Monday, August 25, 2014

Mr Love and Justice by Colin MacInnes (Panther 1960)


Than a prison there is only one place more impressive to the human spirit and even more a symbol of our mortal condition: a hospital. In prison there is the allegory of sin, punishment and (in theory at any rate) redemption. In a hospital, the deeper allegory of birth, death and (occasionally) resurrection.

Friday, August 22, 2014

On Leave by Daniel Anselme (Faber and Faber Inc 1957)

"Well?" Jean Valette asked in a drawl. "Well, so when's it going to happen, then, the end of the war? When will it come?"

"Soon," Luc Giraud said slowly. "A war like this can't last long."

"Why not?" Jean Valette asked.

"Because five hundred thousand young men," Luc Giraud said, syllable by syllable, "five hundred thousand . . . well, that gets about in the country. Because half a million young men over there means a whole mass of French families are affected by the war. Ask your sister."

"Yes," Colette chipped in. "Five hundred thousand young men over there means hundreds of thousands of mothers and wives and sisters and girlfriends fearing for their sons, husbands, brothers, and lovers. And that gets around in the country."

"Well then," Jean Valette said, "you mean that the more we are over there, the more it gets around over here?"

"In one sense you are right," Luc Giraud said. "It's dialectical. The more the war affects the masses, the nearer we are to peace."

"So tell me, then," Jean Valette said in a louder voice, "how many million soldiers do we need over there to make the masses move?"

"Jean!" Madame Valette said.

"No," Luc Giraud responded calmly, "that is not what I said."

"He's doing it on purpose," Colette said.

"What am I supposed to be doing on purpose?"

"Contradicting. Contradicting just for the sake of it."

"I'm just asking a question."

"An anti-Party question!"

"Colette, cool down," Luc Giraud ordered. "Let him speak for himself."

There was a pause, and then Jean Valette asked in an uncharacteristically tentative voice, "Luc, explain what you meant . . . You have to explain . . . you have to . . . "

You could feel he was trying hard to hold something back, but you couldn't tell, as his face was hidden by shadow, if he was on the brink of tears or of an angry outburst.

Another pause. For the first time Luc Giraud seemed uncertain.

"It's for you to explain yourself," he said at last, gravely, almost solemnly.

"I think what Jean meant to say . . . " M. Valette broke in softly.

"No," Luc Giraud cut him off. "It's for him to speak, if he wants to."

Jean Valette said nothing. He had his head in his hands and was looking down.

"But what is this all about?" Lachaume asked eventually. He did not understand what was going on.

Luc Giraud, to whom the question was addressed, raised his hand as if calling a meeting to order. Then, after allowing Jean Valette another moment for his last chance, he shrugged his arms as if to say, "I give up," and smiled at Lachaume. In fact, he looked relieved, and Lachaume guessed he had as much to do with Giraud's relief as did tongue-tied Jean Valette. In his mind all these little puzzles were somehow connected to the "proposal" that Luc Giraud was going to make to him. Lachaume was still thinking, seeing and listening to everything exclusively in the light of that "proposal." All through the long and frequent pauses in that tense and awkward conversation, and when nothing had caught his eye through the window, the thought of the coming "proposal" had made his heart beat faster.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Toasted English by Marghanita Laski (The Riverside Press 1948)

It is difficult after the passage of years to recall the precise emotions with which the population of England switched on their radio sets one summer evening in 1945 and prepared to hear that the Tories had won the General Election. It is even harder to enter into the feelings of five British subjects marooned on an island in the inscrutable East awaiting news of the elected governors who were to lead the destinies of the distant nation, to which they hoped - with luck - soon to return.

They had all escaped together from Singapore. Chance had united them at the same quayside, had tumbled them into the same launch, had omitted to endow any of them with any sense of navigation. Chance had led them to the Swiss Family Robinson's island just off New Guinea; Father and Mother Robinson had long since died out, and the descendants of fritz, Ernest, Jack and Franz were running successful hotels in the Engadine, the Grindelwald, the Ticino, and one, indeed, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; but the far-seeing patriarch had so well and conveniently stocked his island before his demise at the age of one hundred and three that all amenities incumbent on comfortable living were to be found there. These included, fortunately, a store of tinned foods and a tin-opener; else, the other conveniences might have gone for nothing, for none of our party could cook.

This was composed as follows:

First, our hero, James Leigh-Smith. After reading for a Pass Degree at Oxford, James had, after some brief spells raising coffee in Brazil, sheep in Argentine, and nitrates in Chile, been sent to try his luck on an uncle's rubber plantation in Malaya. His enrolment in the local defence force had not served to stay the tragedy of 1941; nor had his knowledge of primary production processes stood him in much stead since.

