Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Drop by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow 2014)

Bob found the dog two days after Christmas, the neighbourhood gone quiet in the cold, hungover and gas-bloated. He was coming off his regular four-to-two shift at Cousin Marv's in the Flats, Bob having worked behind the bar for the better part of two decades now. That night, the bar had been quiet. Millie took up her usual corner stool, nursing a Tom Collins and occasionally whispering to herself or pretending to watch the TV, anything to keep from going back to the seniors home on Edison Green. Cousin Marv, himself, made an appearance and hung around. He claimed to be reconciling the receipts, but mostly he sat in a corner booth in the rear, reading his racing form and texting his sister, Dottie.

Friday, September 26, 2014

32 Programmes by Dave Roberts (Bantam Press 2011)

Then suddenly, midway through the first half and after several hours of watching cars whizz past us, a Terry lookalike in a beaten-up VW slowed down and came to a halt. Seeing the red brakelights got my heart beating rapidly with excitement. Kevin, the driver, just nodded at us knowingly, and uttered the word 'karma'. We got in and Terry sat in the front, taking care of the conversation, while Dave and I took the back seat where we sat in a cloud of Brut. The driver didn't know where the ground was, which I saw as conclusive proof that most hippies don't like football, but said he'd drop us off in the city centre.

He was as good as his word, and half an hour later we were in the middle of Southampton, frantically looking around. Dave asked a woman where the football ground was and she gave us detailed directions. It was within walking distance, but we ran. It was now 3.55 by my watch so we were still in with a chance of watching the last half hour or so, as long as we could get there quickly. Eventually the floodlights came into view, and not long after that I saw a road sign saying THE DELL and heard the sound of the crowd. We arrived at the turnstiles dripping with sweat, but we'd made it. In a rare piece of good luck we didn't have to pay to get in, having missed about three quarters of the game.

Exhausted from all the physical exertion, we wearily clambered up the step terracing just as a chorus of boos was ringing out. What was going on? We arrived at the top just in time to see a lone figure in a white shirt trudging off the pitch, head bowed. The referee, Lester Shapter (Paignton), was brandishing a red card and pointing towards the tunnel. I didn't need to see the number 7 on his back to know that the dismissed player was George Best.

According to the jubilant Saints fans standing next to us, George had taken exception to the awarding of a free kick and had made his displeasure known to Mr. Shapter with an extensive rant. The only  consolation was the possibility of George being the first player ever to get a red card (the card system was in operation for the first time that day), but he was narrowly beaten to that honour by Dave Wagstaffe of Blackburn.

We had hitched all the way to Southampton to see our hero walk sulkily off the pitch. We had major hangovers, we hadn't slept, and we would now have to stand in the rain and watch an irrelevant Second Division game that, without its main attraction, none of us would have watched even if it had been played in our back garden.
(From Chapter/Programme 12 - Southampton v. Fulham, 2 October 1976)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Mavericks by Rob Steen (Mainstream Publishing 1994)

Three days later, Rodney was still floating when he took the roadshow back to Loftus Road to face Bournemouth, scoring twice in a 4-0 romp: "It was the only time in my life I've ever played drunk.' If Stock was aware of his condition, it evidently didn't bother him. 'He played so-oo well that night. I sat on the touchline and at one point I asked the referee to keep the game going for another half an hour, just to see what the big fella could do. After the game, the Bournemouth chairman, who also happened to be an FA councillor, comes up to me and says, "That Marsh, he ain't half a lucky player." "That's funny," I said, "but he's just scored his 39th goal of the season and that's more than your lot have scored this season." People can be very bitchy in football. If someone has a good player we are inclined to say "he's not very good but we could do something with him if we had him".'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Friend Maigret by Georges Simenon (Penguin Classics 1949)

When the detectives had passed the yacht, Mr Pyke spoke again, slowly, with his habitual precision.

'He's the sort of son good families hate to have. Actually you can't have many specimens in France.'

Maigret was quite taken aback, for it was the first time, since he had known him, that his colleague had expressed general ideas. Mr Pyke seemed a little embarrassed himself, as though overcome with shame.

