Monday, 19 September 2011

Book Buying Spree - Pt 4 (the last stuff)

Over this weekend I've highlighted my fun visit to Victoria, especially the book buying part. Of course, the weekend on the whole was very nice; the evening walk with the missus down to Victoria harbour, wandering around Cook Street, Oak Bay and Cadboro Bay, enjoying a great curry from Da Tandoor and a nice relaxing lunch at Rosie's. Always a nice visit when we go there; hopefully we'll get to go one more time before Xmas.

Anyway, back to the final book purchases, as this is a Blog about books and assorted other things. :0). The final four would fall into the Fiction/ Spy/ Adventure categories.

The Thirty-Nine Steps
I've been looking for John Buchan's, The Thirty-Nine Steps, for a long time. I had read it previously and I've enjoyed the original movie by Alfred Hitchcock many times. (The latest remake was somewhat of a disappointment, though, I must say).

It is a classic adventure story, of a man caught up in events beyond his control, but able to cope with and solve the related mysteries. As the review from the New York Times on the back of this version, reprinted in 1967, states, "Remains the definitive story of espionage, intrigue and pursuit - terse, taut, endlessly inventive, and as delightfully fresh as the day it was written."

This story features Richard Hannay, the first of five books (something I didn't realize until this past weekend) featuring this character. It involves a chase around the United Kingdom, as he tries to decipher the notes left him by an American, Franklin Scudder, who is murdered after telling Hannay of an anarchist plot to assassinate the Greek Premier. The story is exciting, non-stop and satisfying, a book that anyone can enjoy.

One bit of trivia about John Buchan that I didn't realize, is that he was also Baron Tweedsmuir and was Canada's Governor - General and very popular in Canada, where he ultimately died in 1940.

The Island of Sheep
 Oddly enough, while looking around Russell Books, I found another of Buchan's Hannay stories, the fifth and last, which was published in 1936. This particular version of The Island of Sheep was reprinted in 1968.

If it's half as good as The Thirty-Nine Steps, it'll be an entertaining read. The synopsis reads as follows -

"The action occurs some twelve years later on from the last novel, The Three Treasures, when Hannay, now in his fifties, is called by an old oath to protect the son of a man he once knew, who is also heir to the secret of a great treasure.

He obtains help from Sandy Arbuthnot, now Lord Clanroyden, and Lombard. The action takes place in England, Scotland and on the Island of Sheep. This is located in what Buchan describes as 'the Norlands': clearly the Faroe Islands. There are several stereotypical villains, in particular D'Ingraville from The Courts of Morning, and the book also focuses on Hannay's son, Peter John, now a bright but solemn teenager."

As mentioned previously, this is the last of the Richard Hannay novels; the others being Greenmantle (1916), Mr Standfast (1919) and The Three Hostages (1924). Hannay also appears in minor roles in various other of Buchan novels. How exciting! More books to look for.

The Mystic Masseur
 I discovered V.S. Naipaul by chance, I believe one of his stories was listed in another book I had been reading. The write up of that particular book, A House for Mr Biswas sounded interesting and the story indeed turned out to be so. I liked the setting, the Indian communities of Trinidad and Tobago; there was a sadness to the story, but it managed to draw me in to the community described.

V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad and began writing after going to Oxford. Since the 1950's, he has written more than 20 books of fiction and non-fiction. There were a few from his bibliography which attracted my attention, including The Mystic Masseur, which I found in Russell Books.

"In this slyly funny and lavishly inventive novel - his first - V.S. Naipaul traces the unlikely career of Ganesh Ramsumair, a failed schoolteacher and impecunious village masseur who in time becomes a revered mystic, a thriving entrepreneur, and the most beloved politician in Trinidad. To understand a little better, one has to realize that in the 1940's masseurs were the island's medical practitioners of choice. As one character observes, 'I know the sort of doctors they have in Trinidad. They think nothing of killing tow, three people before breakfast.'

Ganesh's ascent is variously aided and impeded by a Dickensian cast of rogues and eccentrics. There's his skeptical wife, Leeda, whose schooling has made her excessively fond of ; punctuation: marks!; and Leela's father, Ramlogan, a man of startling mood changes and an ever-ready cutlass. there's the aunt known as The Great Belcher. There are patients pursued by malign clouds or afflicted with an amorous fascination with bicycles. Witty, tender and filled with the sights and sounds of Trinidad's dusty Indian villages, The Mystic Masseur is Naipaul at his most expansive and evocative."

Spies of the Balkans
 The final book from my shopping spree is one I've seen a few times and had on my To-Be-Read list. Alan Furst is a new author for me, but the book seemed very interesting and when I saw it in Ivy's Books in Oak Bay, I had to pick it up. Furst has an extensive catalogue, so if I like this one, who knows...

"Greece, 1940. In the port city of Salonika, with its wharves and brothels, dark alleys and Turkish mansions, a tense political drama is being played out. As Adolf Hitler plans to invade the Balkans, spies begin to circle - and Costa Zannis, a senior police official, must deal with them all. he is soon in the game, working to secure an escape route for fugitives from Nazi Berlin that is protected by German lawyers, Balkan detectives and Hungarian gangsters - and hunted by the Gestapo. Meanwhile, as war threatens, the erotic life of the city grows passionate. For Zannis, that means a British expatriate who owns the local ballet academy, a woman from the dark side of Salonika society and the wife of a shipping magnate. With extraordinary historical detail and a superb cast of characters, Spies of the Balkans is a stunning novel about a man who risks everything to fight back against the world's evil."

Sounds interesting, eh? I thought so. Now I just have to sit down and try to catch up on my reading.


Keep on reading!

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