An Interview with Richard Burgin
Richard Burgin: Well, next to not having more children, as I only have one, the biggest regret of my life is that I didn’t go into music, study and pursue it seriously, so I have to begin with that. I never studied music, except when I was very young. I played the piano with my aunt, who was my mother’s sister -- she had a number of sisters who were also professional musicians. I studied with my mother, too. One of my earliest childhood memories was crying because I wanted to go out and play, and not practice the piano. My parents were both kind of liberal softies; they gave in and I never studied piano again. Everything I do in music is by ear; I have no training whatsoever.
AM: What kind of teacher was your mother?
RB: She was a perfectionist. It was probably a big mistake to study with her. I was 6 or 7 years old when I stopped, and my main memory was her perfectionism. That decision really shaped the rest of my life, because I’ve always loved music more than literature. Maybe this is overstating the point, but it’s a little like being a person who feels they’ve been born with the wrong gender. I’ve had what success I’ve had as a writer, but have always yearned to be a professional musician. That was the life I didn’t live, because of the decision to stop studying the piano and other psychological factors. When I got older I made a few attempts to study, but it was too late and not psychologically possible. So you know, it’s one of those road not taken things.
AM: Can you tell me a little about the music you compose, and the composers or pieces of music you love the most?
RB: I have written over one hundred songs and pieces, and I have self-produced four CDs and been paid for doing two others.
For the Ontario Review Press, Joyce Carol Oates wanted to have a CD of my songs as part of a book of mine, so that was kind of a thrill for me (I had been sending her tapes of my piano pieces for awhile). The book consisted of twenty stories and twenty songs, with a CD. It was called The Identity Club: New and Selected Stories and Songs. That was the first time I was ever paid for my music. And then I became friendly with Gloria Vanderbilt, and she asked me to write a song she produced to help promote a doll she designed, and she appeared with me on the Home Shopping Network to sell the doll, so I wrote the song for that. Recently, I’ve done more pop music, heavily influenced by jazz and classical. My 2008 CD, The Trouble With Love, got a nice response, and a couple of good reviews. So I have done probably a hundredth of what I could have done had I ever studied. I add that to make myself seem not so pathetic, which I have a knack for doing, as anyone who knows me knows.
AM: It’s part of your charm.
RB: In classical music, my favorites, besides the usual Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, are Stravinsky and Mahler. One of the great musical experiences of my life was seeing my father conduct Mahler’s Second Symphony. He had a great success with it at Tanglewood [Music Center], and my sister was singing in the chorus. Also Das Lied von der Erde, his fourth symphony, and his uncompleted tenth are all profound musical experiences, among the great works of art of all time.
To me, Stravinsky is the greatest composer of the 20th century; he seemingly never makes an aesthetic mistake. He has so much wit and charm in every line that he writes. I love everything he wrote from Le Sacre du Printemps to the chamber music, the violin concerto . . . I love all of his periods. He’s kind of like Picasso; I associate the two in my mind. And like Picasso, he could write in any style that he wanted. I love Prokofiev, too. Maybe he’s not a great composer with a capital G, but he’s written some of the most heart-breakingly beautiful melodies ever.
Among more contemporary composers, I like George Crumb, some of Phil Glass, and Harry Partch, so I’m pretty eclectic in my tastes. In jazz, Bill Evans is my favorite pianist. I wrote a little essay about him that was in a book called A Concert I’ll Never Forget, and then it got reprinted in a reader of my work that came out in France.
AM: What is it about Evans? What did he do, that no one else had done?
RB: I think he brought a kind of lyricism and introspection, a whole range of emotions to jazz, as well as a softness . . . he became more beautiful, more dramatic, the softer he played. He had a great ear for harmony. He’s strong rhythmically and strong melodically, but he’s a flat out genius harmonically. He brought Impressionism to jazz, if you will; I think his music can easily hold its own with the piano music of Debussy or Ravel. He’s kind of the Chopin of jazz. He got criticized a lot for being so soft, so introspective, but that’s my favorite Evans. His style evolved and he became more openly expressive in the latter part of his too-short life, but I still prefer the Evans of Live at the Village Vanguard 1961 than the Evans of the late 70s, when he was trying to be a little bit more crowd friendly.
AM: Do you think that’s a temptation for any artist, to play to the crowd? Or is it a career move that’s foisted upon them?
RB: I think in the case of Evans, he wasn’t doing it to help himself commercially. I think he had incredible integrity as a musician. I think he tried to do it for aesthetic reasons -- he came to agree or wanted to respond to his critics for aesthetic reasons. It’s not like he abandoned lyricism completely, by any stretch, but he became more extroverted in his playing. And sometimes that is a strength that is refreshing. He was adventuresome; he was always trying different things, even though his style was recognizable throughout his career. So it’s a subtle thing I’m describing – the move to a more extroverted style.
AM: Do you think that having absorbed music in your household, and being a music lover all your life, has affected you as a writer? Or maybe I’m just going for the ear here. Has your writerly ear been helped or influenced by music?
RB: It’s possible. It’s hard to know. I’m a little wary of connecting those two arts because I think of them so differently. But I will say this: the plot of my first novel, Ghost Quartet, concerns a famous Bernstein-like composer, and it takes place in Juilliard and New York City, and also at Tanglewood [the Boston Symphony’s summer home]. I obviously couldn’t have written that book in any authentic way if I hadn’t come from a musical family and spent the first 16 summers of my life at Tanglewood and lived in New York, known so many performing musicians and heard so many stories about them from my parents.
AM: I really enjoyed that novel. I recognized the people and the situations. It was spot on. And beautifully written.
RB: Thank you. So music definitely played a role in that particular book, and in other work, where I’ve made references to musicians. I’m thinking of this story called “Caesar,” the first story in my last book of stories, Shadow Traffic. Caesar is talking about Ravel and Debussy to the cab driver. But in terms of actually influencing my style of writing, I don’t know if it does or not.
AM: Let’s move to writers, then. Who are your models, the authors you admire the most or have taken the most from? And let me pair that with another question, and go where you want to go with it. You mentioned in the Huffington Post interview last year that the reading experience is neglected in MFA programs.
RB: Did I really say that?
AM: Yes you did!
RB: That’s my feeling, but I have to qualify that by saying I have never been in an MFA program, except when I’ve visited to give readings or lectures. I don’t really have first-hand knowledge, but it strikes me from talking to MFA graduates, that most of what they’re reading is other students’ work, and they don’t read many other authors as part of their program. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s changed, I don’t know. But I remember some years ago in New York, having lunch with a fiction editor who had the power to acquire books for Simon and Schuster, and we got into a discussion which evolved into an argument about this topic, and I asked her, “Have you read anything by Kafka?” And she said no. “By Faulkner?” No. And I said, “How can you judge people’s work if you haven’t read the people who have influenced their work? It would be like a curator for a gallery having never seen Van Gogh or Rembrandt. And she said, “You don’t need to have that background in literature, you just need to know what will sell to the demographics the company is aiming at.” I get the feeling -- and maybe I’m wrong, that MFA students are mostly reading each other’s work, and stories that get published in The New Yorker. They’re not reading people like Celine, Beckett, or Bernhard, for example.
When you were an MFA student, was that part of the curriculum? Did they have you read?
AM: Yes, they did. In the writing workshops at the University of Houston there were assigned readings along with the student work. This is the way my colleagues and I run workshops at UNT. I think most of us teach classics as well as contemporary writers. It works -- though, if I ask a creative nonfiction workshop to read Seneca, some students balk.
What about the writers who have influenced you most?
RB: Quite a number, of course. I’d say the writers who’ve had the most influence aren’t necessarily the writers who I think are the greatest. They don’t always coincide. For example, I don’t think Shakespeare has influenced me in any way, thought I wouldn’t deny his greatness. So bearing that in mind: I think Tolstoy is one of the greatest fiction writers, but I think I’ve been much more influenced by Dostoevsky.
AM: In what way?
RB: In spirit. In my case, I think I’m most influenced by people I have a psychological or emotional connection to, and I think I’m closer to Dostoevsky’s type of soul than Tolstoy’s -- even though I think Tolstoy’s a greater writer.
It’s why I identify more with Mahler than Mozart, though I think Mozart’s a greater composer.
AM: Can you describe what draws you to Dostoevsky?
RB: He’s a master of showing the ambivalence of people, their excessive pride. I’m thinking of the Underground Man, which became a prototype for the monologue as a form. So many monologists have come from Notes From the Underground alone. Everyone from Camus, (The Stranger and The Fall) to one of my very favorite writers, the much-neglected Austrian writer, Thomas Bernhard.
