Sunday, 13 November 2011

Rotary Club Book Sale - Second Visit

I visited the local Rotary Club sale on its opening day, Thursday, and found a very few books in the hour I spent there. I thought I'd make one more visit yesterday and had a nicely successful visit. The stock had been updated and there was an excellent selection; lots of people rooting through the books, but everybody was patient and it seemed to go very smoothly. I enjoyed myself anyway.

As I mentioned, I had a very successful visit yesterday. I found some classics that will look nice on the book shelves, filled out my collection of Alistair MacLean thrillers and found a nice mix of fiction, spy and other stories. All for the super price of $3.00. You can't go wrong with that.

A Few Classics

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Shirley was Charlotte Bronte's second novel, written after Jane Eyre and published in 1849. The novel was written after the deaths of Branwell, Emily and Anne. "In her portraits of the characters Shirley Keeldar and Caroline Helstone, she poured out her feelings for her dead sisters. Nevertheless, it is a historical novel which depicts the uneasy era of the Luddite riots, bad harvests and social unrest as well as Charlotte Bronte's belief that the denial of the world of feeling is responsible for much of society's suffering."

Charlotte Bronte was born in 1816 and lived to the age of 38, dying 13 Mar 1855. Besides Jane Eyre and Shirley, she also wrote Villette and The Professor, which was written before Jane Eyre but rejected originally by publishing houses. It was published posthumously. She also wrote twenty pages of Emma, which was also published after her death.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles
 Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy was originally published in 1891. This Macmillan edition was printed in 1982. Tess falls into Hardy's Novels of Character and Environment category, along with others such as Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

The storyline for Tess reads as follows. "When old John Durbeyfield discovers that he is descended from the ancient and noble family of d'Urbervilles, he sends his daughter to visit the present holders of the title. but Tess, beautiful and innocent, is seduced by her supposed relative, the dashing womanizer, Alec d'Urberville, and is haunted by guilt and shame.
Abandoning her home and family, she starts a new life as a milkmaid in the sunny fields of Froom Valley, and here she finally meets the man she can love. But her past stands between her and happiness - if he knew the truth would he still love her?"

Men at Arms
 Evelyn Waugh lived from 1903 to 1966 and was considered to be one  of the leading writers of English prose in the 20th century. Of his work, I've only previously read The Love One, a novel about British expatriates in the US and the funeral business.

Men at Arms is the first of the Sword of Honour trilogy, which included Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. It was originally published in 1952, with this edition coming out in 1984.

The synopsis of Men at Arms, which won the James Tait Memorial award, reads as follows -

"Guy Crouchback, determined to get into the war, takes a commission in the royal corps of Halberdiers. His spirits high, he sees all the trimmings but none of the action. And his first campaign, an abortive affair on the West African coastline, ends with an escapade which seriously blots his Halberdier copybook."

Bridge on the River Kwai
 One of the classic War novels and movies is Bridge on the River Kwai. The novel is based on author Pierre Boulle's wartime experiences as prisoner - of - war in Indochina. Something I didn't realize about Monsieur Boulle is that he also wrote another classic, the Sci-Fi novel, Planet of the Apes.

Bridge on the River Kwai, originally published in 1952, tells the story of 3 men;

"Colonel Nicholson - a man who was prepared to sacrifice everything that had ever mattered to him, including his life; everything except his dignity.

Major Warden - the saboteur, a kindly, modest hero - and a deadly killer.

Commander Shears - a man who escaped from hell and was ordered back"

Great story and great movie, which won 7 Oscar, including Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean) and Best Actor (Alec Guinness).

The African Queen
 Another classic war book and movie comes from the pen of C.S. Forester. Known for his Horatio Hornblower novels, Forester also wrote many others, including the classic The African Queen. Published in 1935, it was also an Academy Award winning film in 1951, which starred Humphrey Bogart (who won Best Actor) and Katherine Hepburn (Nominated for Best Actress).

As the plot summary reads, "C.S. Forester is at his most entertaining in this story of the missionary woman and the Cockney mechanic marooned in German Central Africa. As they fight their ramshackle old launch down-river 'to strike a blow for England' the 'African Queen' seems to breathe the spirit of Hornblower himself."

