Harvest Season

This novel successfully captures the backpacker scene in China’s Yunnan Province in the 2000s. However, the main characters are not backpackers per se but travellers who never want to go home. The fictional setting, Shuangshan, is – I think – based on Dali, a town by the beautiful Erhai Lake. Yunnan is home to many …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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