AM: I’ve not read him.
RB: Not many people in America have. He, in turn, was influenced by Notes From the Underground, especially in his novella Concrete (1982), which I recommend as a good place to start reading Bernhard. You can read it in an hour and a half.
So, because I used to write a lot of first-person monologue-type works of fiction, I was influenced by Dostoevsky. But also, he was a master of a frankly neurotic psychology, a master of understanding it. So few American writers have any ideas about the inner world at all. Everything is experienced through what Philip Rahv called the cult of experience. To Dostoevsky, ideas were as real as his characters, and he knew how to dramatize ideas, especially in Crime and Punishment but also in The Brothers Karamazov, in the grand inquisitor section. Ideas were of real consequence, and were part of his literary landscape. That has influenced me a lot, because I like ideas as a component of fiction.
And there are other writers who influenced me, too: Faulkner, Kafka, Borges.
AM: You said American writers are not as interested in ideas as, say, European writers. Why do you think that’s so?
RB: We don’t have a philosophical tradition or much respect or interest in teaching philosophy in this country. I don’t think many people in MFA programs have read The Critique of Pure Reason by Kant, or even The Interpretation of Dreams by Freud, and those are two of the most important books for forming my conception of human reality.
I don’t think Americans find ideas very saleable or sexy or whatever you want to call it. They’re either dismissed as elitist nonsense, or just not helpful in selling a book.
AM: So it all comes down to mercantile considerations?
RB: It’s a vicious circle. So few people write books in which ideas play an important part, and when editors get one, they don’t know what to make of it. I’m guessing they dismiss it as boring, unnecessary, beside the point, not part of a plot. Ideas are not an important dimension, not looked for or valued. So if they’re not valued, people aren’t writing about them, and if someone does write a work of ideas, it’s not going to get very far.
AM: We hear editors choose the kinds of books they read, themselves. Perhaps they’re in a world some of us don’t occupy . . . ?
RB: Every now and then it amazes me that Borges published to the extent he did. It was kind of a perfect storm of circumstances, including the dawn of psychedelics, and people looked at his stories as kind of psychedelic. He was the first writer since Dante to write about infinity -- to focus on astonishment at the universe itself. It’s very hard to write about those feelings, and he was able to find metaphors to partially express the inexpressible.
AM: As a teacher, would you speak about the consequences, for a writer, of a thin reading background?
RB: I don’t know if I’m prepared the answer that, because I don’t feel I’ve read widely or deeply, myself. There are some things I’m proud of having read, like the complete Remembrance of Things Past, because Proust is one of my very favorite writers. But I have many big gaps in my own reading background. I don’t know. I think it’s a mysterious question, why some people are able to write better, more movingly, more deeply than others. I don’t think it can be traced, necessarily, to how many books a person has read. I think the best-read person in the world might not be able to write one single interesting paragraph.
I guess what it comes down to is my belief that talent is innate and genetic, more than anything else. I know this goes against what a lot of people think: that you can learn how to be an artist by going to an MFA program. But I don’t believe that. I think you can improve your skills, and you might get inspired or motivated by the work of other people, or by contact with teachers, but can talent be taught? Absolutely not. If that were true, we would have many more Beethovens and Picassos and Flannery O’Connors and James Joyces than exist!
AM: I’m right with you on that.
Back to reading, if you don’t mind. I’m aware of how necessary it is to slow down one’s reading process, to absorb any great work. Students often whip through stuff just in time for class. Would you speak a little about the time, or the speed with which one reads?
RB: I could never read Remembrance of Things Past in its entirety now. I just wouldn’t have the energy. It’s something I did in my early 30s.
I’m a single parent; my first allegiance, first wave of energy, goes toward my son. He’s number one in my life. Then there is my own work, and reading for Boulevard, so there isn’t much time or energy left to read books. That makes me sound like an ignoramus, but it’s been one of the realities of my life, the last few years.
AM: I think we all fight for time.
RB: To be honest, I love music more. I’d much rather listen to music than read.
AM: Ha! Me, too.
Please tell me about your new book, Hide Island. It consists of a novella and nine stories. Is there a general theme, or are the stories more discrete?
RB: I’ve never done a book of linked stories, or one where there’s an overarching theme that connects everything. Some of these stories were written years ago, some were written in the last year. The only thing I try to do in a collection is to find a balance – so a dark story is followed by a more optimistic one, or a story in which the protagonist is male is followed by one from a female point of view.
In this case, I begin the collection as many people do with what I think is one of the strongest stories -- a story called “Atlantis,” which appeared in the anthology New Jersey Noir, edited by Joyce Carol Oates.
The novella, called the The Memory Center, is a long story. It’s kind of a sequel to my story “Memo and Oblivion,” which was in my last published book Shadow Traffic (Johns Hopkins). “Memo and Oblivion” was set in a futuristic New York City and deals with two rival drug organizations, one devoted to a drug called Memo, which can increase memory exponentially, but has some ironic consequences. (We may think we want to remember certain things, but other things we don’t want to remember.) Some who took it went into depression, or even committed suicide. Oblivion is the name of the other drug; it allows people to forget the past, and the details of their life. The protagonist gets caught between the two rival organizations, doing undercover work. So -- The Memory Center deals with some of the characters and themes of “Memo and Oblivion,” and an attempt by a bizarre and tortured doctor to surgically create a situation of memory selection -- where you can eliminate some memories and keep others. It’s suspenseful and there’s a love story and it tries to deal with some ideas about memory and identity.
AM: It sounds like you’re driven by a big idea here.
RB: A number of times I’ve created stories about organizations like The Identity Club, where people dress like, talk like, and try to live out the lives and deaths of artists they admire. They’re obsessed with and try to “become” them. That was one of my most successful stories in terms of reader response. I even got contacted by Paramount Studios. There was a close call – it almost got made into a movie, but it didn’t happen. It was reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories, and The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction. That story dealt with ideas.
AM: Is that how a story might begin and evolve? You have a particular idea you want to turn over and over, and fiction is right the medium for it?
RB: What happens is that I’ll see or feel something -- it might just be the expression on someone’s face as they get into a car, or a feeling I’ll get walking down the street, looking at someone. And that image or emotion, or the two of them combined, will trigger something in me unconsciously, from my own life. And maybe that’s how many of my stories begin. Something in the outside world triggers something in my unconscious.
AM: Your history with Boulevard is laid out elsewhere, but I haven’t heard you speak about your motivation for starting the journal. Would you talk about that?
RB: I like to make things, in general. And to a degree -- not as much as writing or composing, certainly -- making a literary magazine is a creative endeavor. I‘ve devoted my working life to making different things, so one impulse was simply the desire to make a magazine.
I think the immediate impetus was a conversation with one of the editors of a literary magazine and in the course of it, I found out how relatively inexpensive it cost to do. This conversation took place 30 years ago, of course.
So once I found out it was economically feasible, as long as you had some source of regular money, or some start-up money, then I started thinking about doing it There was also, frankly, a practical reason. I knew two things at that point: that I was going to teach as a way of supporting myself, and also that I was never going to get a PhD. I just wasn’t the scholar type. I wasn’t motivated in that direction. I actually loathed graduate school at Columbia, where I went. Some of it was my fault, too, but that’s another subject.
And so I figured that to get any kind of college job without a PhD – I didn’t even dream about a tenure-track job at that time – I would need to publish more than my peers, so starting a journal had a practical purpose. This could help me in academia, and it kind of proved to be true. Those were my practical and aesthetic reasons for starting Boulevard.
AM: Where did the name Boulevard come from?
RB: If I tried to get the exact details, I’d probably make a mistake. The journal was incorporated in 1984 in New York, by a small group of writer-editor aspirants. I think I actually suggested the title Boulevard. We didn’t want to have a Greek mythological title like Antaeus. We just wanted a one-word title that wouldn’t be embarrassing or too arcane, and would stick in the mind. At the same time we wanted to suggest something sort of expansive, maybe a little elegant. We had a commitment to publishing international writers, too. Boulevard implies the central part of a city, the wide expansive part where different streets meet. It seemed to meet all the criteria.
AM: And the rest is history – an extraordinary run that continues. Richard, thanks for speaking with me, and hearty congratulations on the publication of Hide Island.
'MICRO' BOOK REVIEWS A-Z
Quickie reviews of books read, mostly enjoyed, but not always...by your venerable CB&M editor.
ALSO listed by GENRE, A to Z
Also see BEST BOOK, 'THUMBNAIL'REVIEWSand REGULAR REVIEWSwhich preceded this page.