'What makes you think we have hardly any in France?'

'I mean not of that type, exactly.'

He picked his words with great care, standing still at the end of the jetty, facing the mountains which could be seen on the mainland.

'I rather think that in your country, a boy from a good family can commit some bêtises, as you say, so as to have a good time, to enjoy himself with women or cars, or to gamble in the casino. Do your bad boys play chess? I doubt it. Do they read Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard? It's unlikely, isn't it? They only want to live their life without waiting for their inheritance.'

They leant against the wall which ran along one side of the jetty, and the calm surface of the water was occasionally troubled by a fish jumping.

'De Greef does not belong to that category of bad characters, I don't think he even wants to have money. He's almost a pure anarchist. He has revolted against everything he has known, against everything he's been taught, against his magistrate of a father and his bourgeois mother, against his home town, against the customs of his own country.'

He broke off, half-blushing.

'I beg your pardon . . . '

'Go on, please.'

'We only exchanged a few words, the two of us, but I think I have understood him, because there are a lot of young people like that in my country, in all countries, probably, where morals are very strict. That's why I said just now that one probably doesn't come across a vast number of that type in France. Here there isn't any hypocrisy. Perhaps there isn't enough.'

Was he alluding to the surroundings, the world the two of them had been plunged in since their arrival, to the Monsieur Émiles, the Charlots, the Ginettes, who lived among the others without being singled out for opprobrium?

Maigret felt a little anxious, a little piqued. Without being attacked, he was sung by an urge to defend himself.

A shopping basket of rogue prices

On this day of days, if you spot a 500ml bottle of Irn Bru in a supermarket in Manhattan you just have to buy it . . . even if it was at the eye-popping rip off price off $2.49 (plus tax).

And it wasn't even cold.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson (William Morrow 2014)

"I hear you were keen, quite a firebrand."

"Are you trying to embarrass me with my youthful politics now, Mr. Banks? What does that have to do with anything? Are you going to arrest me for being a communist forty years ago? Yes, I admit it, officer, I was a member of the Marxist Society. It was a long time ago. I was young and idealistic. Weren't you ever young and idealistic? I thought communism would solve all the world's problems. I still believe in equality, whatever you may think of me. Maybe you'd call me a champagne socialist. Isn't that the term today for rich people like me who spout on and on about inequality and social injustice? Guardian readers? I think everyone should have Veuve Clicquot rather than Freixenet, if that's what they want."

"Or a decent single-malt whisky," said Banks. "I couldn't agree more. Though I doubt the distillers and the winemakers would agree."

Lady Chalmers smiled. "Capitalist pigs." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What can I say? We were young, naive, privileged intellectuals. There were people around then with the real will and power to do things, to change things, to do it violently, if necessary, through social upheaval. I was a bit too queasy for that. They could cause serious political and social unrest. We were intellectuals, theorists and ideologists. They were activists. The front line."

"The unions?"

"Yes, for the most part. As you might remember, they were very militant back then. There was the romantic idea of the true revolutionary hero, the proud worker standing on the barricades brandishing the red flag, not the bloke you see by the roadside leaning on his shovel and having a cup of tea every time you pass by some roadworks. Establishing the true workers' state. It was a very powerful idea. Very real."

"Mostly I remember the power cuts," said Banks. "Why did Gavin Miller telephone you after all this time?"

Lady Chalmers let out another breath and said, "He wanted to touch me for some money, for old times' sake. A few hundred pounds, just to get him on his feet. Apparently he'd fallen on hard times."

Slipping Standards

465? Wow!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Iron Staircase by Georges Simenon (A Helen & Kurt Wolff Book 1953)

The first note was written in pencil, on a sheet of writing paper the size of a postcard. He did not think it necessary to put the date in full.

"Tuesday: Attack at 2:50. Duration, 35 minutes. Colic. Ate mashed potatoes at lunch."

After the word "lunch," he drew a minus sign and circled it. This meant that his wife had not eaten any of the mashed potatoes. For years she had avoided starch, for fear of putting on weight.