In the film, Bogart's character, Charlie Allnutt is changed from Cockney to Canadian, as Bogart was unable to master the thick Cockney accent. Half of the film was filmed on location in Africa, unique for its time. The remainder was filmed in England, with the water sequences filmed in tanks at Isleworth Studios in Middlesex.

Science Fiction

Sci-Fi short stories
 I found only a couple of Sci-Fi novels at the sale, one from an author I'd never heard, that being Edmund Cooper. He was a prolific writer and also published under a variety of pseudonyms; George Kinley, Martin Lester, etc. Looking through his bio, he seemed to write a bit of everything.

News from Elsewhere was published in 1969, with this Berkeley edition released in May of that year. It is a collection of short stories, with the following plot summary;

"Elsewhere, where a group of 'superior' scientists from Earth are unwittingly the playthings of THE ENLIGHTENED ONES... where, on JUDGEMENT DAY, selected millions of people begin to drop off like flies...
and where THE LIZARD OF WOZ, off on a brief, terrestrial tour, most unfortunately falls in love with the most sylph-like, the most radiantly beautiful female he has ever seen; a Komodo dragon christened Kanna-Belle."

Other stories include The Menhir, M81: Ursa Major, The Intruders, The Butterflies and Welcome Home.

More Sci-Fi short stories
 One of my favourite Sci-Fi authors of all-time is John Wyndham who has written such classics as The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). I have read each and every one at least twice, if not more. I've seen the movie and television adaptations of Day of the Triffids and also enjoyed the original Village of the Damned, based on The Midwich Cuckoos.

The Seeds of Time is a collection of short stories which Wyndham released in 1956. As the synopsis states, 'Shots of the future from the author of The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham catapults the reader of these stories into a world where time barriers have ceased to exist, where there is discrimination against Martians, where not only thought  transference but body transference is an everyday event. yet so convincing are the inhabitants of this extraordinary world, that its remoteness vanishes in a second."

John Wyndham lived from 1903 to 1969.

Mixtures (Mystery, Adventure)

 The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan, is one of the classic adventure/ spy novels. The lead character, Richard Hannay, was featured in five of Buchan's novels. Greenmantle, originally in 1916 is the second of these novels.

"This is the second of John Buchan's adventure novels featuring his courageous, resourceful and high-minded hero Richard Hannay, the south African mining engineer turned spy-catcher.

The story takes place during the First World War - Richard Hannay, looking forward to further service in Belgium, is sent instead with a few slender clues - and an even more slender disguise - on a mission to discover what danger the Germans are plotting in the Middle East. His first problem is how to get through occupied Europe to Constantinople, where he eventually arrives after many narrow escapes. He fins that the East is being roused by a woman who promises the appearances of a new Prophet, a new leader. Richard Hannay and his friends go in pursuit of the elusive and mysterious Greenmantle, and in doing so experience tremendous difficulties and dangers, which involve them in one of Buchan's best pieces of descriptive writings, a Cossack war ride against Erzeum."

The other novels in the Richard Hannay series are Mr Standfast, The Three Hostages, and The Island of Sheep. If they are half as good at the first, the series should be excellent.

From the master, John Le Carré

When it comes to writing an excellent spy novel, John le Carré is the master. He created the iconic John Smiley, the aging, cynical spy, who featured in so many of le Carré's novels and was immortalized by Alec Guinness. He has written so many excellent novels. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold was his third novel and came out in 1963. The 1965 movie featured Richard Burton in the role of Alec Leamas, administrator of the West Berlin office of The Circus.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold occurs during the Cold War, during heightened political-military tensions of the 1950's and early 1960's, when a Soviet-NATO war seemed likely to occur. The majority of the story takes place in Berlin, an island of the West set in the middle of communist East Germany. In 2006, the novel was named as one of the best 100 novels of all time by Time Magazine.

Miss Silver mystery

I've previously read one of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver mysteries, Wicked Uncle, and very much enjoyed it very much, so I was pleasantly surprised to see another one at the Book Sale. She Came Back was originally released in 1945. The synopsis sounds very interesting and reads as follows -

"Anne Jocelyn came back from the dead. her husband Philip says he carried her off the beach at Breton, shot in the head by a German bullet, and he buried her in Holt churchyard. Now with the war almost over, the bombing stopped, her return explodes the quiet life at Jocelyn's Holt. She wants her husband and her fortune back, and she'll get them.... if she really is Anne Jocelyn. Miss Nellie Collins knows something about that, and now Nellie Collins is dead."

