The Delirium Brief


Last night I started reading The Delirium Brief, the 8th novel in the Laundry series, and after a hundred pages I couldn’t put it down until 4 this morning, when I got to the end and could go to sleep.

Things are starting to get apocalyptic in this story of Lovecraftian doom, not-even-thinly-veiled Freudian terror, and public-private finance initiatives.
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George V. Higgins – The Life And Writings

I don’t think I’ve read any cheerful biographies this year, tthoughat least this one didn’t make me weep. On my way to Bangkok today, I finished reading the biography of George V. Higgins, the "Balzac of Boston"; a man who died early, after a frustrating life filled with self-sabotage. Rather, I thought, like B.S. Johnson, whose 2004 biography, Like A Fiery Elephant, also made the case for early success damning an author to an ignominious end. Continue reading “George V. Higgins – The Life And Writings”

The Ballad Of Black Tom

I finished The Ballad Of Black Tom this evening, after putting the kids to bed. It’s a rare Lovecraftian story that has a happy ending, and the most positive we can say of this one is that the protagonist defenestrates himself, rather than having his mind eaten by eldritch horrors. Continue reading “The Ballad Of Black Tom”

Kennedy For The Defence

As holiday reading goes, George V Higgins may not be everyone’s first choice. When you’re sitting on the beach, do you want to read about rainy Boston and a succession of people swearing at one another and about one another? Well, it turns out I do, so Kennedy For The Defence, a book that feels as though it may be quite autobiographical, was the one I took with me to Western Australia. Continue reading “Kennedy For The Defence”

Split Images


I’ve been reading an old Elmore Leonard crime.novel as a palate freshener between Expanse novels. Split Images was published in 1981, and, wonder of wonders, is now available electronically in the Singapore library system, despite being as far from those things as one might imagine. Continue reading “Split Images”

Visible Misery


I’m going to begin with a massive generalisation which oversimplifies things far too much, but does at least save time, and we’re all busy, right? Here goes: Americans love visible misery, whereas British people are the exact opposite.

Examples of this: the old joke about a Brit who goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on his first week in L.A. Somebody stands up and croaks “I haven’t had a drink in 5 years.” Applause from everyone except for the Brit, who is choking and spluttering “You can’t have had to drive every night!”

Or computer games. In the 1980s, we had Chucky Egg, where you attempt to control a monochrome egg-shaped bloke wandering through a series of 2-dimensional landscapes, and he always dies. The Yanks had Oregon Trail, a text-based ‘adventure’ where your bold pioneers inevitably die of dysentery, their fate reported by a line of text inching across the screen. And people remember both of these games with affection. Maniacs.

Obvuiously, for a well functioning society you need both people who will get up and travel thousands of miles in the hope of something non-existent, and then come back to boast of their travails, and also people who will recline on their sofas going “Good God, man, what were you thinking?” You need Method actors like Dustin Hoffman, running up and down on the set of Marathon Man to get into character, just as you need louche people like Laurence Olivier, watching in bemusement and asking “why don’t you just act?” It takes all folks.

Unfortunately, in Cibola Burn, the fourth novel in The Expanse series, there’s a bit too much Oregon Trail for my liking, and not enough 8-bit egg=shaped heroes.
Continue reading “Visible Misery”