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  1. It's reported that Burke Shelley, bassist and distinctively-voiced vocalist for 70s heavy rock band Budgie, has died. They made some really good albums in the 70s and the compilation Best of Budgie is well worth seeking out.
  2. Revitalising the classifieds hasn't really worked, has it? It's almost completely empty these days.
  3. Here's what I've got through in December: Anne Fadiman - Ex Libris. Eighteen little essays on books and book-related matters. So good it made me wish I could have married the author. Gareth L. Powell - Fleet of knives Gareth L. Powell - Light of impossible stars. The 2nd and 3rd parts of the Embers of War trilogy of energetic space operas. Occasional clunkiness (would someone really compare something to the size of a phone box several hundred years in the future?) but on the whole I enjoyed these. Alan Hunter - Gently mistaken. The last George Gently book, and in my view the books are much better than the TV series, which for unfathomable reasons transplanted him to the North-East from Norfolk and introduced lots of pointless colleagues. In the books he's more of a solitary Maigret-like figure. Here a man disappears after his mistress is found strangled in his flat; however Gently has to sort out the case when the fugitive is found battered to death on the Norfolk coast. Harry Stephen Keeler - The tiger snake. Clifford Carson has problems. His fiancee's father is about to be declared dead, thus missing out on a real estate fortune. His brother-in-law to be has embezzled a load of money from his employers. And he accepts a job to track down a missing tiger snake, dead or alive. Needless to say all these things are connected in a plot of completely outrageous bonkersness. Elly Griffiths - The stranger diaries. Teachers bumped off at a school which used to be the home of a Victorian ghost story writer. Enjoyable misdirection though you can spot the culprit if you keep your wits about you. A very good modern crime novel. Tove Jansson - Finn family Moomintroll. A classic revisited. Dell Shannon - Deuces wild. In this police procedural from 1975, Luis Mendoza 's own children are kidnapped. Excellent as usual. Anthony Berkeley - The Wintringham mystery. Berkeley was one of the great innovators of the detective story, both under his own name and as Francis Iles. This early effort was first published as a newspaper serial, then as a book called Cicely Disappears under the name A. Monmouth Platts. The original edition is now unbelievably scarce (I've never seen one) so this year's reprint was particularly welcome. Not top-drawer Berkeley in my opinion, but still worth reading. Karel Capek - The gardener's year. I've said before that Capek couldn't write a dull book about anything (though admittedly I haven't read the book in which he interviews Czech president Masaryk), and here he turns his attention to gardening. Gently amusing. Thelwell - Brat race. Cartoonist turns his attention to children instead of the more usual ponies. Richmal Crompton - William carries on. Wartime misadventures with the always in trouble William. Like a Wodehouse book, one of these occasionally always cheers me up. Now reading: Charlotte MacLeod - The curse of the giant hogweed. Very bizarre crime novel as the whole book appears to take place in a hallucination the main character is having in a pub in Wales. Off the wall even for her.
  4. Valis I: destruction of syntax. Illbient/ambient/hip hop/downtempo compilation assembled by Bill Laswell.
  5. Here's my November reading, not got through as many as usual though for some reason. Nicholas Bentley - The floating Dutchman. Undercover cop investigates fencing of stolen jewels (among other crimes) in dodgy London nightclub. Bentley was the son of E. C. Bentley (of clerihew fame) and is probably better known as an illustrator and cartoonist rather than as a writer, but I found this a pretty decent effort. Carolyn Weston - Rouse the demon. The third of three police procedurals featuring contrasting detectives Al Krug and Casey Kellog. Trendy psychotherapist specialising in addiction battered to death, with ex-junkies the obvious suspects. Or is there more to it? Apparently her books inspired the TV series Streets of San Francisco (remember that?). John Sherwood - Green trigger fingers. Gardener Celia Grant unearths a corpse in the flower bed. Cosy village mystery with a horticultural flavour that I rather enjoyed. Dreadful title though. John Sherwood - Bones gather no moss. Celia Grant recommends an acquaintance for the job of cataloguing some botanical drawings in a French chateau, but then goes to investigate when the woman is killed. Didn't think this one was quite as good as the last. Eric Wright - A single death. Toronto cop Charlie Salter investigates the death of a woman looking for love in the singles market. Good. Richard Osman - The man who died twice. It's entertainingly written as you might expect, but if you thought the first one was pretty far-fetched, this one is even more so. Comfort reading really, like comfort food - the literary equivalent of a cup of tea and a nice sit down. Gareth L. Powell - Embers of war. Sentient starship Trouble Dog is sent to rescue survivors when a ship attacked at a planet-sized artefact called The Brain. Excellent fast-moving space opera by Bristol-base SF writer Powell; first of a trilogy.
