Archive for October, 2011

‘A Painted House’ by John Grisham

October 26, 2011

Not Grisham’s usual lawyer-centered or at least juridical thriller but rather a family story from 1950’s rural America (the US of, that is; there are other parts of America). It is somewhat autobiographical, it seems. Having a painted house stands for the kind of ‘luxury’ the poor cotton farmers populating the book can’t afford. It’s not the kind of novel I would have searched out by myself (I rather stumbled upon it), but still a captivating and entertaining book.

‘Babylon Nights’ by Daniel Depp

October 12, 2011

The sequel to Loser’s Town. Also very entertaining, but the plot does not have the startling bad turn its predecessor had. The novel starts downbeat (alcohol and ex-wife nostalgia fuckups [a potential band name? Not for a boy group, though]), but ends surprisingly happily. What I considered as loose ends in Loser’s Town are, alas, not taken up again here and so remain unconcluded, from my perspective. David Spandau gets to ‘enjoy’ the Cannes Film Festival. I wonder whether Depp knows the festival thanks to his famous brother Johnny (Sweeney Todd is not completely irrelevant for this book) or in his capacity as a screenwriter. Not overwhelming, but nice!

‘Field Grey’ by Philip Kerr

October 12, 2011

Ages ago, I read Kerr’s A Philosophical Investigation (in the German translation: Das Wittgensteinprogramm), which was supposed to be part crime novel (‘mystery’ seems to be an established word for ‘crime novel’, but to me it sounds too much like Agatha Christie), part science fiction. I don’t remember much more about the book, except that I found it incredibly boring. So for a long time I wasn’t interested in reading another Philip Kerr book.

Now, however, I have read Field Grey, the fifth and latest in a series of novels revolving around Bernie Gunther, a German ex-policeman and private investigator in the Weimar Republic and the ‘Third Reich’. It is the first one in the series I have read and it makes me want to read its predecessors, too. Gunther is maybe not quite a hard-boiled detective, but at least he has a loose gab (is that correct?? What I mean is, ‘ein loses Mundwerk’).

For a while it seemed like Field Grey comprises two or three different novels at once, but the different strands do come back together in the end. What Kerr was trying to accomplish with these books is maybe an experiment: What would a halfway-decent person do if circumstances forced him or her not only to live in Nazi Germany but also to be a member of the police there, or even of the SS? (I am not suggesting that the premise is very plausible.)

As an aside — the typesetting is defective, at least in the Quercus paperback edition: some letters are so obviously too close together that even I couldn’t fail to notice.