One of my favourite war movies (set in the Cold War) and a novel I read when I was in High School was Eugene Burdick's Fail-Safe. This is another story that became a great movie, directed by Sydney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda. The story is set in the early '60s during the Cold War. The basic plot is the scrambling of Strategic Air Command bombers as a perceived threat is detected by US Radar systems. The bombers head to their Fail-Safe points, these locations are the spots where they would either turn around or the pilots would pull out their secret instructions and head for their targets in Soviet Russia to drop the nuclear munitions.

In this story, the threat is determined, as normal, to be innocuous, but due to a technical failure and one of the bomber groups is given the instruction to proceed to their attack destinations. The rest of the story involves attempts to bring the bombers back home, to assist the Russians in stopping the bombers and the final outcome. It's a scary, intense, but at the same time, fascinating story, one that proceeds relentlessly to the surprising ending. I look forward to reading this story again.

The Once and Future King
 T.H. White's magical story of a young King Arthur, The Sword in the Stone, which was published in 1938, became the basis for the wonderful Walt Disney animated movie. For T.H. White, it was the first in the Once and Future King, tetralogy, which also featured; The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind.

 White wrote a number of stories during his life. The Sword in the Stone recreates, against the background of magnificent pageantry and dark magic that was medieval England, the education and training of young King Arthur, who was to become the greatest of Britain's legendary rulers.

Arthur learns the code of being a gentleman. He is trained in falconry, jousting, hunting and sword play. He is even transformed by his tutor, Merlin, into various animals, so that he may experience life from all points of view. In every conceivable way he is readied for the day when he and he alone, is destined to draw forth the marvelous sword from the magic stone and become the rightful King of England.

Alistair MacLean library

Finally, I found four more of my Alistair MacLean adventures. I am currently reading When Eight Bells Toll and periodically pull one of those old favourites off the shelf to read. I've slowly been finding those others that I had enjoyed reading when I was in High School. Alistair MacLean tells a great adventure thriller and reading one of his stories is so comfortable and easy.

Night Without End was first published in1959 with this tenth impression released in May 1968. "I could half hear, half feel, a hissing tremor as the aircraft gouged through the ice. Then came another convulsion and above the gale the sudden sharp sound of the crash, the grinding tearing scream of crushed metal. Then, abruptly a deep ominous silence when the sound of the wind in the darkness was no sound at all. ... For scientist Peter Mason a Greenland nightmare had just begun."

The Last Frontier was originally published in 1959 with this fourteenth impression released May 1968. "Secured to a high-backed chair, Michael Reynolds was going insane, slowly but inevitably insane, and the most terrible part of it was that he knew it. Since the last forced injection, there had been nothing he could do about the relentless on-set of this madness. The more he struggled to ignore the symptoms, the more acutely he became aware of them, the deeper into his mind dug those fiendish chemical claws that were tearing his mind apart.... "

The Dark Crusader (released in the US as The Black Shrike.. and, yes, at one time I bought both, thinking they were different stories) was originally published in 1961, with this fifteenth impression released in May 1968. "When you get to know this tough, diffident guy who's honest enough to admit his mistakes you'll stay with him to the end. And with the beautiful girl who's posing as his wife. Together they embark on a 'honeymoon' voyage which turns out to be a series of disasters. They're dumped on a remote Polynesian island where, isolated and in acute danger, they have to pit their wits against a brilliant brain; a brain backed by sadistic Chinese henchmen. Slowly the terrible meaning of The Dark Crusader comes to light..."

Fear is the Key was first released in 1961 with this edition published in 1963. "The sleepy calm of Marble Springs, Florida, is shattered when an unknown Englishman ruthlessly shoots his way out of the courtroom, abducting the lovely Mary Ruthven at gun-point and tearing out of town in a stolen car. Who is he? What is his concern with the girl, with the General's secluded house and with the great oil-rig twelve miles out in the gulf of Mexico? Who are his three enemies? A cruelly exciting novel of ruthless revenge, set in the steel jungle of a great oil0rig in the Gulf of Mexico- and on the sea bed below it."

All-in-all I think I did very well at this year's Rotary Club Book Sale. I hope they had as much success raising funds.

Keep on reading!

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