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia.
Updated 20th August, 2013.
MICRO REVIEWS (AUDIO)Talking books (See the BONY page for Upfield reviews.)
ALDISS, Brian: THE EIGHTY-MINUTE HOUR (1974) Peculiar; I gave up at the end of chapter 1. (JT 11.07)
ALLINGHAM, Margery: THE MYSTERIOUS MR CAMPION(omnibus, 1963) Contains "The Case of the Late Pig" - good, "Dancers in Mourning" - excellent, "The Tiger in the Smoke - I gave up; very confusing!, and "On Christmas Day in the Morning". Recommended if you've watched the Campion TV series, and want more, the first story being the only one filmed. (JT 4.10)
ASHTON, Marvin: PEOPLE OF ASA (1953)English pocket pulp from Curtis Books; invasion from within Earth, sexist, crudely developed but for all that, interesting and amusing story worth a read! (JT 4.09)
ASIMOV, Isaac: BUY JUPITER and OTHER STORIES (1975)24 short stories from the classic SF author, not all brilliant as he admits but mostly entertaining. More interesting are his anecdotes, so recommended. (JT 10.07)
AVERY, Harold: A CLOSE FINISH and OTHER SCHOOL STORIES (1934)A collection of short stories, all amusing and entertaining. Recommended to all school story readers, young and old. (JT 12.08)
AVERY, Harold: ALL PLAY AND NO WORK (1901)Excellent school story set at Rudwick Grammar School; much humour with interesting characters. Recommended to all school story fans. (JT 10.06)
AVERY, Harold: FRANK'S FIRST TERM (1896)Entertaining school story set at Stonefield written in this author's brotherly manner, perhaps a little too "preachy" for some readers, but I found it a treat. Frank bears similarities to Frank Nugent at Greyfriars. Highly recommended. (JT 12.06)
AVERY, Harold: PLAY THE GAME (1906) Well over 300 pages, this story set at Westacres School, embodies a seemingly simple plot, surrounded by a mystery which enthralls the reader right through to the final chapter. As always, a thorough good read from one of the greatest school story authors. (JT 1.09)
BALL, Vincent: BUCK JONES, WHERE ARE YOU? (1996) Refreshing biography by a Wee Waa-born chappy who travelled the world trying his hand at many jobs, finally becoming an actor's actor, well known to those in the business if not among the general public. Instilled with a unique ability to recall the past and write with the heart of a boy, when a boy. The best Aussie bio I've had the privilege to read in many a year. Highly recommended. (JT 10.10)
BALLARD, J G: THE VOICES OF TIME (1963, 85)Short SF stories which seem to improves as you move through the book. The best are brilliant, others less so. (JT 6.09)
BENFORD, Gregory: TIMESCAPE (1980) Long, complex but ultimately rewarding novel dealing with scientists three decades apart, one group trying to warn others of what disaster lays ahead; a foretelling of global warming. Convincing, chilling and reflective; an amazing achievement and perhaps a masterpiece. Thoroughly recommended but not for the average reader; it took me a month to read! (JT 7.08)
BERLITZ, Charles: THE DRAGON'S TRIANGLE (1989)Situated in an area bound by Yokohama, Guam and the Mariana Is, this part of the Pacific has swallowed numerous aircraft and ships. Here are the facts, skillfully outlined by the author of "The Bermuda Triangle".(JT 1.11)
BOYLAN, Eustace: THE HEART OF THE SCHOOL (1920)Genuine Australian Catholic college setting, Xavier in Kew, Victoria, gives this fine story substance and interest. Almost 400 pages in length, interest never flags due to the excellent writing style. This isn't really a children's book and the occasional religious references may give cause for reflection and uneasiness on the part of some readers. The first story I've ever read which successfully explains the intricacies of both Australian Rules Football and the Catholic faith! Recommended. (JT 8.07)
BRADBURY, Ray: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1950, 79 illust. Ian Miller) A classic yet unique SF series of tales woven together by a master storyteller; a "must read" for everyone. Top recommendation. (JT 9.09)
BRESLER, Fenton: THE MYSTERY OF GEORGES SIMENON (1983)Annoyingly confusing bio which took months to plough through; only for keen fans of Maigret's author. (JT 9.05)
BRIDGES, T C, and TILTMAN, H H: HEROES OF MODERN ADVENTURE (1927)19 tales of exploration, including Amundsen, Lady Brown, Etherton, Evans, Rosita Forbes, Gowen, Grenfell, Hedges, Kearton, Pocock, Stefansson, Michael Terry, Treatt and Lindberg, with 32 b/w photos. Concise, well-written and entertaining stories which will encourage readers to search out lengthier biographies on the names within. Recommended. (JT 9.11)
BRODSKY, Isadore: THE STREETS OF SYDNEY (1962) History of Sydney's streets written in a mildly peculiar style, useful though! (JT 10.05)
BROWN, Fredric: NIGHT OF THE JABBERWOCK (1950) Amusing mystery/crime/whodunnit with overtones of 'Alice'. Keeps you guessing. From the brilliant author of 'What Mad Universe'. Recommended. (JT 11.06)
BRUNNER, John: AGE OF MIRACLES (1973)Satisfying SF story; aliens arrive on earth, destroy all nuclear weapons without any human contact, governments fall, are the alien 'cities' really that, or something else? Recommended. (JT 11.07)
BRUNNER, John: THE DREAMING EARTH (1963, 72) A future overpopulated planet, a mysterious narcotic, people disappearing, our hero working for the United Nations hasn't a clue! Engrossing if depressing. (JT 11.07)
BRUNNER, John: THE SHEEP LOOK UP (1974)An almost-accurate forecast of today's polluted Earth; I gave up after 52 pages as the narrative tends to jump from one character to another, and back again. (JT 5.08)
BURGESS, Douglas H. , Jnr: SEIZE THE TRIDENT (2005)"The race for superliner supremacy and how it altered the Great War" pretty much explains this lengthy book, which covers the British and German race to cross the Atlantic faster, no matter what! An in-depth look at the personalities and ships, from the 1880s through to WW2. Opinionated, and all the better for it. I really enjoyed this book; highly recommended! (JT 2.10)
BUTLER, Lt Col E & BRADFORD, Maj J. S.: DUNKIRKakaTHE STORY OF DUNKIRK akaKEEP THE MEMORY GREEN (1950)Factual story of Britain's darkest hour; first hand anecdotes and stories of the regular tommy and other in the line of fire in 1940. Memorable and recommended.(JT 1.03)
CALLISON, Brian: THE SEXTANT (1981)Generally a good author, I was unable to finish this unsatisfactory story of a sextant which appears 30 years after the ship carrying it went to the bottom during WW2. (JT 7.06)
CAMPBELL, Gina and MEECH, Michael: BLUEBIRDS The Story of the Campbell Dynasty (1988)A sometimes interesting but often tedious biography on Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell as they battled to increase both the land and water speed records. This could have been an excellent story if someone had EDITED the contents before it went to press. Leo Villa's THE RECORD BREAKER would probably be of more interest though I've not seen it for years. (JT 4.11)
CANNANE, Steve: FIRST TESTS (2009)Great Aussie cricketers and the backyards that made them. Excellent read, at least until the later post-1970 entries. Entertaining and well researched. (JT 8.13)
CARR, Terry; LUPOFF, Richard; SILVERBERG, Robert: NO MIND OF MAN (1973)Three novellas, the first I gave up, the second memorable and living up to the title and the last perhaps the best read. (JT 2.08)
CHRISTIE, Agatha: CURTAIN: Poirot's Last Case (1975)My first Christie novel; I was inspired by the TV series to finally read it. Brilliant entertainment and a change from what I've been reading. I had to finish it in a day. Highly recommended. (JT 11.09)
CLARKE, ARTHUR C.: ASTOUNDING DAYS (1989) Comments and anecdotes on the contents and contributors to Astounding Stories; how early SF ideas come to reality and what else happened in the world of SF and science over the 1930s - 1950s period, mostly. Highly entertaining and opinionated, always interesting, you won't be able to put this book down if you're at all interested in SF! Highly recommended. (JT 2.10)
CLARKE, ARTHUR C.: 2061 ODYSSEY THREE (paperback 1989)Halley's Comet returns and explorers find a diamond mountain on one of Jupiter's moons. Readable but somehow dated, though the final third of the book is worth the trip. (JT 8.08)