  6. Didn't see any real need to give the role to a woman, but having done it, they could at least have given her something better to work with as a script. Leaving aside all the woke rubbish like the one about the division of India, all she does in every episode is witter. It was also a mistake having so many companions. Maybe things will improve when Russell Davies is back in charge, though it will depend on who the lead role goes to.
  7. Definitely Chesterfield on a Thursday is the best locally. Leek on Saturdays isn't bad either, or at least it wasn't before the pandemic; haven't been since yet so everything might have changed now.
  8. Here's what I've been delving into in October - the usual mix of crime old & new and a bit of science fiction/fantasy. Dell Shannon - Rain with violence. In this 1969 entry in the Luis Mendoza series of police procedurals, the squad tackle several murders and the disappearance of an au pair. Good as usual. Dell Shannon - The ringer. This one's from 1971, and one of Mendoza's colleagues is accused of being the brains behind a car theft racket; it's left to his policeman girlfriend to work out why. Robert B. Parker - Family honor. The first in the Sunny Randall series, in which she tracks down a teenage runaway and takes on some Boston mobsters with the help of her ex-husband. Typically Parkerian. Gene Wolfe - In Green's jungles. The second volume of the Short Sun trilogy; protagonist Horn relates his time on the planet Green fighting the vampiric alien inhumi. Wolfe's never an easy read and it's a lot more complex and non-linear than that suggests. Dorothy L. Sayers - Strong poison. Harriet Vane is on trial for poisoning her ex-lover with arsenic. Lord Peter Wimsey doesn't think she did it, partly because he's fallen in love with her. Another excellent one in this series. Martin Edwards - Mortmain Hall. The second in the Rachel Savernake series where Edwards tries to marry thriller and Golden Age detective story, largely successfully. Recommended, and you can buy it in The Works pretty cheaply at the moment if you fancy giving it a go. Simon Brett - The murder in the museum. Managed to find another of these I hadn't read. Middle aged sleuths Carole & Jude investigate when a corpse is unearthed at a writer's house, now a museum (not surprisingly). One of the better ones, I think. Joyce Porter - Dover beats the band. Scotland Yard's laziest, fattest and most obnoxious detective, Wilfred Dover, investigates a corpse in a municipal rubbish tip, in his own half-hearted bungling way. Like all of Porter's books, amusingly entertaining. Now reading: Gene Wolfe - Return to the Whorl. The final part of the Short Sun trilogy. Will Horn find his way back to the generation starship he grew up on? Will anything be resolved? Quite possibly not but somehow it doesn't seem to make it any less worthwhile.
  9. Here's my round-up for September. Some old, some new, mainly crime but one or two other things as well. Harry Stephen Keeler - The Crilly Court mystery. Reporter Jimmie Kentland gets a tip off about a murder in a junk shop in Crilly Court. So far so normal but then it takes off into a plot of typical Keeler bonkers-ness, not least involving a portrait of a man from Saturn and there's even a science fiction story shoehorned into the middle for no obvious reason. An experience not to be forgotten. Dorothy L. Sayers - The unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Old General Fentiman expires in a chair at said club. Lord Peter Winsey wants to know when and uncovers more than he bargained for. Quite simply a delight from start to finish. R. T. Fishall - The Twitmarsh file. From 1985, an amusing look at the actions of loony left councils and bureaucrats. Trouble is, what was loony left then is completely mainstream now... Holly Roth - The Content assignment. Terrant falls in love with a woman in post-war Berlin and tries to track her down years later, but is obstructed by the authorities at every turn. More of a spy thriller than a detective story but OK. Jack Vance - Trullion: Alastor 2262. On the watery planet Trullion, typical Vance hero Glinnes Hulden returns home after ten years to find that his brother has sold off the family assets. Can he get them back, and can he do it through the game of hussade (which definitely would be described as problematic by the Me-Too generation!). Needless to say, yes. Douglas Coupland - Shampoo planet. The only early Coupland I hadn't read, and it's like the others: nothing much happens and yet it's insanely readable. He could write the phone book and I'd probably still read it. Anthony Horowitz - A line to kill. The third in this series in which a writer called Anthony Horowitz is shadowing a detective called Daniel Hawthorne. Here they are invited to a writers' convention on Alderney, during which the obnoxious organiser is bumped off. Excellent. Belinda Bauer - Exit. Pensioner Felix Pink helps people kill themselves. But on his latest assignment, he helps the wrong person. Another excellent book by Bauer, though occasionally the actions of the protagonist did seem rather out of character. Robert B. Parker - Widow's walk. Finally managed to find a copy of one of the Spenser series I was missing. Dumb blonde Mary Smith's husband Nathan is shot dead while she watches TV. Did she do it? Jan Stewer - Ole Biskit. In the 1920s, a man from the West Country buys a car and learns to drive it. Albert Coles adopted the pen-name Jan Stewer (from the song Widecombe Fair) for his gently humorous tales written in Devon dialect which were very popular in the inter-war years. Probably completely incomprehensible to anybody from the North. Now reading: John Scalzi - Head on. The sequel to Lock In that I read last month, but I've only just started it.
