The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
This book is based, loosely, around the Florida orchid thief, John Laroche. Susan Orlean is a journalist who hears about his story and attempts to discover why he has become so obsessed with these flowers, and one in particular, the Ghost Orchid. Laroche is a fascinating and complex character. Susan Orlean is both attracted and repelled by this man and her description of him is amazing in its detail and ruthless in its honesty. Continue reading The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean
Double Indemnity is a crime-fiction novel and often cited as a classic of the genre. First published in 1936, the book remains very popular. Why?
Written in the first person, this is a crime novel told through the point of view of the murderer. The language is simple and conversational, using the idioms and figures of speech consistent with the narrator’s background, era and nationality – he is a Californian insurance salesman. While I’m sure this was perfectly in keeping with the time, the language seems quaintly old-fashioned in the 21st Century. (I guess this is an important lesson in how quickly our contemporary fiction can become dated.) Continue reading Double Indemnity, by James M Cain
This is an interesting book, first published in 1976. It has a weird structure and, initially, I was completely bemused by it.
The subject of the story is Buddy Bolden, a black American musician living in New Orleans at the beginning of the twentieth century. Buddy was famous for his cornet playing and for being one of the early pioneers of jazz music. Continue reading Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje
This is a semi-autobiographical book, describing the experiences of a group of boys at an American boarding school at the start of World War 2.
The book begins with a first-person ‘Foreword’, describing how the author came to be enrolled in this particular school – the Dorset Academy, and ends with a first-person ‘Afterword’, describing what happened to the author and to some of his school-mates Continue reading A Good School, by Richard Yates
I was delighted to find this particular book in my local library. There is so much of Ray Bradbury’s work I haven’t yet read.
This book contains two long short-stories:
1. Somewhere a Band is Playing is a strange little story, with the main character being an aspiring journalist who sets out to report on a small town that is destined for demolition.
The tale blends romance with mystery, and features a town of immortal egyptian characters who hold the knowledge of the books of long-lost libraries in their memories. Part horror story, part fantasy, part ghost story Continue reading Now and Forever, by Ray Bradbury
This is a unputtadownable book. But, luckily, it is also quick and easy to read in one sitting (I read it over the course of a long train journey on a single day).
The story is a fast-paced action adventure set in a dystopian future. The story follows the classic ‘journey’ format. The main protagonist is an anti-hero, who is asked to take part in an impossible mission in exchange for a pardon from life-long imprisonment. I won’t tell you much about the futuristic scenario, except to say it is set in the USA and involves how life has changed post nuclear-war. The dangers include the usual stuff – radiation and lawlessness – along with fiercesome storms where solid objects rain down with deadly consequences. Continue reading Damnation Alley, by Roger Zelazny
Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite science fiction authors. And his non-science fiction books are pretty good too.
I have to confess, I found Farewell Summer hard going. But, in the final few chapters, the book finally came alive for me – so alive, I started it again and read it through from the beginning. (This is the first time I have ever read a book through, twice, all in one sitting). Continue reading Farewell Summer, by Ray Bradbury