CLARKE, ARTHUR C.: THE CITY AND THE STARS (1956, paperback 1986) Awesomely entertaining story until the final chapters whereupon I was left with a bleak, depressing view of humanity as portrayed therein. ( JT 9.07)
CLARKE, ARTHUR C.: THE GHOST FROM THE GRAND BANKS (1990)The author's novel on attempts to raise the 'Titanic'. Having enjoyed the author's early work, I read this tedious novel to the bitter end. :( (JT 4.06)
CLARKE, ARTHUR C.: THE WIND FROM THE SUN (1972)Short stories from the master, mostly ho hum but the final two, 'Transit of Earth' and 'Meeting with Medusa', are brilliant, so recommended. (JT 11.07)
CONNELL, Charles: DOCTOR IN SOHO (1956)Remarkable adventures as per the title; only the names have been changed. Both entertaining and enlightening! (JT 9.04)
Consumer Guide: AMERICAN CARS OF THE 1950S (2007)A sumptuous 320-page colour book of the US auto excesses of the 1950s, using illustrations from advertising brochures and the like. A masterpiece in editing and layout, yet small enough to be read in bed. Highly recommended; the best on its subject you'll find. (JT 10.11)
CONWAY, Jill Ker: THE ROAD FROM COORAIN (1989)An Australian childhood on the Western Plains of NSW remembered. WW2 memories and later; the childhood memories are brilliantly related before the author diverts to other less appetizing events in her life. Recommended. (JT 3.10)
COREN, Alan: THE PUNCH BOOK OF CRIME (1976) The usual mix; humour of the time, some of which is brilliant wit while much falls flat. Picking out the good from the bad is half the fun, so recommended. (JT 2.11)
COURAGE, John*: DEATH OF A VILLAGE (Stanley Paul, 1954) Newly married couple looking to settle down after WW2 arrive in a Welsh village, to find undercurrent of evil, and murder! Excellent mystery. (JT 2.06)
|*John Courage was the pen-name of Richard Goyne who also wrote for the old Amalgamated Press girls' story papers. Goyne also used to be Paul Renin but that's a whole different story. |
Paul Renin was a pen-name used by Goyne for about 100 novels which were considered very risqué at the time (late 1920s). There was a court case in 1931 during which his publishers were jailed, so he had to find employment elsewhere... namely writing rather more tame romances and schoolgirl yarns for the A.P. girls' papers. He later revived the Paul Renin name after the war and, at the same time, wrote a considerable number of crime novels under his own name and the pen-name John Courage until his death in 1957. Steve Holland
DANIELSSON, Bengt: LOVE IN THE SOUTH SEAS (1959)Revelations which will intrigue, amuse and horrify you; they did this reader. Recommended but with an R+18 rating. (JT 9.09)
David & Charles (publishers): EXCHANGE AND MART Selected issues 1868-1948 (1970)Facsimile volume of Britain's no.1 buy & sell publication; a trawl through the collecting and business instincts of several generations, thousands of amusing, interesting and informative adverts and articles which will keep you reading for many, many hours. Recommended reading! (JT 4.11)
DEIGHTON, Len: SS-GB (1979)The Nazis have invaded and occupied England. Totally engrossing and brilliantly realised novel; you can believe it. Highly recommended. (JT 1.07)
DELDERFIELD, R.F.: THE DREAMING SUBURB Book 1 (1919-1940) (1964) Brilliant portrayal of one London street; the life and people in that street, intimate looks as they leave and return during the between-the wars period. 470 pages with not a word wasted, readable and totally entertaining. Highly recommended. (JT 5.10)
DELDERFIELD, R.F.: THE AVENUE GOES TO WAR Book 2 (1940-1947) (1964) Continues the story of The Avenue through the years of WW2 and beyond, with the inhabitants as they serve in the armed forces and on the home front. Will their part of London make it through unscathed? As entertaining as the first part and as such, highly recommended. (JT 5.10)
DELDERFIELD, R.F.: TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS (1972) The life of an English schoolteacher, from his post-WW1 shell-shocked days to the early days of WW2. All aspects of his life, the boys he teaches, his comrades in the common room, and his loves, are all brilliantly portrayed in this monumental work of literary merit. The best book I've read about school life. Highly recommended. (JT 2.09)
DEXTER, Colin: THE WENCH IS DEAD (Morse - Pan, 1989 pb)Inspector Morse is in hospital, and occupies his time researching a murder of a girl during a journey by Canal boat in 1859. My first Colin Dexter novel, after having watched the televised version about a year earlier. There's little difference though of course the novel contains more detail. I found the book enjoyable, but not so much as to send me searching for further books by the author. (JT 3.12)
DOOLITTLE, Gen. James "Jimmy" and Carroll V Glines: I COULD NEVER BE SO LUCKY AGAIN (1991) isbn 0 553 07807 0 His most famous exploit was leading the 1942 Tokyo bombing raid. That, however, was just one of a string of memorable events in the author's life. A stunt flier, aviation expert both flying and technically, adventurer extraordinary, winner of flying events, WW2 commander, friend of "Georgie" Paton ... the list goes on and on. Honest, unassuming, brutally frank, this mighty book both in content and weight (!) should be read by everyone interested in the 20th Century. Highly recommended. (JT 4.11)
DOYLE, A Conan: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1902) A masterpiece; my first Sherlock Holmes story and a brilliant read. (JT 1.03)
DUNSTAN, Keith: SUPPORTING A COLUMN (1966)Australian journalist relates some of his adventures used to drum up content for his newspaper columns. Interesting and entertaining look at mid-20th Century Australia. (JT 6.06)
EELS, George: HEDDA & LOUELLA (1972)Dual biography of Hollywood columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. From their childhood through to the golden years of Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, and beyond, this bio gives a comprehensive overview of the stars and their hangers-on. Always interesting, often surprising, even shocking, you will find this 340+ page book holds your attention from start to finish. Recommended. (JT 7.10)
ELLIOTT, SUMNER LOCKE: WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE (1977)Orphan looked after by stage star in Sydney circa 1932, and some of the folk with whom he comes in contact. A long novel, winner of the 1977 Patrick White Literary Award, this is totally engrossing, brilliantly written and highly recommended. (JT 11.08)
ELLISON, Harlan: SHATTERDAY (1980) Short stories of various genres with individual introductions by the author; 'Jeffty is Five' is the standout story; brilliant, followed by 'Opium'. Recommended for all readers. (JT 6.08)
ENGEL, Joel: ROD SERLING (1989) An often unsympathetic but interesting and in-depth bio on the 'Twilight Zone's' Rod Serling. Highly recommended. (JT 12.08)
FINNEMORE, John: TEDDY LESTER'S SCHOOLDAYS (1914, reprinted 1949)One of the most exciting school stories of all time but some readers may find the boys' adventures a trifle sadistic!Recommended. (JT 1.04)
FISCHER, Tim: TRAINS UNLIMITED (2011)As heard on ABC radio's "The Great Train Show". What worked on a radio show doesn't work in a book. Seemingly unedited, poorly laid out with minimal (and poor quality) illustrations, Tim's knowledge on the subject still comes through and provides interesting snippets here and there. If you want to read this book, borrow it from your library! (JT 10.11)
FOLLETT, Ken: NIGHT OVER WATER (1991)Two days after Britain has declared war in 1939, a group of people depart for America on the Pan American Clipper. Criminals, scientists, people from all walks of life are brought to life in this fine story of romance, mystery and adventure. Highly recommended. (JT 9.09)
FORESTER, C S: THE GENERAL (1936) The study of a regular British Army officer who rises through the ranks up to and including WW1. A totally absorbing story from beginning to end, highly recommended. (JT 1.13)
FORESTER, C S: THE MAN IN THE YELLOW RAFT (1969) Collection of short stories, some factual, all set during WW2, many on the destroyer, Boon. All interesting, some brilliant, all enjoyable; a great read! (JT 6.12)
