I loved reading Farewell Olympus. It was a page-turner with humor and insight, the characters were complicated and fun, and the story started simply and played out in a more complicated way with Paris as the setting. But Paris as a place to live and work and not the romanticized faux version of baguettes or berets. Although easy to read, I had to look up several words which were seamlessly woven into the narrative but were new to me. Amazon US review
Reykjavík is a novel of the Cold War and its aftermath which takes as its starting point the Reykjavík summit in October 1986 between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
Dylan Rose, aged 24, is the foreign correspondent for a New York paper. While in Iceland to cover the summit, he unexpectedly encounters Professor Nathalie Campbell, his former teacher of Russian at Berkeley, who herself meets and falls in love with Russian scientist Andrei Heilemann. Over subsequent decades, their lives criss-cross against the backdrop of the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and the rise of oligarch mobsterism in the new Russia. Andrei’s brother Mikhail is one such oligarch, and his personal/political vendetta with Andrei leads to espionage, danger, persecution and murder.
In Someone Else’s Conspiracy: a book review of Crowd of One, a novel by Filip Severin
The epigraph to Crowd of One is taken from Edward Bernays, one of the least-known and most influential figures of the modern era: ‘Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions.’ Bernays pioneered what eventually became known as public relations (aka propaganda) by applying crowd psychology to control the ‘herd instincts’ of the ‘irrational masses’. What he termed the ‘crystallizing’ of public opinion rapidly evolved over the course of the twentieth century into the manufacturing of consent to the political and commercial imperatives of society’s managers and elites. Like it or not, we all live in Bernays’ world.
Verne Albright lives in Calgary, Canada. He worked on two novels for twenty-three years and in the process received 153 rejection notices from agents and publishers. Again and again, friends and family told him his books were better than most that get published and that the publishers and agents were wrong. But rather than feel sorry for himself, he recognized the need to improve his manuscripts, which he did over and over until a publisher finally accepted them with enthusiasm.
‘Mistah Kurtz – he dead’: a book review of Apocalypse Chow, a novel by David Julian Wightman
The subtitle to Apocalypse Chow describes it as a ‘remix of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’. Pastiche, parody, or whatever we wish to call it is a difficult art, made more difficult if the original is a pillar of the western literary canon of which many people have heard, but few have read. Conrad’s prose is too dense and allusive for contemporary tastes, the novel was written a long time ago, and one has to be prepared to work hard to get to grips with it.
Monkey on a Wire: a book review of 72 Raisins by Nikki Nash
72 Raisins tells the story of Scott Mullan, a Los Angeles-based comedy writer for The Late Enough Show, whose star is the diminutive Dylan Flynn. Scott is fifty and married to Rebecca. They have two children, both of whom are due to start college and are busy choosing – along with Rebecca – where to go. Scott is hoping for promotion to head writer on the show, but his ambitions and his marriage are thrown into turmoil when his agent asks him to read the typescript of a book called Seven Mythic Doorways to Freedom by Ben Doss, with a view to editing it, a suggestion that Scott fears indicates he will never get the job he covets.