think I can type out old book journal reviews which is what I’d have to do. The Annie Nightingale appeals most to me.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks. Nightingale was so ground-breaking – loved her and her book. Luckily, with the spreadsheet it’s a cut and paste job – and I’ve got plenty more!

  2. imyril says:

    Oh hooray! I love finding someone who read and loved Polar City Blues 🙂 There was a sequel – Polar City Nightmare – did you ever manage to lay hands on it?

  3. Laura says:

    This is great – I’ve been keeping reading records since I was a teenager, but have very few reviews from before I started blogging in 2011. Would love to see more of these!

  4. Café Society says:

    I love Katharine Kerr’s fantasy novels – periodically I will re-read all fifteen of them – but I’ve not tried Polar City Blues. I wonder if it is still in print. I shall have to explore.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I remember seeing her fantasy novels back in the day but never read them. I was always more of an SF fan than fantasy, although I have read plenty of the latter over the years.

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