FORESTER, C S: BROWN ON RESOLUTION (1929) British Sailor's ship sunk, escapes from German cruiser at Resolution Island and does all he can to prevent the German crew repairing their ship. WW1 story which keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what's going to happen next. Exciting, exceedingly well-written by a master storyteller. (JT 11.12)
FORESTER, C S: RANDALL AND THE RIVER OF TIME (Ace H200 pb 1958) Dramatic, tragic and at times humorous story of Lieutenant Charles Randall. Thrown into the trenches during the Great War, then home to experience life in the raw, Randall finds himself in the arms of a scheming wife before eventually going on trial for manslaughter. At over 300 pages, one may be forgiven for dropping everything until the final page of the final chapter comes into sight. Brilliantly written by the author better known for his Hornblower stories. 10/10 recommendation (JT 12.12)
GERROLD, David: THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF (1973) THE ultimate time travel novel; riveting reading, unputdownable! 100% recommended. (JT 11.07)
GLANCEY, Jonathan: GIANTS OF STEAM (2012)Great men and machines of rail's Golden Age. Entertaining and comprehensive look at the subject with technical details simply explained, plus a look at what steam could do in the future. Highly recommended. (JT 11.12)
GRAFF, R D and GINNA, R E: FDR (1963)A mostly pictorial biography on US President Roosevelt, a tie-in with a television series of the same name. The text takes you through the life of a unique individual, helped by the flow of informative photos and quotes from people who were there. An entertaining and informative book which is highly recommended. (JT 4.11)
GREEN, Evan: JOURNEYS WITH GELIGNITE JACK (1966)The author took on the testing of Castrol's new motor oil using a recently released Austin 1800 plus a Mini. He, Jack Murray and two others did a figure 8 through the Australian Outback, starting in Victoria then Rockhampton, Alice Springs, Laverton and through to the NW coast of WA, to Darwin and south to Port Augusta before turning east and back to Sydney. No one could describe the Outback like Evan Green and their adventures and earlier recollections from previous trip provide wonderful reading from first to last. Highly recommended. (JT 4.11)
GRAHAM, Shelia: HOLLYWOOD REVISITED (1985)Behind the scenes of Hollywood during the golden age, and later. Always interesting, sometimes surprising, any movie fan will enjoy this book. Recommended. (JT 6.10)
GWYNN-JONES, Terry: HEROIC AUSTRALIAN AIR STORIES (1981) Pretty much what the title says, well-written and interesting look at some remarkable characters, including Ray Whitehead and Rex Nicholl who flew to New Zealand on a whim with no preparations at all. (JT 11.12)
HALL, Timothy: DARWIN 1942, AUSTRALIA'S DARKEST HOUR (1980) The truly astounding story of the aerial attack on Darwin by the Japanese in 1942: the horror, cowardice, lies, betrayals and ultimate cover-up including the truth behind the Brisbane-Adelaide Line. A 'must-read! (JT 1.09)
HESS, Joan: THE GOODBYE BODY (2005)Amusing and intelligent whodunnit, a Claire Malloy Mystery, Claire being a bookshop owner who dabbles in real mysteries, to the annoyance of her policeman pal. I loved it! Highly recommended. (JT 7.09)
HILL, Leonard: SAUCY BOY - THE LIFE STORY OF BENNY HILL (1990) Excellent bio by Benny's brother, illustrated. Recommended to all fans of this talented performer, an ordinary nice chappy! (JT 8.05)
HEINLEIN, Robert A : THE DOOR INTO SUMMER (1967) A near perfect mix of SF novel and thriller; cat lovers will really appreciate this unorthodox time travel story. Recommended. (JT 11.07)
HEINLEIN, Robert A : DOUBLE STAR (1960) Humorous impersonation space opera, just not my cup of tea due to the idiotic main character. (JT 11.08)
HEMINGWAY, Wayne: MASS MARKET CLASSICS-THE HOME (2003) A celebration of everyday design, the cheap and the cheerful, bathroom, living room, bedroom, the items you take for granted. Well-illustrated, mostly from catalogues, this entertaining book will surprise you with items most likey still occupying space in your own home. Highly recommended. (JT 7.11)
HENDRICKSON, Robert: THE GRAND EMPORIUMS (1979) Subtitled "The Illustrated History of America's Great Department Stores", this is an exhaustive study of the subject, with potted histories in date established order of stores, together with anecdotes, photos, and stories of who, how, when and why; how for example those pneumatic tubes which carried money operated and so on. 488 pages crammed with information, and recommended for those interested in department stores and chains, no matter where they are. (JT 1.13)
HERZOG, Arthur: MAKE US HAPPY (1978)Computers rule the Earth in this macabre SF story quite unlike any other novel on the subject, with humour aplenty. Quirky but recommended. (JT 3.08)
HITCHMAN, Janet: SUCH A STRANGE LADY (1975) Bio of DOROTHY L. SAYERS: This she may have been, but no stranger than this almost unfathomable bio which took me months to finish! (JT 12.05)
HOFFMAN, Mary: THE GHOST MENAGERIE (1992) Entertaining (pre-10) children's book about a pet mouse which seems able to bring forth all the past animal residents of his master's house. (John 6.09)
HOYT, Edwin P.: THE LAST CRUISE OF THE EMDEN (1967, White Lion 1975)Exciting factual account of Capt. von Mucke and his crew as they lose their ship and travel back home through the Middle East during WW1. (JT 1.07)
IDRIESS, Ion: HORRIE THE WOG-DOG (1945)Compiled from AIF dispatch rider Private Moody's diary, Jack's book about Horrie, the little white dog, captured the imagination of a nation when it was first released. To this day it remains his most popular book. This was my first-read Idriess title so I expected to be either disappointed or impressed. After reading the first few chapters, I able to understand why Idriess remains one of Australia's most popular authors. His easy to digest style is both friendly and informative. You are there with Moody, Horrie and mates as they battle across the desert and eventually, aboard a boat to Australia. No reader of this book will ever be disappointed. I laughed, cried and cheered as I read this book, sometimes all in the space of a couple of minutes! Highly recommended. (JT 11.10)
IRVING, John: TRYING TO SAVE PIGGY SNEED (1993)My first read of anything from the author of 'The World According to Garp'. Seven short stories, everyone a cracker, and the author's piece on Charles Dickens ('The King of the Novel'). Irvin'gs style is impeccible to my way of thinking so if you see any of his books, I'd suggest you give them a try. Highly recommended. (JT 11.03)
JILLETT, Leslie: WINGS ACROSS THE TASMAN (1953)Informative, entertaining, authoritive recounting of the aviators and planes which paved the way across the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand. The thrills, accidents, high and low points, heroic stories and more, related in fine style by an excellent writer and journalist; highly recommended. (JT 5.11)
JONES, Barry: A THINKING REED (2006) Our wisest living Aussie's autobiography. Totally engrossing and thoroughly recommended. (JT 6.08)
KELLY, Terence: THE DEVELOPERS (1965)Three developers attempting to win a contact with a local council to develop the town centre. Engrossing, obviously well researched novel set in 1960s England, Recommended reading, especially for anyone, anywhere, involved in local government and politics. (JT 9.10)
KING, Stephen: DESPERATION (1996) The desert of Nevada, mysterious mining town, dead-eyed cop, group of likable strangers, endowed child, strange presence are the ingredients of this marvelous thriller. Gripping and the best of King's later novels. Top recommendation (JT 1.04)
KING, Stephen: GERALD'S GAME (1992) The central character spends most of the book handcuffed to her bed. For King fans only. (JT 4.03)
KING, Stephen: HEARTS IN ATLANTIS (1999)A story, or stories, of the US Vietnam generation - then, in 1960 - and at the end of the century. Interconnected, with 'Low Men in Yellow Coats' being the pick of the sections. The card game 'Hearts' may also be known as 'Rickety Kate'. A good starter for new SK readers.(JT 3.03)