Next, Martin Wetherall. Unlike James, Martin had taken a First at his university, and followed it up with a brilliant treatise on nuclear fission in the lesser molluscs. It was, then, inevitable that the exigencies of war should demand his presence in Singapore at the crucial moment, together with a party of fellow scientists all sent out at Government expense to study the effects of submarine blast on embryonic barnacle-geese.

Then Penelope Bosworth. Penelope was the eldest of the seven daughters of the Earl of Starveleigh. No one could say that she hadn't been given a fair chance. She had had her London season, her year in India, her six months in Cairo and Peking; but though her disposition was charming, her mousy appearance, exiguous wardrobe, and lack of any dowry, had so far failed to achieve results. Indeed, had it not been for the war, she would long since have been called home from the East to make way for her second sister Esmé.

Ughtred Thicknesse was descended from a cadet branch of the great Thicknesse family of Thorpnesse-in-Holdernesse. The power and plenty that had accrued to the family under the patronage of Ethelred and, later, Edward the Confessor, had long since been dissipated, and Ughtred, after a a lifetime of devoted service in Passport Control, had come to Singapore for his last post, being only three months from his retirement date when the avalanche overtook him.

None of them, even after five years on the island, knew anything of the background of Janice Brown. She was very blonde and very beautiful, and chance remarks she let fall seemed to indicate that at the time of the débâcle she had been staying at Raffles Hotel in a double room.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Repetitive Beat Generation by Steve Redhead (Rebel Inc. 2000)

G. L. I think it was Simon Frith that told me this, that when he was working with Melody Maker the editor's idea of the ideal very loyal reader was somebody (male) who stayed in a town just outside Middlesbrough who didn't have a girlfriend. This was what they looked forward to every single week, this was the highlight of their week - reading Melody Maker or NME. Most of the provinces, and the towns that surround the provinces, things like the music they take a hold. Punk was still strong for a long time up here. Acid house was still very strong up here. The Scottish hardcore scene, the happy hardcore scene, it is basically acid house what 'oi' was to punk - it's that kind of boom boom boom all the time. It's just taking the basic elements. Things like that do stick longer in the provinces. We rely more on this. We don't have the same input from friends and all that to change us. My friends who I talk with about records are very good but there's not an awful lot. It's not a matter of somebody saying 'Have you heard this great new record?' and all that sort of stuff. That doesn't happen all the time. It happens with my good friends fairly regularly but then again I'm getting the same sources as they are - through the radio, through the papers, whatever. It's not a case of people I know going to clubs and saying 'I heard this great tune at a club blah blah blah'. Again the money thing came into it. You didn't have the money to go out and see too many bands. You can also tie that in to a love of the journalists from the music press at that time. The stalwarts - the Nick Kents, the Charles Shaar Murrays, the people who came in with punk, particularly Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill and Paul Morley - a 'Manchester' man, still a big hero of mine. He could have done anything. I once sent stuff off to NME where I reviewed a couple of records. It didn't get printed. It was probably rubbish. That was just after my mother died.
Gordon Legge in conversation with Steve Redhead

Thursday, August 07, 2014

God Save The Kinks by Rob Jovanovic (Aurum Press 2013)

Raymond Douglas Davies was born 21 June 1944 and, with six older sisters to coo over him, was instantly the star of the show. The girls used to take turns walking around with him to try and get him to sleep, and would play the gramaphone to help him settle. But his position as baby of the family did not last long.

Shortly after the end of the war, Annie was pregnant again, and Ray's brother, David Russell Gordon Davies, arrived on 3 February 1947. 'Ray's probably resented me since he was three years old,' said Dave. 'I fucked it up for him. He was the baby of the family, the centre of attention for three years. Then I cam along and stole his thunder.'

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie (Hard Case Crime 2005)

The day he found out his daughter was dead, Joe Hope was at Cooper's flat watching horse racing on Channel 4. Joe's filly was a couple of lengths off the pace with less than two furlongs to go. He yawned and cupped his hand over his mouth. They'd been working late. It was early afternoon, Joe had had hardly any sleep and by now the adrenaline of the previous night had all but drained away. He was hot and tired and thinking about saying goodbye and going home.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries edited by H. Gustav Klaus (Journeyman Press 1993)

The military had taken control of the tiny station, but he hung about aimlessly, thinking to be of service to the indifferent officers. As the day waned parties of troops filed out of the village, 'pickets' the officers called them. They would be on the watch, he thought for  . . . for federals, bands of fellows like Nat Sayer, Jimmy Algood, Geoffry Field and young Chris Wrigley, and others who had gone from Wickworth. It wasn't pleasant to think of their being shot down by these crisp soldiers. Somehow they seemed too much alike, the troops and the rebel villagers. But it was no business of his, Ben Thatcher's; he was a loyal subject - never got himself mixed up with politics.
(from 'Sabotage' by H. R. Barbor)