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The Ghost
The Ghost
by Robert Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost, 26 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Ghost (Paperback)
I thought Tony Blair believed the war in Iraq was a right and just thing. I had this notion because of the unpopularity of the invasion, the millions of protesters against it, and my belief politicians care only for their image and the votes a positive image can offer. In short: if he was willing to lose votes he must believe it was right. I didn't hold this view for long, and my support of the invasion of Iraq didn't last. But I still wondered why, if the policy was unpopular, did a voracious popularity junkie like Blair go along?

Alex Salmond of the SNP made a comment which painted Bush and Blair as a couple of cowboys with their "thumbs in the jeans" as they necked a few cold Budweisers "down on the ranch". I don't accept that sort of absurd cartoon (but one can hardly blame Salmond for making it; after all, the less relevant the politician, the more noise they make, like sulky children, throwing tantrums for attention.) But there had to be a reason for Blair's complicity, so what could it be?

Robert Harris offers his entertaining theory in The Ghost, and takes a swipe at the wispy façade of Blairism.

Adam Lang, Harris's fictional Blair, is using the house of a billionaire publisher to write the manuscript for his memoirs, and he's been using a party aide as his ghost writer until that particular fellow goes overboard into the drink while on the Martha's Vineyard ferry. His replacement, the novel's nameless narrator, flies to the US to take on the assignment.

The story is the discovery of what lay behind Blair's blind support of Bush over Iraq and Afghanistan and his head-bowed obedience to any requests from our American friends, from public support of Israel to the use of UK military bases for the CIA planes on "extraordinary rendition" flights.

This is a gentle thriller; the plot opens out slowly, and never offers the absurd level of conspiratorial revelations and shenanigans of The Da Vinci Code; this is much smarter and better tailored, with one foot planted firmly in the possible.

The urge to create a conspiracy of which Dan Brown would be proud must have been hard to resist for Harris, but resist he does. His lead stumbles across the secret by accident, and digs himself in deeper, it seems, because of the tedium of the task of writing the memoir, and never senses the danger that is walking alongside him with every step, like an assassin on a different plan of reality; (of course, because the narrator fails to sense it, so do we, and even when we do, the threat is not taken seriously until the final page.)

This is a fair example of how to do a large conspiracy but still keep it simple and plausible.


No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton
No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Paperback

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Begging to be sued, 23 Oct. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Why has Hitchens not been sued by the Clintons? This book - just as Hitchens's demolishing of Henry Kissinger - is so breathtakingly defamatory, that any public figure would, surely, issue proceedings.

Kissinger wouldn't sue Hitchens, and neither will the Clintons. Given we live in an image obsessed world, and even minor celebrities sue each other for a pastime, one has to ask:

Why not?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2014 8:15 AM BST


In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)
In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cold Blooded, 23 Oct. 2008
There is no doubt Capote was a man of rare ability. One of his contempories - Norman Mailer - described Truman as: "The most beautiful writer of my generation." Mailer had an impeccable ego (roughly, the size of Kansas), so any praise from him was to be taken seriously.

And Truman's book is a serious one; six years in the researching and writing, it was a labour of love; or, perhaps, obsession.

What is the point of talking about this book? It is a famous book, one that made Capote's name, and is an example of the writing style called "New Journalism", the creative style merged with factual reporting, but what makes it great, a classic?

The story is horrific: a multiple murder for no gain, no more than forty or fifty dollars, and the killers drove eight hundred miles overnight to perpetrate it; so why did they bother? That was one of two questions I had; the other was: how did they get caught?

What else is there? We know they murder the family and we know they get hanged for it, there's not a lot of mystery here.

The killers are wasters; just drifting bums with no morality glueing the seperate parts of their brain together, yet Capote paints one in a sympathetic light, and leaves the other to appear evil in his friends reflection.

Poor old Perry Smith; he had a crappy life and no-one loved him, so its no surprise he turned out like he did, is it?