KING, Stephen: INSOMNIA (1994)Lengthy story with elderly and unlikely hero. Brilliant characterization, slow to get going - but with a mind-numbing climax. In some ways a reworking of MISERY. For King fans only. (JT 6.03)
KING, Stephen: MISERY (? title page absent) Unputdownable, claustrophobic, horrifying, gripping tension. Author gets pulled from car crash by number one but insane fan, locked up until he will resurrect the heroine he killed off in a run of popular if despised novels. And when he does that, well ... ! Highly recommended. (JT 11.03)
KING, Stephen: NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES (1993) Short storiesand other miscellaneous writings, not all entertaining. The best IMO are "Dolan's Cadillac" (the perfect murder) and "Umney's Last Case". (JT 5.07)
KING, Stephen: SKELETON CREW (1985) 22 short stories from the modern master of horror, mostly good to great with THE MIST being the pick of the collection. (JT 1.03)
KING, Stephen: THE DARK HALF (1989) Author's character comes alive and does his best to destroy his creator's life. But who created who? Tense, with excellent character development. Lots of ideas thus recommended for aspiring writers. (JT 11.03)
KING, Stephen: THE TOMMYKNOCKERS (1988)A lengthy but totally engrossing mix of SF and horror. (JT 2.03)
KING, Stephen & Straub, Peter:THE TALISMAN (1984) Avoid at all costs. I gave it up after 60 or so pages. Boring, padded and generally sleep-inducing. (JT 8.03)
KNIGHT, Damon [ed.]: A POCKETFUL OF STARS (1971) 19 stories, the best of which are Terry Carr's 'Hop-Friend', Keith Laumer's 'The Last Command' and Avram Davidson's 'The Sources of the Nile'. (JT 3.08)
KOTZWINKLE, William: ET: THE BOOK OF THE GREEN PLANET (1985)Sequel to ET. ET, back on his own world and in disgrace, comes up with a remarkable plan to change his way of life. He also manages to send part of himself to Eliott back on Earth who is moving into his teens. Pretty much a unique work, highly enjoyable and a 'feel good' read for the young at heart. Recommended. (JT 1.06)
JACKSON, Robert: DOUGLAS BADER - A BIOGRAPHY (1983) An interesting, concise biography on the fighter pilot as depicted in "Reach for the Sky". This fills in the gaps and is highly recommended, especially for those who've suffered the loss of a limb. Highly inspiring. (JT 2.11)
LAUMER, Keith: THE LONG TWILIGHT (1969, 1976 UK) Two mighty warriors on Earth, a prison breakout and a mysterious weather formation if the Bahamas; an entertaining, well-written and timeless story which kept me on the edge of my seat for several hours. Highly recommended. (JT 8.08)
LEIBER, Fritz: SHIP OF SHADOWS (1979) 'Catch that Zeppelin!' was readable, but the other stories were less so. (JT 6.08)
LEWIS, Peter: THE 50s (1978) Overview of the post-WW2 period through to the end of the 1950s. Intelligent retrospective which will fill you in on the baby boomer period. Recommended. (JT 8.09)
LINDSAY, Jane: PORTRAIT OF PA (1973) Norman Lindsay at Springwood. Entertaining and engrossing recollections of Norman Lindsay's bohemian daughter about their time in the Blue Mountains. (JT 11.04)
LINDSAY, Norman: THE COUSIN FROM FIJI (1945)A peculiar Norman Lindsay novel which was unable to sustain my interest past page 40. The humour is dated and the style affected. Has its moments, but a hard road to slog! (JT 5.06)
LORD, Graham: JAMES HERRIOT-THE LIFE OF A COUNTRY VET (1997)In depth history of Alf Wight, aka 'James Herriot', author of famous series of books under the 'All Creatures Great and Small' banner. Engrossing. (JT 8.05)
LOVE, John F: McDONALD'S-BEHIND THE ARCHES (1986)A comprehensive and remarkably interesting and revealing look at the history, development and style of McD's. Although I do my best to avoid eating there, I found this book a great read. Highly recommended, especially for anyone thinking of going into the fast food business! (JT 5.08)
LOWE, Stephen: ARTHUR LOWE: DAD'S MEMORY (1997 pb)Occasionally interesting look at the famous commander of the TV DAD'S ARMY squad. The lack of interest isn't the fault of the author. DA fans only. (JT 2.08)
LUCK, Peter: 50 YEARS OF AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION (2005)Sub-titled "an insider's view 1956-2006", this well-illustrated volume is a "must read" for any fan of Aussie television, with its many anecdotes, behind the scenes stories and great photos. Entertaining, humorous, expertly written and edited, highly recommended! (JT 9.11)
MacLEAN, Alistair: FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1968)A sequel to "Guns", the trio drop in Yugoslavia, their mission within a mission to draw off Axis troops from Italy. Slow off the mark, the story moves into top gear in the last third of the book and for that alone is recommended. (JT 12.10)
MacLEAN, Alistair: GOODBYE CALIFORNIA (?)The blurb: "the ultimate blackmail weapon - Earthquake!" A group of extremists kidnap nuclear workers and threaten to let off bombs on earthquake fault lines. The first 200 or so pages makes for tedious reading. I kept on, relying on a normally fine author to provide some excitement in the final pages and was not disappointed. Recommended only for AM fans. (JT 4.12)
MacLEAN, Alistair: H.M.S. ULYSSES (1955)Probably the best sea story ever written; makes me wonder why I didn't read AM's novels years ago. A must-read if you enjoy non-stop, breathless action and excitement about a British cruiser during WW2, as a convoy sails through frightfully rough seas bound for Russia. (JT 8.10)
MacLEAN, Alistair: SOUTH BY JAVA HEAD (1958)The remnants of Singapore do their best to escape from the Japs on an oil tanker during the early days of WW2. Exciting story, brilliantly told, by a master of the thriller genre. Highly recommended. (JT 8.10)
MANNING, Arthur: LARGER THAN LIFE - THE STORY OF ERIC BAUME (1967)Radio commentator, war correspondent, the "beast" of Aussie TV's early "Beauty and the Beast", a household name of the 1950s and 1960s, Eric Baume had an opinion on everything. You either loved or hated him, and this concise biography takes you into his life, a life more exciting than that of probably any other Australian of the mid-20th Century. Entertaining and highly recommended. (JT 2.11)
MARSHALL, William: SCI FI (1981) A Yellowthread Street Mystery. Mystery set in the East, during a science fiction convention, a mystery person setting fires, $54 million worth of what, what's it all about? Humorous, gripping story which contains a stunningly described climax. Highly recommended. (JT 12.07)
McALEER, Neil: ODYSSEY / The authorised biography of ARTHUR C CLARKE (1992)Lengthy, rambling bio on a complex individual which perhaps not surprisingly only seems to scratch the surface. It's commendable, often interesting, occasionally boring, especially when discussing the subject's underwater excursions. Fans will find it fascinating, other readers should steer clear!Despite that, recommended. (JT 3.10)
McCORMACK, Mark: ARNOLD PALMER / THE MAN AND THE LEGEND (1967)The insightful, informative, joyful and totaly brilliant bio on the greatest golfer of all time. Arnie reigned supreme during the late 50s-early 60s and took golf to the people of the world. No other golfer in history commanded the love and adulation of so many, this humble and personable lad. He lived for golf and thrived on the next to impossible shot. A great read for all fans! (JT 6.11)
McCRUMB, Sharyn: BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN (1988) Classic whodunit set in the midst of a Science Fiction convention. Humorous, nostalgic, not completely satisfying, but recommended. (JT 7.09)
McCRUMB, Sharyn: MISSING SUSAN (1991)Elizabeth McPherson's on a tour of true-life sites of Southwest England, with a guide who's intent on despatching one of her companions! Good fun, well thought out mystery, recommended. (JT 11.09)
McCRUMB, Sharyn: THE WINDSOR KNOT (1990)Elizabeth McPherson's getting married so she can attend a garden party for the Queen. I could not get into this story, sadly, which isn't up to the usual standard. (JT 12.09)
McCUTCHAN, Philip: BOWERING'S BREAKWATER (1964)Ship's Captain takes his ship to safety upon the outbreak of a third world war, but is it safety? Excellent characters, story telling at its finest; highly recommended. (JT 8.08)See note on author below.
