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Friday, August 11, 2017

Comic Cuts - 11 August 2017

I've spent the whole week working on two different projects that I'm enjoying putting together. One is a pitch for a book that I'll be happy to talk about if it comes to anything, the other is going to be a collection of author biographies that I'm hoping to get out this side of Christmas. I haven't forgotten the Valiant book—that's still being worked on, too—but I wanted something I could put together relatively quickly. I've written about 12,000 words and completed four pieces, although I have three more in the works, two of which are almost finished that will add another 6,000 or so words to the total. The target is fifty, so I've still a way to go.

So, without any work to talk about, I thought instead I'd give you a rundown of some of the books I've bought over the past few weeks. I trek around Colchester's charity shops each week in search of books and sometimes end up with a rather bizarre collection of titles. Some of the books I've bought I've scanned and the covers have filled holes in existing galleries, whilst others are for future galleries. Then there are the books that don't really fit into any great scheme but I pick them up anyway.

David Downing has written a series of thillers set around Berlin in the 1940s. I saw a stack of these about a year ago in our local Oxfam, perhaps all six novels in the series, but I try to limit myself each week and, that particular week, I'd hit my limit early. They were gone the following week. So this one turned up as part of a three for the price of two offer and, being the first in the series featuring John Russell, I thought I'd give it a shot as it has been quite highly praised for the atmosphere and setting, which is in the dying weeks of peace just before the Second World War.

Fifteen Dogs I picked up because it features dogs and one of them is called Prince, the name of our dog who we grew up with from around the age of seven or eight until he died thirteen or so years later. So I gave this one to my sister as a birthday/moving present, as she celebrated both those events last month.

I've just watched The Handmaid's Tale adaptation and thought it utterly compelling. I've never read the book, so I thought I'd pick up a copy, which I'll get round to reading one day/year/when I'm retired.

Philip Reeve's "Mortal Engines" series is another series I intend reading. It's for children but involves mobile cities that roam the landscape and eat other cities. Who wouldn't want to read books about that? I've had the four books sitting in my "to read" pile for a few years, now, but other books get piled on top. There's no real rhyme or reason to how I pick the next book I read. So a week ago I was reading Ted Chaing's collection Arrival, but was sat at my computer waiting for a file to download the other day and started reading the first book to hand, which happened to be one I've been wanting to read for years: Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard. So that replaced the book I had planned to read next (Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey), which has probably moved down the list anyway because I've just picked up the second and third novels in Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovaks trilogy, which has pushed Altered Carbon (the first in the series) to the top of my "to read" pile. And lets not forget that I have four or five short story collections on the go, ranging from Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber to The Draco Tavern by Larry Niven, which I dip into depending on what mood I'm in.

Lots of SF at the moment, you'll notice. Should my mood swing back to crime novels, I have plenty of those lined up too, including the Stephen King series about Bill Hodges (Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch), the latest from Robert Harris (Conclave) and a copy of Brian Garfield's Death Wish, picked up on Saturday. I haven't read it for donkey's years and was reminded of it when I saw that they were remaking the movie with Bruce Willis in the Charles Bronson role. As I'm in a confessional mood... when I was 19 I took a girlfriend on our first date to see Death Wish II because she was a Led Zeppelin fan and Jimmy Page did the soundtrack to that film. All I can say is that I didn't know there was going to be an horrific gang rape and the catalogue of violence that followed with shootings and electrocutions... oh, boy! What the hell was I thinking... and more importantly, what was my date thinking? That was only the first in a series of catastrophic decisions that doomed that particular relationship. I'm not sure I can bring myself to read the book now that I've remembered this bit of heartache!

The Shrinking Man... if only that movie had been around at the time. Unfortunately, the one that was around was The Incredible Shrinking Woman, directed by Joel Schumacher no less (he went on to direct some quite respectable films before blowing his career with two terrible Batman movies). The Incredible Shrinking Man I haven't seen for many, many years. I wonder if it's as good as I remember? I've just spotted it on YouTube, although it looks like someone filmed it off the TV, and there's another version that looks better but has intrusive subtitles that I can't turn off.

The last two books I picked up on Sunday at the local railway station, which has a small shelf of titles for people travelling on the trains. I've picked up quite a few books in the past, so I try to keep it stocked up—I've been dropping in copies of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse novels recently and I think I got the best of the swap with a 1971 short story collection entitled The Homosexual Ghost and Other Stories, which is an anthology of horror stories from the Far East (Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, India and Pakistan) ranging from the 10th century to the 1960s; and a nice Barbara Cartland novel. I don't care for Barbara Cartland, but I do like cover artist Francis Marshall, whose work I first became aware of when I was working for Look and Learn; he did some illustrations for Bible Story and also for Ranger. David Roach later pointed out that he was also the regular artist for Pan's and Arrow's paperback editions of Barbara Cartland novels, although this is the first one I've picked up. Not a bad swap for a Morse with an unimaginative photo cover.

There are lots of Cartland paperback covers dotted around the internet. One day I'll gather them all up in a gallery.


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