Friday, 1 March 2013

2013 Reading Part 1

Sixty four books got read in 2012. This year I've just got through the first eight books, so it's time for our first book-related entry of the year.

Prophecy is the second in S.J. Parris's series about the Italian excommunicated monk, Giordano Bruno - a real historical person, however unlikely he may seem. The first novel, Heresy was based on real events in the Oxford of Elizabeth I's time. In the second book Bruno is living with the French Ambassador in London, a likely place to pick up whispers of plots to replace Elizabeth with Mary Queen of Scots. As a series of murders of the Queen's maids take place Bruno must prove his own innocence and maintain his trust in the eyes of the French and Spanish conspirators. An exciting read at the time - but I found I had to go and remind myself of the plot just now...

This was my favourite of all the Billy Bunter books and it was a good one to dig out from the bookshelf and read again. "I say you fellows!" Bunter accidentally catches his form master in a booby trap intended for classmate Bob Cherry, who is blamed for the deed and expelled. Bunter leads a rebellion and the Remove form barricade themselves into their study room with Bob until Bunter comes up with a wheeze to wriggle himself out of trouble.

The third of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy and deals with the first years of King Arthur's reign. Merlin keeps an eye on Arthur's half sister Morgause and falls foul of her own magic and cunning, which leave a legacy of long-term sickness. He finds an apprentice - a Lady of the Lake - who becomes his lover and then takes on his power as he is put to rest in his old cave dwelling place in Wales. But is Merlin truly dead? Having read this trilogy again I have now settled down to read the follow-up that completes King Arthur's story. More on that in the next book report!

The Black Baroness is Gregory Sallust's target in the third of Dennis Wheatley's WWII novels about the agent behind enemy lines. Here Sallust does his best to save the crowned heads of Europe from falling into the hands of the Germans and is determined to stop the use of beautiful women who are extracting all sorts of secrets from government high-ups whilst spreading fear and despondency at the thought of an unstoppable Nazi advance. As his beloved Erika is shot, he takes on the unthinkable task - at any cost he is to murder a woman - the Black Baroness!

Ahhhh... wallow in nostalgia time! This is a book from the same publishers who commissioned my own book, Blackpool Then and Now. I won't say I learned a lot from Paul Feeney's excellent book, but by heck, I sure remembered a lot! A delight. It was a different world then.

And to follow it, I chose to read Andrew Marr's history from the end of World War II up to the Gordon Brown government. I did learn lots of stuff from this one - I have a great admiration for Andrew Marr who has the ability to make politics intensely interesting to someone who doesn't necessarily have much inclination to follow politics closely. Me... I remember living through the Harold Wilson years, but never even heard that many suspected him of being a spy for Russia. A Prime Minister!!!

And giving fiction a wide berth for a while, I followed the Andrew Marr book up with the autobiography of the comedian Eric Sykes. A lovely book, starting out with another view of life in hard times in Oldham - a place I know well from many years of traipsing round house to house collecting football coupons on Thursday and Friday nights at the beginning of the 1970s. It goes on through early days in entertainment, through post war hard slog to success and through family highlights and low points through to Eric's own senior years.

Well it's all very well reading books to learn things, but I'll finish with a feet-up, whoop-de-hoop, slam bang shoot-em-up! We've already met Sudden the gunfighter turned state agent in previous posts. In the fourth book, he is sent to clean up Hell City; a nest of the meanest baddest deadliest outlaws ever to fork a cayuse. Can't understand how Sudden never made it to the cinema screen... Well that's it for now. Give me a few weeks to read some more!

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