McCUTCHAN, Philip: LEAVE THE DEAD BEHIND US (1962)Captain on his last voyage, on the Australia migrant run through the Red Sea, face his final possible disaster. Wonderful characterisation, authentic backgrounds, a brilliant read, you won't be able to put it down. Highly recommended. (JT 9.08)
McCUTCHAN, Philip: CONVOY EAST (1989)Cdr Kemp taking a WW2 convoy through the Mediterranean encounters air and sea attacks but the crew and passengers cause him just as many problems. A great read and recommended. (JT 9.08)
McCUTCHAN, Philip: THE KID (1958)The study of a young officer court-martialled for deserting his post, but given a second chance on an old naval tub during the Suez crisis. Great story, recommended. (JT 10.08)
McLEOD, Rod: ST ANDREW'S OLD (1970) Hole by hole description of the most famous golf course on this planet, via methods used by several of the USA's most famous players of the 1960s. For golf nuts only; I enjoyed it. (JT 9.10)
MEYER, Nicholas: THE WEST END HORROR (1976)Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson story featuring Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker and a host of intersting characters; very entertaining. (JT 3.06)
MOON, Ken: WRITE YOUR LIFE A Guide to Autobiography (1994)Pretty much what the title says; useful for first-timers in the field. (JT 12.11)
MOONEY, Michael M: THE HINDENBURG (1973)Painstaking reconstruction of events leading up to the destruction of the German airship in 1937. Riviting, breathtaking, totally believable. Highly recommended. (JT 2.07)
MORTIMER, John: CLINGING TO THE WRECKAGE (1983)Rumpole author's bio, generally depressing but interesting throughout, not recommended for anyone looking for an amusing read :(. (JT 8.09)
MORTIMER, John: RUMPOLE AND THE PENGE BUNGALOW MURDERS (2004)The often-recalled case when Rumpole met "She who must - " and won a case without his leader. Wonderful writing; funny, witty and all enveloping; highly recommended. (JT 7.09)
MORTIMER, John: RUMPOLE AND THE PRIMROSE PATH (2002) A further collection of Rumpole stories including his stay in Primrose Path home, while recovering from an 'attack' in chambers. Great humor, great writing, great characters, highly recommended. (JT 7.09)
NEWMAN, Robert: THE CASE OF THE BAKER STREET IRREGULAR (1978)Boy arrives in London with teacher guardian who disappears; meets a young BSI and helps out Sherlock Holmes. Entertaining, well constructed story; highly recommended. (JT 8.10)
NIMOY, Leonard: I AM SPOCK (1995)An entertaining and informative look behind the scenes of the Star Trek saga, whether or not you're a fan of the series and the fine actor who plays the Vulcan. Every page of this book brings to light facts either not generally known, or hidden from the public gaze for decades. One of the best autobios I've read in the past couple of decades, up there with Jackie Cooper's, so heartily recommended. (JT 5.11)
NIVEN, Larry : INCONSTANT MOON (1973) Collection includes the title story, a chilling "what if" and finishes up with a great "whodunnit", 'Death by Ecstasy'. Highly recommended. (JT 1.08)
O'GRADY, John: SURVIAL IN THE DOGHOUSE (1973) Classic Australian humour as funny and readable today as when first published, guaranteed to cause laughter and highly recommended. (JT 3.08)
O'LEARY, Elizabeth: A HOUSE AT WAR (the continuing story of THE HOUSE OF ELIOTT) (1994)An excellent and engrossing continuation of the story of London's greatest fictional fashion house, based on the acclaimed BBC television series; from the late 1930s to the ascension of Elizabeth 11. Highly recommended! (JT 9.09)
OXENHAM, Elsie J: QUEEN OF THE ABBEY GIRLS (1926) The next generation of Abbey Girls are doing what they do; I managed to read the first half but couldn't manage the rest. Little story or action, just talk; my least enjoyable foray into EJO's books. (JT 11.08)
PALMER, Arnold: PORTRAIT OF A PROFESSIONAL GOLFER (1964)A revealing self-portrait of a great sportsman, friendly and entertaining. You'll meet Arnold's family, friends and those with whom he shared the golf courses in his early days. A great read, highly recommended. (JT 5.11)
PARRISH, Robert: GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD (1976) Bob Parrish, perhaps better known as a director, began as a child actor in Hollywood. His matter of fact recollections, gleaned from a photographic memory, put the reader there with him as he takes directions from some of the greats of Hollywood including Charlie Chaplin and John Ford. This is without a doubt the best collection of Hollywood memories ever penned. By the time you reach the final few chapters, you will be wishing for another book to follow and there was. That's another story, and another review. Top recommendation. (JT 6.10)
PRENTIS, Evelyn: A NURSE IN ACTION (1978)Centre book of a trilogy, semi-biographical experiences of an English nurse, this book covers WW2. Well-written but for those in the profession judging by my lack of interest. (JT 11.05)
POUL, Frederik: MIDAS WORLD (1983)A futureEarth where thanks to unlimited power, plenty is poverty; a somewhat dated satire, amusing in parts, but I tired of it after the first 50 or so pages. (JT 10.08)
QUILL, Jeffrey: SPITFIRE A TEST PILOT'S STORY (1983)isbn 0 7195 3977 3 The author flew the Spitfire from 1938 to 1948 in all its many versions and under all weather conditions. He discusses the problems of mass production and all aspects of its mechanical evolution. No once else knew this aircraft as he did. The definitive tribute to a fine aircraft, brilliantly told and highly recommended. (JT 2.11)
RAE, Richard: CARTOONISTS OF AUSTRALIA (1983)Excellent book in words and of course pictures, generally told by the artists themselves, or friends where deceased. Syd Nichols, Bancks, Wedd, you'll find their stories here. Top recommendation. (JT 12.11)
RAFTY, Tony and SMITH, Terry: GOLFING GREATS (1983)Rafty's caricatures and Smith's bios go to make an entertaining visual and reading feast for all golf fans, great fun, recommended. (JT 6.11)
RANKINE, John: MOONS OF TRIOPUS (1968)Earth expedition attempts to take over an apparently already populated planet, with surprising results. Some good sequences but not very well written. (JT 5.08)
REED, Talbot Baines: THE MASTER OF THE SHELL (my copy 1948)Humorous, entertaining school story in the classic mould with well-formed characters and a realism rarely matched by other authors. Highly recommended. (JT 7.07)
RENDELL, Ruth: TALKING TO STRANGE MEN (1987)Tedious reading, I couldn't go on with it after 23 pages! (JT 7.09)
REYNOLDS, Quentin: THE AMAZING MR DOOLITTLE (1953)Generally entertaining bio on Jimmy Doolittle who led the Tokyo bombing raid in 1942. He did a lot of other things and this book does a good job of covering his really amazing life up until the year of publication. recommended. (JT 12.08)
RODERICK, Colin: THE REAL HENRY LAWSON (1982)An in-depth look at a troubled and famous Australian who for most of his short life was in and out of institutions due to his addiction to drink. A somewhat depressing read, but you'll get a real feel for turn of the 20th Century Sydney and the Bush, so recommended. (John 7.11)
ROSENBERG, David: THE MOVIE THAT CHANGED MY LIFE (1993)Misnamed "Great writers on their favorite films", as in many cases the films they remember were despised then, and often, more so now. Some interesting, many pretentious treatments, but interesting for the most/some part; well, occasionally! (JT 12.09)
ROWBOTHAM, F W: THE SEVERN BORE (1964,70) A fascinating though short book on the tidal wave or bore which travels on the river Severn in England. Includes exciting descriptions of boating trips thereon! Recommended. (JT 11.12)
SATOLI, Lorraine:THE OFFICIAL MICKEY MOUSE CLUB BOOK (1995) Definitive behind the scenes story of the Mousketteers; how they were recruited through to where they were in 1995. Fascinating, entertaining, nostalgic if you're a baby boomer and surprisingly useful for anyone wanting to get into showbiz. Highly recommended. (JT 12.07)
SCOBIE, Pamela: THE SCHOOL THAT WENT ON STRIKE (1991)Amazing but true; fictionalised account of Burston (Norfolk, England) strike by pupils in support of their head, led by a 13 year-old girl in Edwardian times. Brilliantly written story which I HAD to read in one sitting. Yes, it's that good; thus highly recommended. (JT 6.09)
SHELLEY, Noreen: FAMILY AT THE LOOKOUT (1972, 75)The acclaimed 1973 Australian Children's Book of the Year about a family which moves to the mid-Blue Mountains of NSW, then has to face the terror of a bushfire. Brilliant characterisation, superbly told. Set in Barbara's hometown, "Galley Heights" in the book. Highly recommended. (JT 8.09)
SELLINGS, Arthur: INTERMIND (1967)Labelled as SF but really a spy thriller set in Turkey. Reasonably enjoyable but that's it. (11.08)
SHAW, Bob: THE PEACE MACHINE (1985 revised)Intense, non-stop thriller, about a British scientist's race to build a machine which will destroy all the world's nuclear devices with the push of a button. Highly recommended. (JT 12.07)
SHAW, Bob: A WREATH OF STARS (1976) Did you know there is a smaller, anti-neutrino planet inside the earth, and it's rising to the surface? Another brilliant read, highly recommended. (JT 2.08)
SHAW, Bob: OTHER DAYS, OTHER EYES (1972)Slow glass, which lets light through at rates from seconds to years, proves benificial, then dangerous, to mankind. Terrific tale, well told! (JT 11.08)
