Saturday, 28 July 2012

Such Good Friends

Title: Such Good Friends

Author: Lois Gould

Year of publication: 1970

Inner cover blurb: 'We were at least as happily married as anybody else, which maybe wasn't very, but it was all anybody could reasonably expect.  All I could, anyway...
   But now Julie Messinger, age 31, mother of two, is going through the kind of hell that may destroy her marriage, if not her life.  It starts when her husband Richard enters a hospital for a simple operation, which turns into a medical disaster that may cause his death.  While her fate, as well as his, hangs suspended in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, she is compelled to unlock all the doors behind which the unthinkable truths about her husband, her friends and herself have been carefully hidden.
   Suddenly Julie and the people she thought she knew best begin to betray themselves in way that shock them all, and for reasons none of them can explain.  The whole intricate fabric of their familiar world - loyalties, love, sex - is torn apart and rewoven in a strange and frightening new pattern.  Each is shattered by this one catastrophic experience, but only Julie is so changed by it that she will never again live by the same rules, or in the same way.
   This intensely revealing portrait of a dramatic marital crisis, through which people discover their unknown selves, could only have been written by a woman.  Yet perhaps no other woman writer, and certainly no man, has ever created a heroine with so acute a sense of her own sexual feelings and attitudes, so unclouded a vision of the feminine psyche in search of fulfilment.
   Such Good Friends compels both startled laughter and the pain of recognition.  At once erotic and anti-erotic, tough and heartrending, it is a book whose plot never detracts from its haunting statement about human behaviour.  Its strength lies in revealing what people do to each other in the name of friendship; how some use even love and death as masks or weapons; and how they may survive, scarred, yet in a way more whole than before.'

Quick flick reveals: Like the blurb, the book seems to go on a bit without really telling you much.  Has the tone of an American Bridget Jones on seventies prescription drugs.  What's not to like?

Random paragraph: 'Normally, I'm a fantastic shopper; I operate on a kind of radar which I must have developed as a reaction to all those years of suffering in clothes, or hiding under them.  Now that I was a perfect size 9 and could walk around impersonating a pretty girl, dressing was a sacred privilege, something entrusted to me.  Girls who have cried into their mirrors are never really sure what will happen if they smile now.  Won't the mirror send you right back to your old self?  You tremble in ecstatic stage fright every time you enter the try-on room with the curtain that doesn't quite close.  Don't be silly, you are pretty, see?  Oh, but that isn't me!


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Another Part of the House

Title: Another Part of the House

Author: Winston M. Estes

Year of publication: 1970

Inner cover blurb: '"Good times are just around the corner," the catch phrase of the Depression years, offered the promise of better days which never seemed to come.  And yet the best days of all, the days of a family bound together by love regardless of adversity - these are the days portrayed in this vital and penetrating novel of family life in the Texas Panhandle in the 1930's.
   Another Part of the House is told through the eyes of ten-year-old Larry Morrison, who is aware that the times are troubled but doesn't know why.  He understands conditions only insofar as they affect him and his family.  To him, the Depression, the drought, the dust, and, most of all, death are potential destroyers of the only real security a child knows - his home.
   "Stealing and dying," Larry observes, "both of these terrible things happened in our own family right under my very nose, and here I was still living, eating, sleeping, playing, breathing and walking around on two legs."
   Here, too, are the other members of Larry's family, living through happy times as well as hardship in the pages of this moving story.  Written with compassion and understanding and an undeniable sense of truth, Another Part of the House is a warmhearted evocation of a vanished way of life.  The wonder of its telling lies in the author's ability to transform the humor and sadness of everyday events into an affirmative, unforgettable narrative.'

Quick flick reveals:  "I found Another Part of the House fascinating and enjoyed it enormously," said P.G. Wodehouse of this book, which we can safely assume means he didn't read it.  Estes seems pretty much lost to history, perhaps because his characters 'exclaim' 'agree' and 'command', rather than just 'say' things in the Elmore Leonard-approved style that marks the barriers of good taste right now.  Still, looks pretty interesting, although probably not as good as A Garden of Sand by Earl Thompson.

Random paragraph: 'I couldn't get interested in yellow boxcars.  My attention was nailed by the swarms of men perched in boxcar doors and atop flatbeds like so many blackbirds.  While Ozell licked his forefinger and stamped the palm of his hand for good luck - one time each per yellow boxcar - I ticked off forty-eight men aboard the freight train before I lost count.'


Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Dolly Dolly Spy

Title: The Dolly Dolly Spy

Author: Adam Diment

Year of publication: 1967, Pan edition 1968

Back cover blurb: '"The most modern hero in years... He's hip, he's hard, he likes birds, and, sometimes, marijuana..."  Daily Mirror
   "The latest Instant Hero of Fiction.  He is the contemporary Bond... McAlpine is a Secret Service agent, too.  He also has the same obsessive interest in sex.  But about there they part company..."   Sunday Mirror
   "There is any amount of violence and almost everybody is threatened with torture or rape or both... very efficient, not too jagged and extremely easy to read"   The Bookman
   "is twenty-three; his hero, Philip McAlpine, is based on himself.  That is to say he's tall, good-looking, with a taste for fast cars, planes, girls and pot... One of the most interesting characters in the book is his loathsome British secret service chief, Quine, who talks camp and calls McAlpine 'luv'.  'Quine', says Diment, 'is God.  A sort of non-caring vicious God.  He's the Establishment rolled into one.  He's all authority."  Atticus, The Sunday Times'

Quick flick reveals: Diment's Austin Powers-esque take on Bond was very popular in its day, but his star faded quickly, and he himself disappeared off the face of the planet at some point in the seventies, possibly to the extra-terrestrial body known as Switzerland.  Quite looking forward to reading a book whose hero 'is based on himself'.

Random paragraph:  'I have a fifteen-year lease on a three-roomed bit of real estate in Hampstead. A number of modish knick-knacks like expensive record players, deep foam, leather hide, swivel, wing-backed chairs, a wall-to-wall white Chinese carpet, floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a small but very good wine stock.'


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Satyr

Title: The Satyr

Author: Robert DeMaria

Year of publication: 1972, Sphere edition 1973

Back cover blurb: 'Marc, a thirty-five year old editor, was a bachelor and would probably remain one as long as his mother was alive - even though he wanted to marry the young and beautiful Laura.
   Laura, he insisted, had to be a virgin bride.  And for a sensualist like Marc, this meant he had to look elsewhere for his bedmates.
   Mother was the problem.  For she treatened to disinherit him if he married Laura.  There seemed to be only one way out.  Murder...'

Quick flick reveals: Seems quite a standard 'man has lots of sex and plots to murder his mother' story, but Anthony Burgess thought it was great so there might be something more to it than that.

Random paragraph: 'But the wedding night, that was another matter.  That would be my ritual, my black mass, and our roles would be reversed.  Laura would be the passive initiate.  I would be the hooded priest with the jewelled dagger.  I would lead her through the forest of the male kingdom to the castle of obedience and teach her, on her knees, to recite prayers of the flesh.'


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Body Charge

Title: Body Charge

Author: Hunter Davies

Year of publication: 1972, Sphere edition 1974

Back cover blurb: 'Franko Baxter roamed the streets of London in the unlicensed mini-cab he drove for Mr Innocent of Fantastic Cabs.  When he wasn't picking up passengers, he was on the heath kicking a football with his friend Ginger or anyone else who was around.
   But Franko's trouble was that he got involved.  With Shuggy, down from Glasgow to try his luck with a big league team; with Zak, a graduate drop-out on the dole, and his sexy wife; with Joff, top bisexual TV producer; and with the police investigating a homosexual murder.'

Quick flick reveals: Hunter Davies is now best known as a top Beatles biographer, but he has written a number of novels over the years.  I thought this one was going to be about football hooligans, but closer inspection reveals it to be about murders, and football, and homosexuality, and taxis... or something.

Random paragraphs: 'He put his hand on my shoulder.  I pushed him away.  Come round any time, he said.  Come round tonight.  He was having a few people in.  He knew there were several young people there I'd love to meet.
   Drink, money, now sex.  All that was missing was Green Shield stamps.'


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A Woman In Space

Title: A Woman In Space

Author: Sara Cavanaugh

Year of publication: 1981, Ace/Stoneshire edition 1983

Back cover blurb: 'She's young, she's lovely - she's an astronaut!  And she's been assigned a dangerous mission: to discove the wherabouts of four missing male astronauts who had preceded her to the Moon.  Carol's space ship is mysteriously caught up in a force field that draws her inexorably into outer space.  Carol's mission is in great danger, as is her life and that of the man she loves!'

Quick flick reveals: A bit of a novelty this: a sci-fi novel aimed exclusively at the female reader.  Astronaut Carol tackles male chauvinism, space danger, and inadequate washing facilities (Inner cover blurb: 'Spacewoman's problem: How do you take a bath without your male copilot peeking?').  Looks fun.

Random paragraphs: 'She would find out, and in the process maybe find a way out of her dilemma.  Having decided on a course of action, Carol went to the closet and picked out a sexy outfit.  She would try to bait Marcus!  She would offer her love to him in return for a slight favor.
   Send her back to the moon!'