  10. A sad loss. Always released something interesting, whether as Cabaret Voltaire of any of the seemingly hundreds of aliases he used.
  11. Here's my August round-up with some really good ones in amongst them. Robert Thorogood - The Marlow murder club. While swimming in the river, sprightly pensioner Judith Potts hears her neighbour being murdered and decides to investigate, assisted by the vicar's wife and a local dog-walker. I really enjoyed this one up until the final solution which suffered from Highsmithian improbability. It had the misfortune to come out at the same time as the similarly titled Richard Osman book but well worth seeking out in its own right. He is of course the man behind the Death in Paradise TV series. Jenny Randles - The Pennine UFO mystery. Strange goings on in the Todmorden area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Supposedly factual - make of it what you will. Hulbert Footner - Easy to kill. Old men in Newport, Rhode Island are being threatened and if they don't pay up, seemingly frightened to death. Madame Storey and her sidekick Bella Brickley are on the case. Quite thriller-y rather than detective-y but not bad. Martin Edwards - Gallows Court. Edwards' attempt to write a cross between a modern thriller and a Golden Age detective story. Reporter Jacob Flint investigates a clutch of murders, all of which seem to lead back to the mysterious Rachel Savernake. Very good. Mrs. Victor Bruce - The Peregrinations of Penelope. A 1920s flapper tries her hand at motoring, flying a plane, speedboating etc. In a striking example of the phrase 'Write what you know', Mrs Bruce herself was a famous motor racing driver, aviator, speedboat racer etc. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs_Victor_Bruce). Gently amusing. Dorothy L. Sayers - Unnatural death. Lord Peter Wimsey investigates the possible poisoning of a pensioner. Excellent. Read it now before it gets cancelled for racism, anti-Semitism etc. Agatha Christie - Cards on the table. While his eight dinner guests are playing bridge, Mr Shaitana is polished off with a stiletto through the heart. Four of the guests are possibly murderers, four of them are sleuths, including Hercule Poirot. Excellent. Read it now before it gets cancelled for racism etc. Jack Vance - Alastor: Marune 993. Typical Vance hero Pardero is found at a spaceport with complete amnesia. Can he recover and fulfil his destiny as a Kaiark of the Rhune clan? You bet. As enjoyable as all other Vance novels. Harry Stephen Keeler - The voice of the seven sparrows. Author of some of the most bizarre mysteries ever, Keeler was (in)famous for his webwork plotting system (if you want to know how he did it, just download the document on this page: https://site.xavier.edu/polt/keeler/onwebwork.html). This was his first book so the plot wasn't quite as convoluted as later ones, but is still completely bonkers (and impossible to summarise). And if you think the Sayers and Christie are racist, you really won't like this one. John Scalzi - Lock in. A viral pandemic has left 1% of the population completely paralysed. Now, about 20 years later, they interact with the world through robotic bodies or by taking over the bodies of certain others, called Integrators. But now someone has found a way to use these arrangements to commit murder. A somewhat more serious work by Scalzi, with the usual wisecracking toned down a bit. Very good. Now reading: Henry Wade - Heir presumptive. Eustace Hendel finds himself nearly in a position to inherit a peerage and lots of money, if he can only bump off his cousin. Excellent so far.
  12. Looks like both Sheffield teams have carried on where they left off.
  13. It was on, and I went, but it was a rather disappointing turn out of sellers.
  14. Dreadful news. Great band and they were obviously good mates too because not many bands keep the same line up for 50 years. RIP Dusty.
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