Posts

Showing posts with the label action adventure

Reading journal: Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Image
Genre: Science Fiction (alternate history/crime) Published: 2001 Series: Arabesk Trilogy Date read: March 2018 An extraordinary story, wonderfully written. Ashraf al-Mansur, known to his friends as ZeeZee, travels to the free city of El Iskandryia, part of the Ottoman Empire in this alternate future where power lies in the hands of Berlin, Istanbul and Moscow. He’s lived most of his life in institutions, boarding schools, hospitals and prisons, with a brief career working for Chinese triads in Seattle. So it’s a surprise to be broken out of prison and given a passport and ticket for Africa, where an aunt he didn’t know he had has brokered a marriage for him. The story weaves together crimes, culture clashes, and a cast of fascinating characters. The other books in the trilogy are Effendi , a brilliant and terrifying story about child soldiers and artificial intelligence, and Felaheen , in which Raf explores his biological heritage. Grimwood (who also writes under

Reading journal: A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin

Image
Genre: Science fiction/thriller/alternate history Published: 2014 Date read: April 2018 The story starts in 1955, with an assassination. OK, this is a cold war spy thriller. The German Reich still rules over Europe. Hmm. Not only a spy thriller, then, but an alternate time line. Flashbacks into the protagonist’s involvement in destroying a Norwegian heavy water plant. OK, also a WW2 war story. Later, a mysterious experiment involving an ultimate weapon, time travel. I give in! It’s science fiction as well. A great story told at tremendous pace. It’s mostly told in the first person and the present tense, something I usually find tedious, but Shimmin is a master. You really want the protagonists to succeed and every setback is terrible. The author said he was inspired by Robert Harris’s Fatherland but many other influences can be identified. However, this book is all Graeme Shimmin’s, and it’s a keeper. If you like thrillers spiced with flavours of other genres, this one is

Reading journal: Midwinter by John Buchan

Image
Genre: Action adventure Published: 1923 Read: January 2018 I didn’t enjoy this as much as I remembered from my last read a couple of decades ago. It jumbles together too many strands—the 1745 Jacobite rebellion in Britain, spies, treachery, a love affair, Samuel Johnson the dictionary writer, and secret bands of men who are part of an older,   better England. The protagonist, Captain Alastair MacLean, is engaged in spy work for Bonnie Prince Charlie. He is rescued from difficulties and ethical errors by Midwinter, the leader of hidden men who live close to nature and form the mystical backbone of old England. In many places the pace drops off and the story becomes dreary and dull. The disappearance and reappearance of Samuel Johnson is confusing and adds little to the tale. There isn't enough suspense. The only really scary part is when MacLean is in danger of being thrown into a pothole, a deep pit with grinding rocks at the bottom. Nasty. I think they could ha

Reading journal: Cause for Alarm by Eric Ambler

Image
Genre: Espionage Published: 1938 Read: March 2018 Europe in 1938 was preparing for war. This story follows the adventures of Nick Marlow, a British engineer sent to work in Milan. He falls, unprepared, into a cauldron of spying, deception, surveillance, bribery, Fascists, Communists, and betrayals, ending with a tense escape across the border into the relative safety of Yugoslavia. Ambler is a great writer. Look at the wonderful use of language here to describe Marlow’s friend Zaleshoff He had a way of disconcerting you with a gesture, with the way he timed his phrases. Yet you could not quite discover why you had been disconcerted. You received the impression that you were watching a very competent actor using all the technical tricks in his repertoire in an effort to make something of a badly written part. There was something about him which cried out for analysis and yet defied it. I glanced sideways at him. His chin was tucked inside the thick grey muffler that he wore

Reading journal: Wyatt’s Hurricane by Desmond Bagley

Image
Genre: Action/Adventure Published: 1966 Read: January 2018 A story about a hurricane and a revolution on a Caribbean island. There is a large cast of secondary characters, some little more than stereotypes, but the main characters are strong and interesting. Dave Wyatt is a meteorologist specialising in hurricanes, and a man of principle. He fights his way through obstacles to save the population and the girl he loves. Great descriptions of the hurricane and its impact on the island, and of the chaos of war and the aftermath of disaster. Recommended.

Reading journal: The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan

Image
Genre: Thriller Published: 1915 Read: January 2018 I’ve read this many times. It’s still a very enjoyable story in spite of some dated prejudices against Germans, Jewish people and non-British foreigners. Richard Hannay, a mining engineer fresh from exploiting South Africa, returns to Britain in 1914, just before the start of the Great War. On the run from the police for a murder he didn’t commit, Hannay must foil a German spy plot and rediscover some kind of purpose in his life. Hannay is portrayed as a dimwit, and many of his choices are quite stupid, but his innate goodness and endurance let him triumph over his enemies. He is humble in a smug British way. It's slightly worrying that in later Richard Hannay stories he is promoted to the rank of general. A boys’ own adventure story, entirely lacking in women other than as suppliers of food, but utterly consistent in voice from start to finish, with plenty of pace and suspense. The book is much better t

Book review: When Eight Bells Toll by Alistair MacLean

Image
This is the first in a series of blog posts about authors and books who have influenced my writing. When Eight Bells Toll was published in 1966. The main character is Philip Calvert, a government agent investigating the disappearance of ships in waters surrounding Britain. It’s a great story about big time corporate crooks, piracy, kidnapping and salvage. Calvert eventually eliminates his enemy, solves the puzzle, and gets the girl, happy endings all round, apart from all the people who were killed along the way. Why I liked this book: Setting The cold, wet, stormy, rough waters of western Scotland, appalling weather, and the boats and ships, are so well described it's like being there. The weather and the sea are additional enemies to confront and overcome. Main character Calvert is a courageous man taking on the bad guys, mostly single-handed, for a good cause. He is easy to admire and to empathise with. Pace There’s no unnecessary prose. Anything that's the