Too much New York

Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg: Five stars for the characters and detailed, but never boring, descriptions of New York in 1959. Harry Angel is a private detective living in the Chelsea Hotel. On the job, he drives and subways around town with soup stains on his tie. Harlem, Times Square, Coney Island, the apartment buildings, the Too much New York

Rebellion in the Backlands

In Canudos, a backlands town in the Northeastern State of Bahia, Antônio Conselheiro (Anthony the Counselor) preached against the republic. His followers, leather-clad ruffians or ‘jagungos’, terrorised the countryside. In the 1890s the Republic of Brazil was in its infancy and insecure, rumours of monarchist plots abounded, troublemakers like the Counselor needed to be dealt Rebellion in the Backlands

Devil of a State

Devil of a State, published 1961, is set in Dunia, a fictional East African state on the verge of independence. In this novel Burgess draws on his experiences as an Educational Officer in the Sultanate of Brunei where the original manuscript was set. Fearing a possible libel case, the publisher, Hutchinson, had Burgess change the Devil of a State

Wake in Fright

This is a classic tale of the civilised man from the coast going mad in the barbarous interior. John Grant is a country-town school teacher on his way back to Sydney for the summer. However, because of problems with his flight, he gets stuck for one night in the Yabba, a town based on Broken Wake in Fright

Thoughts: Netflix, The Serpent, The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis, The Hustler, The Color of Money 

I just watched the first two episodes of “The Serpent” and am happy to find another engaging Netflix series. It is somewhat based on a book called “On the Trail of the Serpent”, published in 1979. In the quest for hit shows, Netflix writers are scouring non-fiction and novels for exciting (long forgotten) tales. For Thoughts: Netflix, The Serpent, The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis, The Hustler, The Color of Money 

Confucius and Opium

The American writer Isham Cook is an eccentric who might be telling us the truth – or at least trying to. An open minded reader, who doesn’t mind having their leg pulled a bit, will find the erudite “Confucius and Opium” a rewarding read. This work contains eleven ‘book review essays’ that are in-depth, no Confucius and Opium

China Sketches: Yixing Chemical Plant

Through the taxi window tens of identical apartment buildings reflected the pink rising sun. After curving down the bridge interchange and taking a number of lefts and rights, our cab pulled over. The train station would already be crowded despite the early hour, but the long distance bus station was quiet. There were empty seats China Sketches: Yixing Chemical Plant

Bangkok Days

A great book to read during a time when it’s hard to travel. Bangkok Days investigates various nooks and crannies of the Big Mango. Osborne is “on the lam” in Bangkok a place he can live cheaply. (Still possible?) He makes this discovery while visiting to have dental work done. “The days were empty by Bangkok Days

A Dead Bat in Paraguay

If you take “A Dead Bat in Paraguay” without worrying about Roosh’s subsequent career it’s an enjoyable read – a sort of anti-travel book written by an observant and honest young man. The writing is uneven but has real potential. It’s a shame that Roosh couldn’t have written more along these lines, but books like A Dead Bat in Paraguay