SHAW, Mark: NICKLAUS (1997) Comprehensive, entertaining and well-thought out biography on arguably the best golfer of the 20th Century, Jack Nicklaus. Facts and anecdotes, together with lots of statistics good into the mix. As a fan of Arnold Palmer, with little knowledge of Jack, this book was a revelation to this reader. This great golfer certainly deserves respect for all that he's achieved in his well-calculated rise to the top. You don't need to be a fan of the man or his sort to find this book an enjoyable read. Highly recommended. (JT 5.11)
SILLITOE, Alan: THE LOST FLYING BOAT (1983)Wonderful story of a re-united crew and one newbie on a treasure hunt in the Indian Ocean. You won't find better written air adventures than this. Highly recommended. (JT 8.07)
SILVERBERG, Robert: CAPRICORN GAMES (1976)Short stories, mostly SF, with 'Getting Across', set on an overpopulated and robot police-controlled Earth, being the best. (JT 8.08)
SMITH, Janet Adam: JOHN BUCHAN and his WORLD (1979)Comprehensive look at the author and his adventures both in Britain and in Canada. Annotated, indexed, recommended for fans of Hannay. (JT 8.10)
SMITH, Peter: PEDESTAL (1970) The factual story of the August 1942 convoy to Malta which included the oil tanker, "Ohio". A highly detailed and initially difficult to digest account of the the events from both sides of the conflict. However, as the story unfolds, the groundwork proves useful in seeing the entire picture. This develops into an exciting account which kept me reading late at night. Highly recommended. (JT 2.11)
SONTER, Jim: SERVO GREAT AUSTRALIAN SERVICE STATIONS (2011) Landscape format paperback which reproduces numerous old and new b/w photos, or most likely, colour photos in b/w, which is where the book fails. Many of the photos are washed out and deserve a better fate. Hopefully someone will do a full-colour version one day, which is what the subject deserves. Interesting, nonetheless. (JT 9.11)
SOUTER, D H: THE TICKET IN TATTS (1988)Although DHS was and remains famous for his artwork, he penned at least 2 novels, this being the later one. He died in 1935 and it was half a century before Stephan Williams saw it through to publication by Penguin. Set in Sydney's inner suburb of Redfern during the Depression, it presents the reader with the Keeby family. Dad pilots a council clean-up cart, daughters Evvie and Bertha work in a factory and teach piano respectively while son Jim does "odd jobs". Mum of course runs the house, and the corner shop which sits out front; through the living room or parlour. Whatever takes your fancy, dear reader! Ruth Park described this book as: "A queer old novel, all knobs and gnarls like rustic garden furniture, but jumping with joy and genial humour". I really can't come up with a better description. It kind of grabs hold of your imagination, gently at first then by the throat. I found myself smiling, then giggling and finally laughing out loud as I turned the pages. I became sad however as I approached the end, knowing that once finished, my next book couldn't possibly be as much fun. Highly recommended. (JT 10.10)
SOUTHALL, Ivan:THEY SHALL NOT PASS UNSEEN(1958)A brilliantly written book, the factual story of the author's own 461 Squadron, flying Short Sunderland 4-engined, 27-ton flying boats during WW2. This is not what purists would call a "unit history". It does list outstanding and less so experiences of the squadron during the war years and contains details of crews involved - and those who did not return. Numerous b/w photos taken on missions are to be seen within. You will be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable read, fact or fiction, on aircraft. Highly recommended. (JT 2.09)
SPUFFORD,Francis: BACKROOM BOYS / The Secret Return of the British Boffin (2003) Interesting background stories on Blue Streak, The Concorde, Geno and similar; too technical for me but suitable for the more intelligent reader! (JT 2.09)
TAYLOR, P G: FRIGATE BIRD (1953, 1988)Smithy's mate, P G Taylor, flew a Catalina flying boat soon after WW2 across the South Pacific, to South America, landing at (note: not on) Christmas Island, and return. Simply explained in one line, this exciting and highly dangerous journey keeps you reading without a break, because you just cannot believe he and his crew survived the experience. Landing and taking off from an often wild ocean is something which cannot be experienced in the 21st Century. Why hasn't anyone made a movie? Highly recommended. (JT10.10)
THOMSON, Peter and ZWAR, Desmond: THIS WONDERFUL WORLD OF GOLF (1969)Incisive look at a year on the professional golfing circuit outside of the US. Informative, entertaining, authoritive book takes you behind the scenes with one of Australia's greatest golfing sons, and his journalist pal. Highly recommended to all fans of sport, and anyone who likes an exciting read. (JT 6.11)
TURNER, J F: V.C.'s OF THE AIR (1960) Concise but highly interesting stories of the 32 WW2 RAF winners of the Victoria Cross. A fine tribute to those heroes of the air. (JT 12.12)
UPDIKE, John: THE COUP (1978)Period piece, no doubt amusing for its time. Momentarily entertaining, though I gave it up after 30 pages. (JT 9.9)
UPFIELD, Arthur: THE NEW SHOE (1951)This is my first BONY novel, despite having collected them for many years. Bony is on (unofficial ?) secondment to the Victorian police, to investigate the mystery of a man's body found walled up in Split Point lighthouse. The locals are a close community like communities everywhere, but Bony seems to have a knack of working his way in. The only upright character seems to be Stug. He's a dog who takes to Bony. Totally engrossing, this novel kept me reading and as I entered the final chapter, wanting more, I knew that Upfield had reeled me in! I've wandered around the place, piled up a dozen other Bony paperbacks, ready to read. Highly recommended to all readers, whatever your genre. IMHO, what Charles Hamilton is to the school field, Upfield is to the crime and mystery field: the best, Number 1, with daylight second. (JT 10.11)
VADER, John: THE BATTLE OF SYDNEY (1971) Fact mixed with fiction; the Japanese reach Sydney and take over parts of Australia. Totally fascinating if a trifle confusing unless you know your history of WW2. (JT 12.02)
VAN VOGT, A E: CHILDREN OF TOMORROW (1970 or earlier) OUTSTANDING 'first contact' vintage space story, with the 1930s feel but with teenagers showing adults the way to the stars. I read the 254 pages in one afternoon, which is pretty unusual. Top recommendation. (JT 1.08)
VAN VOGT, A E: THE PLAYERS OF NULL-A (1970-1948)Highly imaginative vintage SF which will test both your memory and intelligence. You should read THE WORLD OF NULL-A before tackling this sequel. Recommended for discriminating SF fans. (JT 1.08)
VON NIDA, Norman and MACLAREN, Muir: GOLF IS MY BUSINESS (1956)Amusing, entertaining and informative bio from arguably Australia's greatest golfer of the 1930-1950 period. The Von was small of stature but mighty of heart, and he pulls no punches in his recollections of both those who played the game, and those who controlled golf. The media of the time comes in for its share as well, both the good and the bad. A great read, and highly recommended. (JT 9.11)
WHERRETT, Peter: THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT CAR (1999) Peter Wherrett's life in motoring. His name will be familiar to most drivers who grew up in 1970s Australia, for his excellent TV series 'Torque'. The book is a revelation of sorts on the Aussie way of life and takes you to the outback in detail. Well worth a read! (JT 10.08)
WHITE, Michael: ASIMOV: THE UNAUTHORISED LIFE (1995 pb) Warts and all biography on one of the greatest SF and science factual authors of all time. Entertaining, informative and amusing; this is memorable and highly recommended. (JT 5.09)
WILLIS, Connie: DOOMSDAY BOOK (1993 pb) A student is sent back to 14th Century. I gave this away after 90 or so pages as what initially seemed to be a time travel story soon slowed to a snail's pace, bogged down to repetitious dialogue. Well written, but not my cup of tea! (JT 12.09)
WODEHOUSE, P G: LOVE AMONG THE CHICKENS (my copy c1939) Ukridge is the feature player who decides on the spur of the moment to use a "borrowed" mansion to raise the wind via a flock of chickens and author pal Garnet; if PGW is to your taste, you'll laugh your way through this humorous novel with a light touch of romance thrown in. If not, as in my case, you'll still enjoy it! Recommended. (JT 6.10)
WOLLHEIM, Donald A as editor: THE 1973 ANNUAL WORLD'S BEST SF (1973) A mix of good and bad as always; "Oh, Valinda!", "The Man who Walked Home", "Long Shot" and "Thus Love Betrays Us" being the pick. (JT 11.08)
Philip McCUTCHAN was born in Cambridge and educated at St Helen's College, Southsea, Hants. He entered Sandhurst in 1939, but left to join RN as an ordinary signalman, eventually becoming a lieutenant. From 1949 to 1954 he worked for an oil company and as a teacher in a preparatory school.
MICRO REVIEWS of AUDIO BOOKS
HARRY, Lilian: THREE LITTLE SHIPS (2005 - audio ISBN 1 84559 224 7) The stories of 3 of the little boats, their crews and eventual passengers, during the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. Read by Gordon Griffin, published by SOUNDINGS, 12 CDs. A wonderful story, well read, delving into a wide cast of characters which will have your heart captured from beginning to end. Highly recommended. (JT 8.06)
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