But wild Dick Hickock, why, he was a murdering monster: a man vomited straight from the devil's gut onto the earth.

Capote tells us (more than once) how Smith stopped Hickock raping Nancy Clutter during the robbery. Smith was obviously a man of rare self-control.

It's a shame he didn't have the self-control to stop himself obliterating her head with a .12 gauge shotgun.

The imbalance in Capote's portraits is ridiculous.

And the killers are the author's main focus, they are what and who he was interested in, not the victims.

This is worth buying and worth reading, if nothing else, for the privilege of reading Truman's gorgeous prose.


An American Dream (1960s Classics)
An American Dream (1960s Classics)
by Norman Mailer
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Typical mailer, 5 Oct. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If one chooses to strangle one's wife in her New York apartment, what is the best way to make the murder look like a suicide?

Throw her out the window and claim she jumped.

This is violent - both physically and sexualy - drunken, drugged up, immoral and dirty. Fantastic.

A narrow canvas; only a few days pass by during the novel, but the lead manages to screw and drink his way around the city after killing his wife and has some adventures.

Provocative stuff. Not for Feminists.


The Trial of Henry Kissinger
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleaze., 5 Oct. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There was a greasy used-car salesman who managed to get voted into the Whitehouse and become president of the United States. That was Richard Nixon; a man who had Chilean leader, Allende, murdered because he didn't like his politics. A leader, voted in with a free and fair election, was murdered by Nixon, and who did the Chileans get in his place? Pinochet, a mass murderer, dictator, and despotic devil.

Thanks Rich.

Kissinger was the architect of the murder. He sorted the details for his boss and Hitchens details his involvement in this crime and many others.

Kissinger is a very bad man.

For example, he ruined the peace talks in 1968 that could have ended the Vietnam war. This he did for political reasons, and, when you consider more than half of the US deaths in Vietnam came AFTER 1968, then you can begin to see just how much blood Kissinger has on his hands.

Kissinger is a very bad man.

Hitchens's book offers argument upon argument - backed up with official documents released under the frredom of information act - that show Kissinger was, to quote Joseph Heller: "An odius schlump who made war gladly."

One cannot be surprised by his actions, though. Kissinger just demonstrates the attitude held by many US administrations through the years, not least the Bush administration.

There is the idea that US foreign policy is dedicated to protecting the perfect recipe for Apple Pie and making sure Mickey Mouse has a decent place to live.

The truth of the US is a little more sinister, I think.


I Am Legend (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
I Am Legend (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Richard Matheson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb., 17 Sept. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Justifying killing - or trying to - is a more pointed argument when taken in the individual; governments cloud the simplicity with rhetoric, propoganda and patriotism; but, keep the numbers down and the subject is raw and demanding attention.

Matheson strips the numbers down to one in this book, and one has no problem in coming down on the side of Robert Neville - the book's lead, and almost only, character.

One feels his panic when he discovers his watch has stopped and cannot get back to his safe-house before sun-down; and when he smacks his car into a crowd of Vampires like a macarbre game of skittles, one feels his elation.

Matheson recruits the reader from the outset and the reader becomes an observer, living one dimension down from the physical earthbound, able to see and hear all he does - even hear his thoughts - yet is unable to intervene or advise, and that gives the work more power. It frustrates the reader; but Matheson, after sucking the reader in, turns the tables on Neville and strips him of all the moral altitude he has taken for himself, and plunges him into the role of bad guy, of the hated terrorist, and makes him an outsider, a pariah.

Matheson has no mercy for his protaganist.

I have read short stories of greater length than this novel, and the prose is thin, which is not to say it is bad, but it deals only with the here and now of the story; back-story and poetic flourishes in the prose are kept to a minimum as far as the former go, and are non-existent for the latter. It makes for a story where 99 per cent is action in the present tense, and the book could be read in one sitting, I think.

This is considered a classic of genre fiction, and rightly so.


