How much cruelty can you squeeze into a 150,000 word novel?
A huge amount, if that book is Lady Anna, written by Anthony Trollope at the astonishing rate of 16,500 words a week on a voyage from England to Australia between 25 May and 19 July 1871.
The plot (no spoilers follow) revolves around a conflict: should the eponymous heroine marry a low-born tailor; or a young earl, of her own class? She loves the tailor – or does she? Almost every other character in the book, especially her mother, believes she should marry the earl; and subject her to extraordinary pressure to bring about this result.
This is heavy stuff. As so often with Trollope, his female characters are often more attractive than his men, some of whom, like Anna’s father the earl, are vile:
It must be told that the Earl was a man who had never yet spared a woman in his lust. It had been the rule, almost the creed of his life, that woman was made to gratify the appetite of man, and that the man is but a poor creature who does not lay hold of the sweetness that is offered to him… The life which he had led no doubt had had its allurements, but it is one which hardly admits of a hale and happy evening. Men who make women a prey, prey also on themselves. (more…)
‘How many people are you expecting at your reading?’
‘Well, it’s impossible to know. Maybe five, maybe 20.’
‘But how many people will you will be happy with?’
‘Well, anything over three.’
We’re on our way to my reading from my Berlin thriller Blood Summit at the excellent English language bookshop Shakespeare & Company at Sterngasse 2 in central Vienna. Not only is it a Friday night, but the World Cup has started: Portugal vs Spain, no less. I am managing my expectations appropriately.
We gather in the bookshop. It is a beautiful place, in the heart of Vienna’s old town. Outside, a cobbled street. Inside, books reach to the ceiling: a temple of imagination, stories and ideas. If you have never visited Shakespeare & Co, go today or, at the latest, next weekend. They are open until 9 p.m. six days a week.
People keep coming. By the time I start the reading, at 1930, the shop is already crammed – I count 19 people. More keep arriving, slipping in cunningly through a hitherto unsuspected back door.
A wonderful place for a book-reading – Shakespeare & Co
What does reclusive author Robert Pimm look like in the flesh?
You can find out on Friday 15 June at the wonderful Shakespeare & Co bookshop at Sterngasse 2 in central Vienna.
I will be reading from my new Berlin thriller “Blood Summit” (“a rip-roaring romp of a thriller” – Sir Christopher Mallaby). Entry is free and copies of the book will be on sale.
Come along – and bring a friend!
For a preview, see the video below, from my March 16 reading at Cafe Korb, also in Vienna.
In fact, you can buy “Blood Summit” in Shakespeare & Co any time: (more…)
Burly, yet brilliant. Violent, yet sensitive to the needs of women. Loyal to friends, yet indifferent to relationships.
Meet Jack Reacher, U.S. hero of British writer Lee Child’s thriller series about an ex military policeman who drifts around, usually finding himself in small town America with a woman to save, an injustice to right, a mystery to solve or, often, all three.
I much enjoyed “The Affair”
I have been a Jack Reacher fan since reading my first Lee Child novel, “Tripwire”, over a decade ago. That book features a cunning plot; extreme violence, some directed against wholly innocent people; and a powerful, satisfying resolution.
Child has published 22 Jack Reacher novels in total, exactly one a year since 1997. They are hugely successful: “Make Me” (no.20 in the series, published in 2015), for example, has over 2,800 reviews on Amazon.co.uk and over 7,800 on Amazon.com.
But super-successful novelists have a problem. From Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent to J K Rowling’s Harry Potter, publishers’ deadlines and the fact that readers who enjoy one book will be keen to buy the next in the series make it hard for writers to maintain a consistently high standard. Even my favourite thriller-writer, Michael Connelly, has one or two books which are weaker than the rest.
How about Lee Child? I see good news, bad news and good news. The first good news (more…)
I am on a four-stage plane journey, from Vienna to Sharm-el-Sheikh and back via Istanbul. On the first leg, from Vienna to Istanbul, my Turkish Airlines flight features seat-back video and I choose recent blockbuster “Black Panther”.
Unfortunately the crew make many announcements in numerous languages, interrupting the movie. So I miss the end of the film, which I am hoping will include astonishing plot twists but fear will mostly be superheroes slugging each other (a problem with all superhero movies: if two superheroes have a superhero fist-fight, how do you make it interesting? No-one knows).
On the subsequent three legs, Istanbul-Sharm, Sharm-Istanbul and Istanbul-Vienna, the Turkish Airlines aircraft are older, without seat-back video. So I still haven’t seen the end of “Black Panther”. Should I make an effort to catch the last 20 minutes? What do you think? No spoilers please!
But good news is coming. On the communal screens on the older planes, the airline shows episodes of Fish Tank Kings. This is (more…)
Someone pointed out recently that I hadn’t written about the Hotel Stories for some time.
In fact, I recently rebranded The Hotel Stories – Complete Collection as Seven Hotel Stories. My goal was to remind readers how many stories now exist in a single, novel-length volume.
All the stories feature the world’s most brilliant, unpredictable and occasionally homicidal hotel manager, Ms N; her beautiful but naive ally, Tatiana; and Ms N’s unique methods of solving problems.
The first story, Britches, shows how Ms N and Tatiana first met; and how they sorted out the hotel owner from hell using a Combined Burns Night and St Patrick’s Day Ball (they exist – I have been to one); the President of China; and something Tatiana found under a handsome Scotsman’s kilt.
The second Hotel Story is The Two Rooms. It features an obnoxious guest; a hypocritical Prime Minister on a moral crusade; some Russian ice-hockey fans; an angry Japanese sushi chef; and a startling twist. Is it my favourite? Perhaps it is.
I have written several times in these chronicles of my slow-burn devotion to the works of P G Wodehouse, including my induction (How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide), drawing on the excellent advice of fellow WordPress blogger and Wodehouse specialist Plumtopia – strongly recommended for all things Jeeves and Wooster and beyond.
Hence my concern, bordering on panic, at my initial perception that “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit” was not quite such a pearl of the Wodehouse canon as, say, the wondrous Thank you, Jeeves. Bertie Wooster’s early decision to grow a moustache, to the disapproval of Jeeves, felt a little familiar as a plot device. The plot of the first half of the book meandered – well, I am reminded of Bertie’s description of Daphne Dolores Morehead on her first appearance in the novel as having “a figure as full of curves as a scenic railway”.
The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit”
That very reference to Ms Morehead, however, signals my sense of relief that I can in fact recommend “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit”, the seventh P G Wodehouse novel to feature Jeeves and Wooster and his sixtieth book overall, wholeheartedly. From about the half-way point, the story spreads its wings. The subsequent flight is sublime. The scene following the unexpected arrival of the aforementioned Daphne at Brinkley Court is amongst the funniest (more…)