The Deer Park
The Deer Park
by Norman Mailer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distracting Disguises., 10 Sept. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Deer Park (Paperback)
Sergius is a loser. Mailer makes his narrator a loser for reasons I cannot fathom, and makes him a little less convincing than he could have been. What turned a disciplined Air Force pilot into a drifter, floating from one shallow experience to another? Though Sergius's drifting is psychological - what does he want to do now he's out of the military? Writing seems to be the main focus, but he spends more time getting drunk and hanging out with call girls, pimps, washed-up movie stars and black-listed directors, never fitting into the society he has gate-crashed, but somehow finds himself accepted. He buddies up in the bedroom and the bar, and slowly loses the few thousand dollars he has in the bank.

Mailer is asking us about the point of patriotism, I think. "Patriotism is for pigs" says a director on the black list, and "Patriots feel strongly and think weakly" notes the narrator. What better example of patriotism can be found than a military serviceman? They are Patriotism personified. So, what does a grateful country offer one of its loyal servants when their time in uniform is up? Mailer gives us the answer: nothing.

It happens that Sergius drifts into a world of debauchery and indulgence, but this is just as empty a world in terms of its moral backbone as the gutter and back-alley scraps between hobos and junkies. Mailer gives his protagonist a well-tailored, sexually promiscuous, boozed-up abyss with no meaning or pay off for his dedication to the flag. It makes for a warmer poverty than can be found on the streets, but poverty it is.

Mailer was far too intelligent to be a patriot, and that is what vibrates at the heart of this book: serving your country is for nought. It is a wasteland that awaits you afterwards, and that wasteland comes in many distracting disguises.


Tough Guys Don't Dance
Tough Guys Don't Dance
by Norman Mailer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding., 4 Sept. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Tough Guys Don't Dance (Paperback)
So, you wake up with a bitch of a hangover, but realise your arm throbs worse than your head. You take a look and see a new tattoo - bearing the name of a female you don't know - still weeping blood. Your jalopy - a Porche, bought by your rich, but estranged, wife - is covered in blood also. Blood that aint yours.

What's your first move on such a morning?

All the good stuff is in here: murder, broads, drugs, violence, sex, booze, more sex (including talk of an inter-racial bi-sexual threesome), financial double-dealing, cheating, doping, tripping and more sex and violence.

It's a shame the damn book isn't twice the size!

Fantastic. Buy it now.


The Vampire Lestat (Second Volume of the Vampire Chronicles)
The Vampire Lestat (Second Volume of the Vampire Chronicles)
by Anne Rice
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff., 1 May 2008
The first book in the series doesn't give us the back-story of the evil Lestat. The vampire who made the first novel's narrator.

In this one we finally get to hear it. Lestat and his boyfriend run away to Paris, and Lestat is turned by the ancient Vampire, Magnus; leaving Lestat with more power than a newly-made Vamp should have. The story then progresses through the years as Lestat De Lioncourt travels Europe exploring and searches out the mythical Vampire Marius.

The tale is "told" by Lestat, and when we get back to the present day he is a rock-star, trying to cause as much trouble as possible by blaring the truth about Vampires out into the crowd and across the air-waves. All this gets him into big-trouble, and that story is the basis of the next book in the series - The Queen of the Damned, which I have just started.

This one, though, is definitely worth the read


Disturbia [DVD]
Disturbia [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shia LaBeouf
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.68

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, really., 23 April 2008
This review is from: Disturbia [DVD] (DVD)
Although this is a loose re-make of the hitchock classic Rear Window, it still has enough originality going for it, and the performance from David Morse is outstanding.

However, Grace Kelly is nowhere to be seen which is a bloody big minus!

Is it worth watching? Yes, without a doubt.

Is it worth buying?

Erm.....er....well......

Yeah, it's an okay film - that's as far as I go. Maybe rent it first before adding it to your collection - just to be sure.


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